Gay Osaka Guide: The Essential Guide To Gay Travel In Osaka Japan 2019
Osaka might fly under the radar as a destination oft-forgotten amongst Kyoto’s history and Tokyo’s modernity, but in this spirited city, you’ll find the people a little less conservative, a little more playful and all ready to have a good time. Home to Japan’s second largest gay scene, Osaka is the place to really let loose and see where the night takes you…
There are three main gay areas in Osaka but Doyama is easily the largest and most welcoming to foreigners. Much like in Gay Tokyo, the bars here are usually hyper niched, catering toward a very specific tribe – bears, salarymen, young twinks, etc – and oh-so- Japanese. Discreet, compartmentalized, often smaller than a cruise ship cabin and obsessed with order, though thankfully not quite as uptight as Tokyo.
Ladies should be aware that many gay nightlife spots in Doyama do not permit female customers, but there are a few lesbian bars that do not permit male customers, so there is something here for everyone. The most adventurous gay traveller might also wish to explore the smaller Namba gay scene, Kabukiza-ura (“behind the Kabuki theater”) which is decidedly less international but still very welcoming; or if you speak Japanese try the Tennoji gay scene, in the area around Tsutenkaku Tower – the original post-war gay area that today attracts mostly older locals.
Local attitudes, however, mean many most foreigners can only sample but a few spots, especially outside of Doyama, as personal friendships with members and strict Japanese only rules dictate who can enter. You might think this is xenophobic – and it is – but this is done in large part to protect members from being judged by unfamiliar standards.
Japan is like nowhere else on Earth, and as anyone who has visited before will know, the Japanese do things very differently. Luckily the ongoing economic stagnation in Japan has made the country – and the gay scene of Osaka – more open to foreigners and there are now many gay saunas, bars, and clubs who actively welcome Gaijin (the Japanese word for foreigners) into their midst.
Homosexuality has never been prosecuted in Japan – it was not considered a sin, just shameful – and despite recent trends of tolerance and openly gay spaces in cosmopolitan areas like Osaka, Yokohama, and Tokyo, many Japanese gay men and lesbians still hide who they are. Being gay is often still seen as a personal choice, and while homophobia is uncommon, Japanese society views being gay as not something to be flaunted or openly discussed.
This live and let live attitude – as long as outward appearances are maintained – towards LGBT people now is actively hindering gay rights in Japan. There is no political and social friction to propel things forward, unlike in Vietnam, China, and Korea. There are few openly gay lawmakers, celebrities or business people and the National Diet has yet to take action on including sexual orientation in the country’s civil rights code.
Same-sex marriage is not legal at the national level, though as of 2019, twenty cities and city wards issue same-sex partnerships certificates which provide some benefits, however, they are entirely symbolic. Taiwan currently leads Asia in LGBT rights and with the growing momentum and grand plans of Kansai Pride we hope this will prompt Japanese society and lawmakers to discuss protections and equality for all citizens.
Despite this, gay travelers to Osaka – and Japan – are highly unlikely to experience any discrimination at all regarding sexual preferences. With a dazzling gay scene – endless skyline, delicious street food, quirky personalities and more attractions that one could ever hope to discover – along with an invigorating passion for seemingly absolutely everything – Gay Osaka is one of the world’s most underrated cities and gay scenes.
Pop culture, fashion and neon-lit streetscapes collide with cherry blossoms, hidden shrines, and quiet alleys to ensure you will never be bored in Osaka. And even if you are, Osaka isn’t known as the ‘nations kitchen’ for nothing, and everyone here is seemingly out for good food – and a fun time!
Gay Osaka Guide: The Essential Guide To Gay Travel In Osaka Japan 2019
Naturally being gay does not define which attractions most of us will want to see in each city and most queer travelers will simply want to check out the top things to see in Osaka during the day!
There is so much to do here – but we found our favorite memories were wandering through then getting lost in the seemingly endless food streets, visiting all the weird cafes, hitting up Universal Studios and relaxing on one of the many Osaka river cruises! Still – it helps to have some idea what is going on, so here are the best things to do in Osaka, according to us!
