Tokyo: Gay Bars, Gundam Cafes, and Sex Toys

On Saturday and Sunday, I went into central Tokyo. I actually go into the city proper only rarely because it's too expensive. It costs about $2-$3 every time you ride a train or subway (even if you only ride it one stop), a cup of coffee will set you back about $5, and given that today (Monday) is a national holiday, there was nearly nowhere to stay and last minute accommodations could run you around $200/night unless you are extremely lucky. That said I got paid last week and wanted to go out sometime this month. My entire wider social network went into Tokyo, although broken off into smaller, individual groups.

I like plans and itineraries. I prefer to have at least general plans and the fewer people I am with the more important plans become. Most people think of me as pretty laid back, but when I am alone, especially in strange areas, and especially, especially without plans, I tend to freak out pretty badly. The reason I first appear laid back with low or no social anxiety is because I have an escape route or back up plan, or enough cash, or my credit card, etc. Also because most social situations don't require me to be with the same people for an entire weekend nor be without a vehicle.

I was told upfront by the group I was going with that they weren't planners. Young queers with little patience for regimented movements and time based activities. I respect that, but I made it clear that I would plan, whether they did or not, and that they could leave me somewhere I felt comfortable and come back and get me if they were doing something I had no interest in doing (like dancing/clubbing, for example, as I am too old for that shit, I can't handle the music nor the smoking. In case it hasn't been made clear, I have a very serious and deadly allergy to manufactured cigarettes.). They said that it was cool and that we could compromise throughout the night.

Tokyo: Gay Bars, Gundam Cafes, and Sex Toys

Early Saturday morning I took the earliest express train into central Tokyo with another friend of mine, M, who was going to meet up with another friend of hers (a fellow JET) who had been living in Kobe. We spent the morning in Ikebukuro (the "women's Akihabara" so to speak. Akihabara, or Akiba as it is known is the biggest anime area in the world, but it is overtly aimed at men. Ikebukuro is aimed at women). She bought some manga, and I bought the Aoi Hana series encyclopedia. And then we had some excellent Mexican at El Torito's. Mexican food cannot be easily found outside of Tokyo, so it was quite a treat.

Tokyo: Gay Bars, Gundam Cafes, and Sex Toys

After M split off to go find her friend in Shinagawa, I tooled around in Ikebukuro's doujinshi (fan created manga and art books for various manga and anime series) shops looking through the Inazuma Eleven sections for my favorite pairing of Kirino (pink pigtails) and Kariya. Inazuma Eleven is about a boys' soccer team where at least two thirds of the "boys" look like girls, and several actually act overtly femme. I would like to point out that this is a kids' show. Doujinshi can be erotic, but it doesn't have to be. The book I settled on was an anthology of several short fan comics which just focused on Kirino and Kariya's romantic difficulties, but was not in any way explicit.

Tokyo: Gay Bars, Gundam Cafes, and Sex Toys

Around 5PM I met up first with the group I'd be going out with, but then had dinner briefly with another friend, SG, who lives in the Tokyo area called Nakano. I met back up with the group at 8PM and SG went home. The group and I went out to Shinjuku's nichome, which is the gay district of Tokyo. First we headed to nomihoudai (all you can drink) for two hours at a bar called Annex. I had a lot to drink, but I've noticed I hold my liquor much better now than I did in my 20s.

The highlight of the night was when this amazing Top Tier lesbian (really pretty, great hair and voice, wearing this wonderful red low v-neck cable knit sweater), I will call her SP, showed up and started flirting with my friend L. Now see, of the entire group I was with, the L was the only straight girl there. The other two gay women I was with were together, and SP clearly noticed that. I'm not anywhere near as hot as L, so I get why I wasn't first choice. But the group was sort of watching with amused horror as SP just kept trying to flirt with L and L was completely oblivious. MT, the one gay man in the group, pulled me aside and said, "K, you know, we really, really need to tell SP she's barking up the wrong tree." Eventually MT succeeds in doing so and I commiserate with SP about my shared lack of gaydar.

And well I'll have been damned, but SP turns the flirt on me. Now I'm not used to this kind of attention from a Top Tier. Not when I was in boy-mode and certainly not as a lesbian woman. I know I was a consolation prize because L's straight, but it was still nice. Turns out SP is at Waseda (like the Yale of Japan) as an actual student, not an exchange student. She's doing a degree in political science in Japan and the US and its intersection with gender and sexuality (incidentally, what I did my grad work in, donchyaknow), and she's writing about Roe v. Wade, and I mentioned I wanted to go into the PhD program there because— "it's entirely in English? Yeah I have some friends in that program," she finished for me. Hot, smart, activist, political gay lady interested in the legal aspects of reproductive rights. Be still my beating heart! When my group indicated it was time to go onto the next place, SP walked away with my phone number, and said, "I'll try to keep in touch," and then looked at L, "and you, m'dear, we'll see if I can't convert you." Now, at this point, L had already slammed like nine drinks and HH egged her on... so L starts making out with SP. MT gets immediately bored, and the rest of us can't quite stop openly gawking. I find straight girls who make out with other girls profoundly annoying but 1) L is really physically attractive. 2) I wasn't watching L. I was watching SP. DAAAAYUM. But eventually L and the rest of the group filters out, leaving only me and SP. "She's confused, isn't she?" SP says to me. "L is always confused," I responded. "Maybe we'll be back, call me, or call her. We'll get together another time."

