Kyoto

Kyoto is (relative) very close to Osaka. Usually people prefer to stay in Kyoto than Osaka. All tourists sights are even far away. Kyoto has some gay friendly places / gay owned bars. Osaka has got some more nightlife options.

The coronavirus has a huge impact on nightlife and events worldwide. Several places listed here might be closed at the moment.

Kyoto Travel Guide

Visit Japan and one of the first things you’ll notice is the country’s intense cultural duality. High-speed trains, flashing neon lights and a futuristic skyline set the scene in Tokyo, the country’s mecca of modernity. In stark contrast, Kyoto remains the cultural capital of the archipelago, perfect preservation of traditional Japan. Here, elegant geishas amble along cobbled roads before disappearing into wooden teahouses. Fragrant incense wafts from within centuries-old temples. Tranquil Zen gardens provide moments for relaxation and contemplation. It’s classical Japanese heritage in a nutshell—and it’s absolutely mesmerizing. Given Kyoto served as Japan’s historic capital for over 1,000 years, this cultural cred doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Neither, then, should Kyoto’s vibrant local cuisine and thriving arts and crafts scene that showcase Japan’s globally admired flavours and handicrafts. And while Kyoto might keep one foot rooted in the past, the city has a significant gay community that follows suit with Japan’s reputation as a leader for gay rights in Asia. Discover the best of this spellbinding destination with our ultimate gay Kyoto guide.

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Kyoto Travel Guide

Kyoto Nightlife: Gay Bars and Events

Japan is becoming increasingly open-minded about the LGBT community and is arguably very progressive compared to other Asian countries, although gay couples still cannot legally marry. In Tokyo, there is an openly gay street, 2-Chome in Shinjuku with various gay bars. There are also parades, such as the annual Tokyo Rainbow Pride, that are easily accessible. The tolerance towards the LGBT community may be partly due to the fact that Japan does not have any history of religious prohibition or violence towards homosexuals, and various polls suggest that most Japanese people have no problem with the gay community.

Although there are many places to mingle with the LGBT community in Tokyo, what about in Kyoto? This city is famous for its temples, shrines, ancient traditions, and beautiful geisha girls, but most people don’t think of gay bars when Kyoto is mentioned. The fact is that the gay scene in Kyoto is pretty low key, and apart from the monthly “Diamonds are Forever” drag night at Club Metro, it is not really advertised. Therefore, you need to do some searching to find the gay venues as there is usually no indication on the outside that it’s not just another little Japanese-style izakaya bar.

However, there is a gay presence in Kyoto if you know where to look! Here are some details about my favorite gay bar in Japan and a fantastic monthly event that takes place.

Azure was the first gay bar I managed to find in Kyoto and it is still the one I go to most often. It’s in Kiyamachi, the main drinking street in Kyoto, though it’s located on the 3rd floor so you have to keep your eyes open for the sign and get up in the elevator located next to “Club Laid.” Ao is the bar’s owner and is really friendly! Most of the staff only speak a little English but they always make the effort to make you comfortable! There is a table charge of 800 yen which includes some bar snacks, and drinks are around 700 yen.

Ladies, please be aware that Azure is for men only. Also try to avoid going in a large group as there are not many seats.

A post shared by 京都メトロ (@metro_kyoto) on Jul 28, 2017 at 10:42am PDT

Although Club Metro is not a gay venue, once a month they hold the “Diamonds are Forever” drag queen night which is pretty much an unofficial gay night. The crowd is mixed which is great as the other gay bars in Kyoto tend to be men only. The drag queens are good fun and usually interact with the crowd after the show. The event starts at 10:00 pm, and entry is 2000 yen which includes one free drink ticket or two drink tickets for students and foreigners! Additional drinks are reasonably priced after you’ve used those, with beer at around 500 yen.

Club Metro is located near Jingu Marutamachi station. Check out their English website to keep up to date on the next Diamonds are Forever event!

Thanks to the increasing acceptance of gay rights all over the world, members of the LGBT community in Japan can meet in venues more openly. With this great bar and awesome event that takes place in one of Japan’s most beautiful cities, you won’t go wrong during your night out! Osaka and Tokyo also have great nightlife so be sure to check out their many venues if you go.

Related article・112 Things to Do in Kyoto, a City of Culture, Tradition, and Breathtaking Beauty, in 2018

Kyoto Nightlife: Gay Bars and Events

Kyoto (Kyoto) cruising map with gay areas and spots where to practice cruising and to have casual NSA encounters

If you are gay and you want to practise cruising and to have casual NSA encounters in public places in Kyoto in an anonymous way, here you can find spots such as beaches, parks, forests and other spaces next to urban areas, as well as every kind of public toilets and rest areas of highways where you can practise cruising in Kyoto, Kyoto.