One of the best tips we can give you for exploring Gay Osaka is to pre-order a travel SIM card for easy airport pickup and activation the moment you arrive so you will not pay a fortune in international roaming charges. Get restaurants recommendation and reservations on the fly, public transport instructions up to the minute, bar opening hours and if it is your thing – access to gay hook up apps to find out more about the local scene.
Mario Go Kart Adventure – Head out on a real-life Mario Kart tour through the busy streets of Osaka. There is nothing quite like it in the world, and besides getting your heart pumping and adrenaline running – you will probably be the most popular guy in Osaka with locals running after your just for a picture! Just don’t forget: you will need an international drivers license before you leave home…
Mameshiba Café – Newly opened in the tourist-popular Dotonbori area this uniquely Japanese attraction lets you get up-close-and-personally with the impossibly cute Mameshiba dogs. Costing 880 yen for 30 minutes (including one warm drink), its pretty busy but still a fun little activity – and a great way to get your daily dog fix! Taking photos and video is OK with flash-off.
Universal Studios – Probably the most famous attraction in Osaka, spend the day immersing yourself in your favorite movies with access to all of Universal’s themed zones based on well known Hollywood blockbusters. Only a short trip from Osaka Station, we loved the parades, thrill rides, quirky restaurants and enthusiasm of local Japanese in dressing up in theme – but have to admit this location is far, far busier than those in Singapore, Los Angeles, and Orlando. If you can, get a Universal Express Pass for fast track access to USJ’s most popular attractions to save yourself time.
Osaka Castle – Explore one of Japan’s most famous landmarks, which played a major role in the unification of Japan during the sixteenth century. Demolished in 1868 and since rebuilt the castle is eight stories high and each floor has exhibits and there is also a city observation platform. Even if you chose not to go in, the expansive grounds are free to explore with plenty of opportunities for street food, picnicking and watching local life play out. If you can time your visit for cherry-blossoms, even better and this is one of the best locations for viewing in the entire country.
Osaka Video Game Arcades – While in the Western world arcades have gone the way of the cassette tape and hammer pants, in Japan, they are still big business. The Osaka video game arcades are not just for children either, in fact, pop into any given arcade around lunch time and you will see row upon row of businessmen all getting their fix before heading back to work. Most have multiple levels filled with machines covering everything from horse-racing to dancing to subway driving. Taito Station is one of the leading names in Japanese arcade gaming and has a location in Namba, but you will find plenty of mammoth arcade spaces dotted around…
Osaka Aquarium – Perfect for a rainy day. Visit the seals at the world’s largest dome-shaped ceiling tank in the Arctic zone, hear the distinctive squawks of rockhopper penguins in the Falkland Island zone then touch sharks and rays in the Maldives zone. There is also to love here, but the main reason travelers seem to go is to marvel at the beautiful whale shark, the largest fish in the world.
Nara Park – Book a day tour or simply use your JR Pass to head out of Osaka and travel back to the 8th century with a visit to the imperial capital and UNESCO World Heritage site of Nara. Discover the area’s rich history, wander ancient temples and of course, take cute photos with the tame ‘bowing’ deer of Nara Park.
Kyoto – Another wonderful day trip you can achieve from Osaka with the help of the JR Pass or a tour. Kyoto is the crown-jewel of Japan’s cultural tourism crown so don’t miss the chance to discover the tranquil beauty of Kiyomizu-dera Temple, a listed UNESCO World Heritage site before visiting the gold leaf zen temple of Kinkaku-ji and explore its immaculate Japanese gardens. Then, of course, wander through the thousands of orange tori gates winding through the wooded forests of the Fushimi Inari Shrine and if you have time, spend the evening Geisha spotting in the Gion heritage area…all with time to catch the train back in time for a night out in Gay Osaka.
Try The Infamous Puffer Fish – Stop by at Guenpin Fugu, the #1 pufferfish chain in Japan, and enjoy the unique taste of Japanese fugu. Brave a taste of this poisonous fish for which chefs require years of training and a fugu license! Try the torafugu, or tiger pufferfish, the highest quality in the country while you admire the restaurant’s traditional setting and ambiance.
