If you’re reading this article, I imagine you and I have something in common. We are part of the queer community in some way or other, be it through our sexual orientation, gender identity, friends or chosen family in the queer community, or perhaps you just have questions. One of the things I looked forward to most when I came to Japan was seeing and experiencing the queer community in Japan. This article is to give you a heads up on what I’ve seen so far, and what kinds of places you can visit to connect with the queer community in Hiroshima City. Good luck!
Bars and Izakayas
I love ‘em. Here are some I’ve found that you might enjoy.
Located on the 4th floor, with elevator available.
A mixed bar that welcomes men, women and in between. The mascot of this gay bar is a pink gorilla wearing maiko makeup, a kimono, and smoking a long pipe. The bar seats about 25 people at a U-shaped bartop, and some tall tables against the walls could seat another 10. There’s a dart board and karaoke. It’s smoking friendly, so be prepared for that if you’re a non-smoker. Be aware that there is also a seat charge, depending on your orientation; if you’re straight it’s going be ￥1,300 for a seat, and ￥800 for sexual minorities. The bartenders mostly only speak Japanese, and the customers too. However, you’ll find as a foreigner that you’ll probably get some rough English thrown at you if the liquid courage is flowing. My advice is: take a chance! One of my good friends works there and introduced me to the bar. His English is native-level and he’s a sweetheart as well, so keep an eye out for Ryo if you’re looking for some conversation in English.
Photo taken by me. Stairs leading up to Nagomi, which is on the second floor.
Nagomi is an izakaya, offering both food and drinks. Nagomi is for my ladies, although men are welcome too! I was introduced to this izakaya through a friend that lives in another prefecture, but I’ve really fallen in love with the place. The inside holds maybe 8 people at the bar and a small table in the back, but 20 people standing would be about bursting. Nagomi operates on the down-low as a known lesbian spot. The owners are super kind lesbians. A word of caution: they don’t speak any English here, Japanese only! You could probably get by with some wild gesturing, but if you’re looking for conversation then you’ll have to bust out your best Japanese for the occasion. Every few weeks Nagomi has a lesbian evening on a Friday or Saturday. These can get pretty specific so be aware that on a certain night it might only be for femme women.
For Community Involvement
For open and honest discussions among us queers and allies.
Social Book Café’s Sexual Minority Bar
Social Book Cafe is a coffee shop about a 5 minute walk from Dobashi Station. SBC holds a few different events that are quite cool, including a night for listening to A-bomb survivors’ stories, an event called the Negative Cafe (not too sure what that’s about, but it piqued my interest!), a Sexual Minority Bar and more!
This event was something that I put off at first because I didn’t know what to expect, and I knew by the description it would all be in Japanese. This is how it went down for me: The event began at about 7 pm. I arrived and immediately felt awkward because I was new and didn’t know if I should be introducing myself, where I should sit, or if I should speak at all. I was so petrified that I had to be shown where to sit by the owner, and then didn’t speak until I was spoken to. A friend of mine arrived soon after I said my name and I relaxed in their presence.
Once it seemed that everyone had arrived (a total of about 10 people that night) we went around the table and introduced ourselves. One of the highlights of this meeting was a white board with spectrums on it for expressing our gender and sexual orientation, and a second laminated poster board with helpful phrases and words to describe ourselves. I won’t lie, for myself, conversation was a bit awkward and halting, probably due to my fright and the pressure to push my Japanese to it’s limit. Conversation revolved around relationships, puberty, identifying as queer, gender norms and transitioning, and coming out. Not everyone at the table was queer, or perhaps not ready to say so, which was a stance that was not challenged. There were lots of LGBT+ allies and conversations about queer experiences in different countries (there were about three foreigners in the group, including myself). In general, beer was had and, because there were so many new people, so was careful conversation.
My particular experience wasn’t rowdy at all, but rather quite calm and contemplative. However, it seems that may not be the norm, since the regulars weren’t in attendance and there were so many new folks. As for myself, I will continue to attend meetings to see what else there is to be said, and maybe make a few friends if I can.
Social Media Access
Now, if you’re like me, you google the heck out of anywhere you go to see what you’re getting into. And anyways, if there are big events, it’s nice to know which social media platform they use. I’m from Reno so I got all my queer events on Facebook and it was all golden from there. For GOLI★MACHO and Nagomi it’s a little different, and I suspect that could be said about the rest of Japan as well.
For event announcements, the place to look is Twitter. For Nagomi search for @nagomi_4649, and for GOLI★MACHO search for @ninokin51912006. Nagomi will post event announcements a few weeks in advance, as well as other cute messages. GOLI★MACHO will usually post the names and pictures of the bartenders available on that particular night, as well as some other silly shenanigans. Ryo has let me know that, depending on certain schedules, he may or may not be at Goli for certain months, so if you’re wanting to see certain bartenders, check the twitter. GOLI★MACHO also has an Instagram (search golimacho)!
As for Social Book Cafe, their events are readily available on Facebook, and you can search for them by their name. Easy peasy when you know where to look.
By Yourself or Need an Introduction?
You know, it’s totally up to you! My personal experience has been that introductions in Japan by other Japanese people or other regulars make the transition into their world a little smoother. This would also be helpful if your Japanese is a little on the low side.
But honestly, if you’re just fine to go by yourself, rock on my dudes!
As a final note, please don’t forget to join the Stonewall Chugoku group for event announcements and other gatherings among LGBT+ JETs and other foreigners living in Japan.
Thank you so much for reading! This list is by no means the end of what the LGBT+ community has to offer in Hiroshima City, and as I’m exploring and moving into these queer spaces, I hope to update you on what else is hidden in this beautiful city of ours! Take care,
About the author: Louise is a 1st year JET living in Hiroshima City. On the weekends she’s probably sleeping in, journaling or exploring the LGBT scene in Hiroshima City or dancing the night away at a bar near Hondori.