Below we show a Kyoto cruising map with all cruising areas and spots that shared our gay community. Click on the map markers for details of each spot.

In the tab for each zone you will find a location map with directions to the place: driving, walking, public transport or bike. You can vote the area and leave a comment for the rest of the community guys know your opinion, and if you want people to know you’re in the area, do not hesitate to check in.

Kyoto (Kyoto) cruising map with gay areas and spots where to practice cruising and to have casual NSA encounters

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Kyoto (Japan) cruising map with gay areas and spots where to practice cruising and to have casual NSA encounters

If you are gay and you want to practise cruising and to have casual NSA encounters in public places in Kyoto in an anonymous way, here you can find spots such as beaches, parks, forests and other spaces next to urban areas, as well as every kind of public toilets and rest areas of highways where you can practise cruising in Kyoto, Japan.

Below we show a Kyoto cruising map with all cruising areas and spots that shared our gay community. Click on the map markers for details of each spot.

In the tab for each zone you will find a location map with directions to the place: driving, walking, public transport or bike. You can vote the area and leave a comment for the rest of the community guys know your opinion, and if you want people to know you’re in the area, do not hesitate to check in.

Things to do in Kyoto

Home to 2000 Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, visiting sacred architecture is a must on any Kyoto travel guide. The harder question then becomes choosing which of the temples and shrines to prioritize. Start at one of the most famous, The Golden Temple (Kinkaku-ji.) This iconic Kyoto landmark gets undeniably busy, but the shimmering gold pavilion reflecting in the tranquil pond below is a genuinely stunning Kyoto point of interest. Tofuku-ji is one of Kyoto’s largest temples, a timeless oasis of moss-covered walls that radiate serenity and calmness. The temple is particularly magical when colourful autumn leaves adorn the backdrop. Ryoanji Temple is famed for its puzzling rock garden, of which the origins remain unknown. Before you’re full “templed-out,” hop on the train to Fushimi Inari Taisha to encounter thousands of vibrant orange torii gates snaking their way through the forest and up into the mountains. From here, head to The Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, easily one of the oldest art museums in all of Japan. Extensive renovations terminating in 2020 will combine the storied past of the museum with modern, state-of-the-art features. In addition to extensive Japanese exhibitions, the museum also regularly hosts free performances and shows.

Kyoto is as charming as can be any time of year, but for a captivating look at how Kyoto’s rich past lives on today, plan your visit around one of the city’s dozens of festivals. One of our favourites is Toka Ebisu, held every 8th-12th of January. During these days, locals pray to Ebisu-san, the god of prosperity, by ringing bells and banging their fists. It’s thought Ebisu-san is hard of hearing, so expect a riotous good time trying to get the god’s attention. Then there’s the Gion Matsuri Festival. Dating back to the 6th century, the festival originated as a way to purify the city and thus escape fires, floods, and earthquakes. The festival lasts all of July, culminating with parades of exquisitely decorated floats and local musicians, accompanied by lines of food stalls serving up treasured street snacks.

The Golden Temple. Kinkaku-ji | Photo: David Emrich

Traditional tea ceremonies remain a vital component of Japanese culture, fusing the art of with “The Way of Tea”

Traditional tea ceremonies remain a vital component of Japanese culture, fusing the art of with “The Way of Tea.” One of the best ways to take part in the ritual is via Tea Ceremony Koto, just a stone’s throw from The Golden Pavilion. Here, tea master Rie Kuranaka takes guests on a journey of the five senses with an in-depth matcha tea demonstration, culminating in the opportunity to try your hand at the cherished custom. Many tourists amble around Gion in hopes of spotting a red-lipped geisha strolling past, but a much more rewarding experience is a private dinner with geisha entertainment. Far removed from a kitschy tourist trap, this is a captivating encounter with a geisha artist in a tea house that is typically inaccessible to the general public. A bilingual translator ensures you depart from the upscale experience with a deep appreciation for these long romanticized entertainers.

Where to eat in Kyoto

Kyoto is not just the cultural heart of Japan, it’s also the epicentre of traditional Japanese cuisine—rich in flavour and history, unwavering in quality and service. The first word you need to know before heading out to eat is . This intense foodie experience typically features up to a dozen masterful dishes; plan on around two hours to fully savour the sensory adventure. One of the best spots to try kaiseki is Hyotei, a centuries-old restaurant that combines haute cuisine with the wisdom of generations-old recipes. The design is minimalist but timeless, allowing the dishes to take centre stage. Hyotei’s Michelin-star doesn’t hurt, either. Tucked back on a hillside with lovely views of Kyoto is Kikunoi, where celebrity chef Yoshihiro Murata serves exquisite menus worthy of its three Michelin star reputation. The menu is influenced by the changing of the seasons, where fresh and local ingredients shine through. Expect creative dishes that, even when surprising, pay tribute to time-honoured Japanese recipes.