DIY Takoyaki – Enjoy a fun and unique dinner experience and learn how to make authentic Japanese takoyaki with helpful staff members and English instructions provided. Make takoyaki with octopus that’s so fresh they can be eaten as sashimi and combine with some tasty salad, okonomiyaki, sobameshi, a dessert, and even a 90-minute all-you-can-drink buffet. Osaka is the home of Takoyaki, and if you are not already obsessed with it… You soon will be!
Spa World – Spend the day at Osaka’s gigantic hot spring theme park and treat yourself in a world-class spa experience featuring European and Asian themed hot spring bath. Enjoy access to Spa World’s gym and exciting amusement pools with massive water slides then soothe your muscles, relieve all your tensions, and experience enjoyment all in one place. Don’t miss the chance to experience this insanely huge onsen complex located in Shinsekai area and learn more about the Japanese past time.
Maid Cafe Experience – If you want to experience weird Japan, take a peek into Japan’s cosplay scene when you’re welcomed by maids as you enter the café and get attentive service from waitresses dressed in cute maid outfits. What appeal is there for gay travelers? We are not quite sure, but something tells us there are more than a few lesbians who will enjoy this!
Osaka River Cruise – Often referred to as Japan’s Water City, Osaka contains numerous urban canals and bridges, many of which serve as the namesake for their surrounding neighborhoods. While a river cruise around Dōtonbori Canal is on most tourist’s bucket lists there is so much more to explore – including a Jazz cruise! There is also a variety of special event cruises every year, like those where you can admire the cherry blossoms of Okawa in the Hanami season, and a Christmas cruise where you can enjoy the illumination full of light. For gay travelers, they even offer small private cruises where go-go boys and drag queens can be organized – but these can be hard to find so we encourage you to get in touch with Out Japan to organize!
Mandrake -The world’s largest anime and manga reseller established way back in 1987 as a pre-owned manga dealer, Mandrake today has morphed into Osaka’s largest vendors of used anime and manga-related products with 2 branches in Osaka. Our favorite is the Mandarake Grand Chaos store in Namba – but there is also a location in Umeda – with multiple levels dedicated to different collectibles, manga works and art. Not for the faint of hearted, there are also some pretty hardcore anime works that definitely cross some boundaries (let’s just say Japan only made the possession of child pornography at crime in 2014, and explicit anime is not covered). A time capsule of Japanese pop culture, a visit to the claustrophobic aisles of Mandarake has got to be one of the most unusual things to do in Osaka, and if you not careful, you could spend days here.
Dotonbori Street-Food – One of the main tourist destinations in Osaka with a range of regional food such as Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki, unique shopping, temples, neon lights and plenty of surprises. You can explore on your own, but for the best experience we recommend a guided tour with a knowledgeable local who can guide you to the best-hidden delights and must-try dishes of the “nation’s kitchen”.
MenZ-MenZY – Located above Frenz Frenzy, one of the most outlandish gay bars in Osaka, MenZ-MenZY sells sexy underwear, swimwear, accessories and more to have you looking your absolute best. Think Andrew Christian, and AussieBums. Tempt yourself…
Kansai Queer Film Festival – A gay film festival taking place in venues across Kyoto and Osaka in September, and now in its 13th year. Cross genres and themes, this is a festival that believes love is love, welcoming everyone and offering a sophisticated environment in which into interact with the local Kansai LGBT community.
Kansai Rainbow Pride – A surprisingly family-friendly event, the Kansai Rainbow Parade is the largest LGBT parade in Japan outside of Tokyo. The event aims to promote awareness and celebrate diversity and features a parade, stage shows, parties, and fun activities in Ogimachi Park every year in October. While the organizers have big plans to grow the event into the one of the biggest in Asia, Osaka Pride shows in many ways Japan is in the Stone Age when only 5,000 people participate compared to hundreds of thousands in Hong Kong, Taipei and Sydney – not to mention Europe or US! Still, it’s amazing to see NGO’s and brands getting on board as the event grows. In a country where modesty around outsiders is paramount and sexual preference is not something to be flaunted, we can only hope increased visibility in the future helps new generations of Japanese feel comfortable enough to be who they truly are.
