Sunday, March 22, 2009

An American a Japanese Gay Bar

A certain friend of mine who just so happens to be of the opposite persuasion gave me a call last night.

"Hey, I'm going with my friends to a bar in Shinjuku tonight and it's all you can drink for $10. It's a gay bar though so I understand if you don't want to go."

Being an aspiring specialist in the Tokyo underground, I was actually curious to check the place out and see what it was like. No, I wasn't that curious. I figured the worst thing that could possibly happen would be being spotted by somebody I knew. I'll tell you, it wouldn't be the first time somebody thought I was gay. Also, apologies for being crass, the last time I got dragged to a gay bar in America, I ended up getting with a really cute girl.

So with this in mind, I decided it couldn't hurt to tag along. The first place we went was pretty mellow, with cool bluish lighting and a hip atmosphere. If I had stumbled in alone, it would have probably taken me a few minutes to realize that the place was a gay hangout. The giveaway were a few monitors displaying suggestive videos of male models. Also, surprisingly, there weren't that many Japanese people there. 1000JPY ($10) for all you can drink is most definitely the best deal I've ever come across in this city. My typical bar tab might run up 3x that amount on a weekend night, so I was satisfied. There were also a few cute girls in our group so I didn't feel awkward at all.

Afterwards, we all went to eat shobu-shobu, Japanese hot pot of beef and pork, and then rented a karaoke booth for an hour. Hanging out with the guys and listening to their conversations, I definitely picked up a thing or two about gay culture. I was also hitting it off with the girls in the group.

When our hour was up, the guys were restless and wanted to go to another bar. Next up was another Shinjuku joint appropriately named, "Arty Farty." All the homosexual theater and art hipsters who I went to school with immediately come to mind. This place was loads different than the other bar and magnitudes more intense. I walked in and was immediately uncomfortable. The bar was packed to the brim with people drinking and dancing, completely full of wanton sexual energy. I asked my friend where the bathroom was. He pointed to the back of the room and told me not to get molested. I'm not sure if it was humor or seriousness. I was pretty comfortable in the other place, but Arty Farty definitely triggered my homophobic funny bone. I was avoiding eye contact with just about everyone in the building.

Overall, it was a cool experience for me to see a part of the city underworld that I wouldn't stumble into under normal circumstances, but don't expect to find me back next weekend.