Do as the locals do and wait in line at Honke Owariya for what is arguably one of the best bowls of soba (buckwheat noodles) in Kyoto. The venerable restaurant is hidden on a quiet street near the Imperial Palace, where 16th generation shop owner Honke Owariya continues to serve mouthwatering noodles and confectioneries. Another staple in Japanese cuisine is Yakitori, typically associated with street vendors and small, smoky, no-frills eateries. That was until Sumibi-Torito arrived on the scene, an “haute yakitori” restaurant that grills up impressive takes on otherwise tiresome meat skewers. A variety of side dishes make it a full meal. You haven’t truly enjoyed tempura until you’ve tasted it in Japan, and Kyoto’s old-world Yoshikawa Tempura Inn is the place to indulge. Grab a seat at the counter for groan-worthy aromas as the tempura gets fried on the spot. Don’t forgo the sauce (); each tempura house makes their own, and each claims theirs is the best. Eat like royalty at Shoraian, a stunning tofu restaurant burrowed in the mountains overlooking the clear running waters of the Katsura river. As expected, the view is fantastic, but the showstopper here is the humble soybean. Carnivores need not worry—tofu might be the restaurant’s pièce de résistance, but meat dishes feature in the tasting menu. Whatever you do, wash down the meal with locally-brewed sake and a healthy dose of plum wine.

Kyoto might not boast oceanside eateries, but many regard the city’s sushi to be some of the finest in all of Japan. For an elegant Kyoto experience that won’t break the bank, Sushi-Kappo Nakaichi is an intimate sushi bar founded over 50 years ago. As the name would suggest, sushi is served ‘kappo’ style, with one sushi portion on each plate. To watch the chef in action, grab a seat at the L-shaped cypress sushi counter. Of course, any gay Kyoto travel guide would be careless if it didn’t mention Nishiki Market, a buzzing shopping street dotted with over one hundred shops and restaurants. Aptly nicknamed “Kyoto’s Kitchen,” what was once a fish market is now the spot to elbow with locals while taste-testing Kyoto’s beloved specialities. Keep an eye out for pickled vegetables and tofu donuts, just two of the markets must-tries.

Nowhere in Kyoto evokes the time-honoured art of handicrafts quite like Ichizawa Shinzaburo Hanpu

Shopping in Kyoto

Nowhere in Kyoto evokes the time-honoured art of handicrafts quite like Ichizawa Shinzaburo Hanpu. Much more than a bag shop, a visit to Ichizawa Shinzaburo Hanpu is a raw, sensory experience. Each and every bag here is hand-made in Kyoto—many on machines dating back to pre-WWII. You won’t find this esteemed, century-old label outside of Kyoto; don’t miss the rare opportunity to select a beautiful and functional bag that will last a lifetime. Another time-honoured artisan shop is Tachikichi, whose roots date back to Kyoto’s Edo Period. Over the centuries, Tachikichi has proven its Japanese tableware can stand the test of time. The pottery and ceramics are the definition of understated elegance, allowing the quality and craftsmanship to shine through. From here, hop over to Zohiko, Kyoto’s premier lacquerware shop. High-end Japanese lacquer has long been considered some of the finest on Earth, and Zohiko does an excellent job at proving why. Whether you admire the museum-worthy pieces or make an investment in one of the works of art, Zohiko is a worthwhile stop to experience next-level lacquer work.

While Mr. Hudson typically wouldn’t recommend a department store, Japan knows how to take the typical cookie-cutter experience and elevate it to an entirely new level. And this is perhaps no better proven than at Takashimaya. The opulent Japanese department store might boast branches around the globe, but its inaugural shop dates back to Kyoto in 1831. Today, you’ll find Japan’s top fashion brands and labels on prominent display in the extensive menswear floor. When hunger strikes from all that shopping, Takashimaya has a world-class food court worth checking out. For a more boutique experience, SOU SOU Kei-i is the answer for creative and comfortable Japanese menswear. Self-described as clothing for “men who take the road less travelled,” SOU SOU Kei-i celebrates “kabuita hito,” or people who dress differently and act carefree. It’s an attitude we can totally get behind, made even better by the on-point offerings. Whether you’re a vintage hunter or simply a smart shopper, PASS THE BATON is a curious yet wonderful store based on the concept of a “modern select secondhand shop.” High-quality used items are given a new life, displayed for sale with a photo and profile of the previous owner, expertly weaving together the tapestries of past and present. It’s a recycle shop with a layer of storytelling, and we absolutely love it.