As Osaka is one of the more progressive and gay-friendly countries in Asia, pretty much every hotel in Osaka can be considered gay-friendly, and none of our readers will experience any issues here. After all, being gay-friendly is not all about upscale luxury, but about providing friendly service and welcoming everyone with open arms!
Osaka is a global mega-city with a shortage of space, so room sizes are smaller than almost everywhere else in the world – but as plenty of gay men know, it’s not all about size, but how you use it! We are talking about design, functionality and views darling!
Having said that, everyone likes to be surrounded by people with common interests, and as such there are a few well-known gay-friendly hotels in Osaka that are hot spots for gay travelers to stay – either because of their location near the Doyama district gay village – the best place to stay in Osaka if you are looking for gay nightlife – or their design and inclusive vibes.
The following hotels in Gay Osaka have all have glowing recommendations from gay travelers in the past, but of course, there are hundreds of other hotels in Osaka if these are not quite what you are looking for. Whether you want a fun and social hostel, a cheap place to crash after a night of partying or an ultra-chic designer option to sip cocktails and surround yourself with fabulous people – Gay Osaka has something for everyone!
Gay-friendly Hotels Near Umeda / The Doyama Gay Scene
InterContinental Hotel Osaka ☆☆☆☆☆ – Redefining luxury, the InterContinental Osaka affords incomparable luxury and sophistication. Your experience begins in the sleek and soaring lobby, a bright and serene world of fine art, contemporary décor, and breathtaking views and continues throughout any stay with Michelin-star dining, invigorating spa treatments, and Japanese style bathing. Then there is the palatial rooms, suites, and residences provide unparalleled service and amenities to discerning business and leisure traveler. It goes without saying the service here is second-to-none, and should you be tempted to leave the gay scene of Osaka starts only a few minutes away.
The Ritz-Carlton Osaka ☆☆☆☆☆ – Celebrate timeless luxury at this 5-star hotel that captures the essence of Osaka, Japan. Located in the prestigious district of Nishi-Umeda, The Ritz-Carlton, Osaka pays tribute to Japanese cultural heritage, while lavishing guests with contemporary extravagance. With a 450-piece art and antique collection, a spa, and impeccably designed accommodations, this urban oasis offers stylish sophistication near uncommon attractions, ancient city sights and the gaybourhood of Osaka!
Hilton Osaka Hotel ☆☆☆☆ – Centrally located, this high-end hotel is preferred by many gay travelers for its convenient location, spectacular views, and clean design. There is a range of dining options, and an indoor pool, fitness center, relaxation room, and magnificent city views are just some of the amenities awaiting your arrival.
ibis Osaka Umeda ☆☆☆ – An international economy brand hotel located in the Umeda area offering inviting, modern and cozy rooms, with comfortable beds. There is free WiFi and clean design, but we will be honest – you are staying here for the low price-tag and location!
Nest Hotel Osaka Umeda ☆☆☆ – An very inexpensive accommodation option offering a tranquil base to explore Osaka by day, with easy access to the gay scene of Doyama by night! Newly opened, the rooms are rather small but well-equipped and the hotel even provides bread and coffee for breakfast. There is also a spacious and well-designed lobby to hang out in. Given the location and design, we expect Nest Hotel to raise their prices as word gets out so book in advance to avoid missing out.
Other Gay-friendly Hotels in Osaka
Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel ☆☆☆☆☆ – Experience absolute luxury while atop the tallest building in Japan. Yes, the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel occupies the 38th to 57th floors of this 60-story building, Abeno Harukas, the tallest in Japan. All 360 guest rooms offer the atmosphere of a relaxing haven in the sky with free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and iPod docks, plus minifridges, and tea and coffee making facilities. All rooms also feature floor to ceiling windows with glorious Osaka spreading out as far as eyes can see. There is a signature restaurant on the 57th floor offering Western, Japanese and Teppanyaki with breathtaking views to create the ultimate dining experience – though for those who want something a bit more casual there is a buffet restaurant or the stylish designed lobby lounge and bar. There is also a 24-hour fitness gym, outdoor terrace and a direct entrance to Osaka-Abenobashi train station.