Tokyo: Gay Bars, Gundam Cafes, and Sex Toys

The next place we went was a karaoke place for about an hour. Not really my thing. Bad singing and worse drinks. Moving on... After karaoke, L and MT split up to go to some Irish pub. I like Irish pubs, but that wasn't what I was looking for that night. Instead, HH, J, and I went to Kinswomyn, which is a women only (but trans inclusive) lesbian bar which is in the same area as Annex and some other bars catering to the same clientele. This was really the bar I wanted to go because I had previously heard through the great gay grapevine (say that fives time fast) that after twenty years, it will be closing its doors in February 2014. Given that it is one of the few women only lesbian bars and is trans-inclusive at that, its loss is a double whammy.

Tokyo: Gay Bars, Gundam Cafes, and Sex Toys

Kinswomyn has a very cozy atmosphere, and I didn't get to spend nearly as much time as I wanted to in it because J was pretty tired and dehydrated, but she was a trooper on my behalf knowing that I really wanted to see it. The first thing you'll notice about Kinswomyn is how overtly it celebrates The L Word. Jennifer Beals and Kate Moenning visited Kinswomyn when the first season premiered in Japan. The memorabilia is all over the bar (and the bar itself is L-shaped). There is, in fact, a photo album of the premiere event you can flip through, but I didn't have time to do so. The L Word often plays on the small flat screen TV in the corner. Drinks are reasonable (for Tokyo) and there's never a cover charge. Snacks are pretty cheap, and they are sometimes even provided free of charge (known as "service" or sabisu in Japanese).

It was quite a crowd. The entire spectrum was represented from High Femme to Bull Dyke, and I was dressed pretty much as Shane intentionally (v-neck t-shirt, boot cut jeans, black blazer, nearly full make up but no rouge/blush to mimic Shane's palish make up, but I did go all out on the green eye shadow) and everyone pretty much noticed and commented (SP did too at Annex). There was a low femme couple from the US visiting that evening and they accidentally spoiled Dana's plotline for me. Everyone agreed Jenny fucking sucks and everyone's glad SPOILER. HH and I talked about Japanese yuri manga which was on the bookshelf behind the bar. But with J fading, we walked out with the other Americans and bid them a good night.

We managed to find a hotel room, a nice non-seedy one, next to the bar areas, which was only $80, J went right to sleep, but HH and I had another drink at another women's bar, but they accept men after 2am. The drink sucked and all the other people in the place were obviously straight tourists. We didn't stay long. I did get a taco at Rainbow Burritos, which is run by the Japanese girlfriend of the Stonewall AJET/Stonewall Japan head. Another nearby bar that HH and I did not go into is called Goldfinger. I've read mixed reviews, but HH says it's uppity, entirely high femme, and probably not very welcoming of trans folks even if there is no explicit exclusionary policy (and there might be, she didn't know). It does sometimes allow gay men in, but on a case by case basis. I guess because they won't hit on the ladies? So we went back to the hotel room and went to sleep.

For lunch the next morning we went to a Jamaican restaurant in Harajuku where we had jerk chicken, and I had a Red Stripe. HH had cucumber juice which is amazingly delicious. It looks and tastes way better than I ever suspected it would. HH and J broke off after that to head home and do their own thing. I went to Akihabara and walked around a bit. I was going to meet up with M and SG for dinner and checking out the sex toy shops in Akiba later that evening so I had a few hours to kill. I ended up hanging out in the Gundam Cafe which was pretty cool.

Tokyo: Gay Bars, Gundam Cafes, and Sex Toys

I had two Shinn Asuka Sunrises (tequila sunrises, I think?) and some Gundam Nachos. The entire place was made to look like the inside of one of the Gundam carrier space ships. And even the bathrooms were built to look like Gundam cockpits. I had left my phone in my purse when I went to the bathroom so I wasn't able to get any pictures.

Tokyo: Gay Bars, Gundam Cafes, and Sex Toys

By the time I met up with M and SG, I didn't have a whole lot of time. They ate at the only restaurant in the area which wouldn't have killed me with the smoking, and I had some grapefruit juice. After that we looked at vibrators and things. I keep meaning to get something designed for clitoral stimulation, and while the others did find something, I did not have enough time before my train home to feel comfortable that I had enough time to make a decision. After about an hour, I headed home, picked up my car at the train station near my apartment, and went home. I watched another episode of L word and passed out, exhausted.

See yah next paycheck, Tokyo.