Ask anyone in the know where to sip sake, and they’ll say Sake Bar Yoramu—the spot where Israeli owner Yoram Ofer wows Japanese and foreigners alike with his extensive sake expertise

Kyoto nightlife

While Kyoto has a vibrant, welcoming gay community, most of the nightlife happens over in nearby Osaka. That said, there are a handful of low-key Kyoto gay bars and clubs worthy of any Kyoto gay scene guide. One such is Apple, a male-only, foreigner-friendly gay bar. It’s small but cosy and makes a good place to start your evening with a casual conversation over a few well-priced drinks. For something a little more exciting, Club Metro might not be an exclusively gay venue, but it is the home to the ever-so-glittery “Diamonds are Forever”—a drag queen night that doubles as Kyoto’s unofficial ongoing gay event. Come for the boisterous fun that is sometimes ridiculous but always riveting.

Ask anyone in the know where to sip sake, and they’ll say Sake Bar Yoramu—the spot where Israeli owner Yoram Ofer wows Japanese and foreigners alike with his extensive sake expertise. With only nine seats, the bar ensures a highly-personalized encounter with the famed rice wine and charismatic owner. After discovering the nuances of each sake, you’ll leave with a new appreciation for the delicious liquor that far too often takes a back seat to other trendier cocktails. Another uniquity is Calvador, a somewhat hidden bar claiming to have the world’s most extensive collection of French apple brandies. A handful of bottles date back to the 19th century, exemplifying Hiroyuki Takayama’s unofficial calvado ambassador status. We recommend the tasting flight for an oh-so-satisfying sample that won’t break the bank.

For a sip of some of Japan’s finest libations, L’EscaMoteur is a delightfully unexpected cocktail bar hidden on the second floor of an unpretentious brick building. Once inside, the gorgeous ambience recalls old Paris, with notable steampunk and vintage European decor. Perhaps even more interesting though is the owner and chief bartender, Christophe Rossi, a trained magician taking his wizardry skills to the world of mixology. (Aptly, L’EscaMoteur gets its name from the French word for a magician.) All theatrics aside, the cocktails are damn good, and the bartenders seasoned pros at their craft. Gin lovers unite at Nokishita 711, a whimsical bar featuring—you guessed it—all the gin cocktails. The small bar is popular with tourists, but that doesn’t take away from the experimental flavours and expert presentation. Bamboo, black sesame, truffle honey, and smoked tea are just a few of the ingredients you’ll find. Finally, while rooftop bars are typically associated with concrete jungles with little where else to turn, in the Moon is a lovely hidden gem with jaw-dropping 360-degree Kyoto views. Come for the dazzling sunsets, stay for the great music, boozy mojitos and relaxed vibes.

The 5 Do’s and 5 Don’ts of Cruising

With every new generation of gay and bisexual men comes a new generation of cruisers. Men who surreptitiously search for other men in the hopes of a lascivious, salacious, and electrifying sexual encounter. In the era of Grindr, cruising isn’t as popular as it once was. There are now other ways to have an ephemeral sexual tryst. (This is in large part why gay bathhouses are shutting down across the U.S.) But if you are one of the gay/bi men out there, like many of us, who don’t get that same rush from Grindr that you do from furtive eye glances in the sauna — which turn into so much more — then this article is for you: the 5 do’s and 5 don’ts of gay cruising.

7. Don’t take any valuables with you

Don’t take your Rolex or that ring your grandma gave you when she passed away to the gay sauna. Don’t wear any expensive underwear (no matter how cute it is) because you might leave it somewhere, and someone else may pick it up accidentally (or on purpose).

#1 – Verde Club Sauna

If you know any other places or spots where Cruising can be practised in Kyoto, you can add them to the map and share them with the rest of gay people through this link: Add a new cruising spot in Kyoto, Kyoto

#1 – Verde Club Sauna

If you know any other places or spots where Cruising can be practised in Kyoto, you can add them to the map and share them with the rest of gay people through this link: Add a new cruising spot in Kyoto, Japan

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Coronavirus Update: Please note that some venues may be closed in line with local government advice. Please check the venue’s own website for the latest opening hours and information before making your journey. Stay safe and follow the local authority’s guidance in order to minimise the risk of transmission of the virus.

Men-only, foreigner-friendly gay bar in Kyoto. Apple serves wine, beer and a range of alcoholic drinks. There’s free karaoke for anyone who wants to sing.

3F Kobayashi Bldg, Kiya-machi Street, Shimogyo, Kyoto

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Gay-owned cafe lounge bar, housed in a 110-year-old Kyoto townhouse in the traditional Nishijin district.

Jam Jar serves authentic espresso, freshly brewed coffee, imported wine and light meals. English-speaking staff. Open Tuesday through Sunday. There’s also room for rent.