Swissotel Nankai Osaka ☆☆☆☆ – A deluxe hotel ideally located in the heart of Namba, Osaka’s most exciting entertainment, shopping, and dining district. The hotel sits above Nankai Railway’s Namba Station offering direct train access to Kansai International Airport and all major tourist attractions such as Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe. The 36-story tower has 546 well-appointed guestrooms, including 42 Executive floor rooms and 28 suites with upgraded amenities to ensure an unrivaled experience with the ultimate in amenities and in-room technology. Pürovel Spa & Sports offers a selection of spa treatments, a fully equipped gym, Jacuzzi, sauna and indoor swimming pool. Guests can also choose from six restaurants and bar, including retreating to the Lounge for afternoon tea and evening cocktails or stopping by Swiss Gourmet for delicious takeaway pastries and bakeries. One of the most popular hotels in Osaka, it is easy to see why!
Conrad Osaka ☆☆☆☆☆ – Welcome to Conrad Osaka, your ‘address in the sky.’ With a commanding presence on Nakanoshima between the Dojima and Tosabori rivers, this sleek luxury hotel offers incredible views of the water and Osaka from all guest rooms and public areas. Guest rooms start at 50 sq. m. and offer floor-to-ceiling windows and a digital control panel for your lighting, curtain and temperature preferences. There is also luxurious offers such as four restaurants and lounges, including all-day dining and a Sky Bar, the chic and tranquil Conrad Spa and salon overlooking the city and a hearted indoor 20m pool and state-of-the-art fitness center. Conrad Osaka resides on the highest floors of Nakanoshima Festival West Tower, home to shops, restaurants and an art museum while the hotel is also connected to Higobashi and Watanabebashi stations for quick access to the KIX airport and all the wider attractions of Osaka.
Kamon Hotel Namba ☆☆☆ – Newly opened in the center of Osaka, Kamon Hotel offers relaxed rooms just steps from the metro station in the heart of a busy commercial area. Clean and minimalist, with a complimentary breakfast served daily in the modern dining room – a rarity in Japan. Centurion Hotel Namba – Another budget-chic hotel in Namba offering simple but functional rooms that connects you with your journey in the center of Osaka. We loved the fusion of memorable design, friendly staff, and low prices and enjoyed the freshly-baked breads for breakfast, on-site contemporary cafe and easy bike rentals.
Hostel Enisia Namba ☆☆ – Centrally located literally in the middle of the Namba markets, this fun hostel offers incredible value for money and offers a comfortable and reassuring base for your travels in Osaka Western Japan. Relax and make yourself at home in the warmth and cleanliness of their dorms and common spaces, while saving some money and making friends with other travelers to go out and explore with.
Hotel Androoms Shin-Osaka ☆☆☆ – A stylish and casual hotel located within a 6-minute walk from Shin-Osaka Station on the JR or Midosuji subway line. If you are exploring Japan with a JR Rail Pass this hotel is our #1 recommendation. Not only can you reach the gay scene of Osaka with a simple 1 stop train trip (or 10-minute taxi late at night), but you are right on a shinkansen line meaning you can explore Kyoto, Nagoya, Nara – hell, anywhere really without packing your bags up and moving every day. Offering stylish, modern Japanese-style spaces with soothing wood warmth – we also enjoyed our daily onsen ritual here in the large sento-style bath each night before bed, or filling up on free soba noodles each night before heading out to the bars. Soothing your spirit and body while staying in Shin-Osaka, one of the most convenient space for exploring Japan by day or night.
Gay Nightlife in Osaka
With Osaka being one of the most gay-friendly destinations in Asia – joined by the likes of Taipei, Bangkok, Phuket, and Hong Kong – you would expect an incredible gay nightlife scene, and luckily Osaka does not disappoint. Depending on your mood you can find anything here from a relaxed cocktail in an upscale bar to an all-night dance rave surrounded by your queer family!
The central Osaka gay bar scene is found in the infamous Doyama district, near Umeda Station, which is the biggest gay town in Western Japan. We couldn’t possibly list every single venue – some of which are little more than broom closets – and have focussed on those that are foreign friendly with a point of a difference. There is also a sprinkling of gay bars in Namba/Shinsaibashi, and a few catering for older locals in the Shin-sekai area, near Tennoji, in the south of Osaka.
Because of the size of bars here, customers usually sit at a bar and spend the night chatting away with other patrons and the normally charismatic bartenders. Karaoke is also very in vogue and is a sure-fire way to get the shy Japanese to open-up. You could also try plying them with alcohol or setting them loose in a dark room, but we will get to sauna and cruise spaces later.
Most of the small bars in Osaka are frequented by regulars, and so operate a bottle keep system – unheard of in the West – where you keep your own bottle of liquor behind the bar for future visits. The social groupings are these bars are normally very strong with bars organizing outings to onsens, sporting events, picnics and more. They really are a family here, and you can see this normally in photos often displayed around the bar.
We found most bar owners, known as “Mamas” or “Masters” to be extremely welcoming to new customers and gaijin, but not all – especially those where the Mamas or clientele do not speak English. This is to save their patrons from any embarrassment for the most part – and to a certain degree, we understand and agree. Here we have included only those we know are welcoming to foreigners, but if you have a local friend or basic Japanese skills we encourage you to explore further.
There are also other gay bars spread across the city so use our gay Osaka map at the end to help, and do not miss the world-class gay clubbing and gay dance parties in Osaka! A night out here is guaranteed to be absolutely insane and unforgettable – just go with it!
Doyama Gay Bars & Clubs
Grand Slam – The go-to spot in Gay Osaka for mingling between foreigners and locals, this fabulous karaoke lounge has been going strong for over a decade now. Comfortably seating around 30-40 people, steal a seat at the bar or in the comfy seats at the back and ask for the karaoke book – there will be a long wait the later at night you arrive but it is totally worth it. The set-up here encourages meeting new friends so it is the perfect place for solo travelers or small groups to start their night and decide where to head to next. The staff here speak English and are happy to make introductions to other customers, should you need some assistance – or they can at least provide a strong drink to help pluck up your courage. Open daily except for Mondays from 9 pm to 5 am, there is a 1000 yen cover charge that includes one drink, and then additional drinks are 700 yen.
Hysterics – A small late-night gay bar that is welcoming for foreigners but attracts mostly young local guys. English is not widely spoken, but the staff will do everything to make you feel at home, and the clientele is generally pretty chatty after a few drinks melt their shyness away.
Kuro – The oldest gay bar in Osaka offering a more traditional Japanese-style bar experience than most other gay bars in the area. Because of this, it attracts mostly mature Japanese men, but foreigners are encouraged to come along and partake in the fun. Even if you don’t speak the same language, there will be laughs aplenty!
Pump Up Bar – A oh-so-trendy gay bar in Doyama with friendly staff, though most only speak Japanese. Don’t let this discourage you however as it is easy to meet new friends at the long bar counter, or if you are traveling with friends there are sofas and tables to relax at. Hosting fun events which always draw a crowd – and the occasional hot muscled go-go boys, Pump Up Bar is conveniently located upstairs from Grand Slam, though it has a steeper admission fee of 1500 including one drink
J’s Osaka – A small and affordable gay bar with no cover charge and drinks running around 700 yen. There is a social U-shaped bar, friendly owner, free karaoke and cute, English speaking bartenders. Attracting a younger, more-twinkish crowd than bears or macho-men, though women and non-gay patrons are welcomed.
Dining Bar Rakuto – A cute little gay owned dining bar to enjoy a delicious meal and to start your night out strong. Hyper-local but you will feel extremely welcomed here, and it is a great place to practice your Japanese or even try out speak English with some of the other patrons. A bit hard to find, but it’s on the third floor of the Eight Leisure building in Doyama, just use the elevator and has a good bulletin board of other events going on in Gay Osaka.
Dungaree – A super-fun bear bar with an English speaking owner and welcoming patrons. They might be a little shy at first but settle in, order a drink, try the delicious ice-cream and see how quickly they adopt you into their den. There is no karaoke so expect plenty of conversation!
Model – While Doyama might be mostly for the men, this small lesbian-owned, women-only bar is bucking the trend – offering a sophisticated and cool atmosphere, with an affordable cover-charge and drinks, both 500 yen. Like most bars, there is a pretty ‘master’ in charge – though here she is a pretty woman – and karaoke. Trans women are also welcome which we love!
King – A homely gay bar tucked away on the second floor with no cover charge and 500 yen drinks. Yes, unusually the King is here to serve you and helps locals and travelers alike get their gay on, without sky high prices. On the weekends, there are even some risqué shows, and while not all staff speak English – most do and there is always someone around to help out.
Village – One of the biggest gay nightlife spots in Japan outside of Tokyo and a Gay Osaka institution, this LGBT+ hot spot is capable of fitting in 100+ people – no small feat in Japan gay scene! With a long bar for meeting new friends or tables for conversations, the main draw here is the Friday and Saturday night shows which are boisterous, no holds barred, drag extravaganzas. Camp and high-energy, and yet relatively clean (well at least compared to the Lady Boy shows of Phuket and Pattaya) these performances draw in a range of Japanese and foreign visitors, both men and women and gay and straight. Open every night of the week until 5 am, with fun karaoke on nights with no shows, there is a 1000 yen cover charge that includes one drink, and then additional drinks are 700 yen.
G Physique – A simple bar attracting an equal split of locals and tourists. There is no cover charge and the space is split into two zones with a small bar at the entrance, and a back room with tables to relax around. We recommend the bar to really enjoy the lively, international atmosphere here – perfect for a drink before moving on to EXPLOSION club which is in the same building.
Bar Bacchus – A small yet very foreigner-friendly gay bar with cheap drinks, a warm atmosphere and owner who loves to speak English. Most nights draw in a mixed, international crowd – in large part because there is no cover charge!
Jack In The Box – Open only on Fridays and Saturday’s this fashionable bar and karaoke lounge delivers beer, cocktails, and the ubiquitous whiskey highball for only 700 yen, though the cover charge can be significantly more depending on the event of the night. Only open to men, and most popular with guys in their 20s and early 30s. Look for special events on their website or just wander past on the night to see if something is on to draw in the crowds.
LuPu – A fun pre-clubbing spot owned by a friendly lesbian and attracting a diverse crowd from across the LGBT+ spectrum. There is no cover charge, and drinks are set at 800 yen. The last Sunday of every month is a women’s only party, but otherwise, everyone is welcome to come to relax, sing karaoke and make new friends.
Frenz Frenzy Rainbow Haven – The go-to spot for gay travelers in Osaka who want camp, queer fun, bright lights, funky tunes and crowds that remind you of the metro in peak hour. The owner is famous within the local gay Scene, an Australian who has been living in Osaka for 15+ years now, and makes sure everyone is introduced to each other and has a good time. There is no-cover-charge, and while shots and mixed drinks might be a bit pricey – you can always stick to the 500 yen beers which are fabulous value. On quieter nights there is a Mario Karts video game system and hilarious music videos to keep you entertained.
K’s Hills – A small karaoke bar with seating space for 15 people, delivering a more upscale/ attentive service. Entrance will run you 1600 yen including your first drink and a snack and then you’ll pay around 700-800 yen per drink after that. Mostly popular with regulars though foreigners are welcome – and while on weekdays, women accompanied by men are permitted, during the weekends K’s Hills is strictly for the boys.
Explosion – The best and most explosive gay nightclub in Osaka, and the go-to place for loud music, care-free dancing, fun drag, and debaucherous revelry. With a bright interior and regular LGBT events with unique themes, guest DJ’s, go-go dancers, drag queens and more – its no wonder Explosion gets absolutely packed. They are friendly and open to all, including foreigners, and you can find every tribe here on weekends from lipstick lesbians to shirtless muscle boys. During the week, things are a little more subdued but it is still a fun bar to pop into for a drink and to test the waters. Check their website for a full list of upcoming events, and look out for Global Kiss, Osaka’s biggest international gay mixer party held bi-monthly.
Namba Gay Bars & Clubs
Ken’s Club – A tiny yet boisterous karaoke bar feeling slightly more like a living room than a bar. It is foreign-friendly, but not exactly popular with travelers – though you have to recommend stopping in if only to get a taste of the small gay bar scene that is unique to Japan.
Pokapokaya – Cute gay bar with English speaking owner who likes to draw portraits of his customers. More orientated towards bears, but we all know how huggable and inviting they are – ensuring you will have a great time laughing and sharing stories.
Garcon Cercle – Located in the same building as Ken’s Club, this classic intimate gay bar fits around 15 people and offers class, comfort, and a touch of light-hearted flirting from the handsome, young bartender.
Jake – One of the few lesbian bars in Osaka, for woman and trans women who have undergone surgery. Karaoke and affordable drinks are the main reason to come, along with being surrounded by only girls. A great place to start the night and to explore the lesbian scene of Osaka more – as new events and parties pop up and shut down faster than we can keep a track of. Everyone here is very friendly, so feel free to ask around for more advice.
Hybrid – A fun new gay bar offering a variety of events and drinks, though it is one of the most expensive locations in Osaka. There is a cover charge of 2000 yen for 2 hours, then an extension cost of 500 yen per hour in peak times. One drink then runs a cost of 700 yen. Inside you will find fun and interesting characters, and a modern fit-out..though we are not convinced it is worth the price.
Zakoza Bulge Bar – Quintessentially Japanese and definitely unforgettable, this niche-fetish gay bar offers an alternative to the low-key bars and pulsating clubs of Osaka by catering to Fundoshi wearers with an in-house pool. What is a Fundoshi you ask? A Fundoshi is the traditional Japanese undergarment for adult males, made from a length of cotton that was the main form of underwear for Japanese men before WW2. “FUN” is in the name and you’re also guaranteed to have some while tying this bondage like garment tie – and if you don’t have your own the Zakoza Bulge Bar can help you out with their supply and even show you how to put it on. The owner and clientele are very welcoming towards foreigners, and even if the crowd is a little older, and the drinks and little more expensive, this is one gay bar in Osaka you will never, ever, forget.
The Suite – An ultra-chic and classy nightlife spot popular with everyone: gay, straight or unicorn. You never know which new friends you might make here, but we absolutely recommend popping into this New York City-styled bar & lounge for its ‘Great Gatsby’ vibes, specialty cocktails and live music every weekend. Often named one of the best nights out in Osaka, we are utterly obsessed with the ambiance and sophistication on offer here. Opulence – you own everything!
Other Gay Spots in Osaka
Lady Killer – A lesbian party in Osaka held sporadically at Maharaja Minamai in Namba. Lady Killer has been a core part of the Japan lesbian scene since 2005 and has gained a large and loyal following of women over the years of all shapes and nationalities. Sorry boys, it’s strictly no men allowed. Expect a pumping dance floor of EDM music, colorfully dressed go-go dancers, erotic performances and a line of all-female DJs. We love that this event creates a protected and exhilarating environment for women to meet other women and that everyone is supported and included. If you are lucky enough to be in Gay Osaka while Lady Killer is on, entrance costs 3000 yen including one drink and another 1000 yen will get you VIP access. The party starts at 8 pm. and keeps going until around 4 am. Check their social media for upcoming dates.
Hotei – A comfy karaoke bar in the Shin-Sekai area that caters to older guys, generally over 40’s. If you don’t speak Japanese you will struggle here but faces are friendly and Hotei fills up earlier than most other gay bars in Osaka.
Shippo – A new lesbian / LGBT+ mixed bar that opened in 2018 and welcomes everyone regardless of age or sexuality. Miles away from Osaka’s rowdy Doyamacho, this relaxed venue welcomes beginners is focused on creating a safe space for conversation more than drinking. In fact, the owner does not drink and encourages non-drinkers to visit! Once a month, Shippo hosts an “Ofukai” or “Off Party” for women and people transitioning from female to male only. Shippo has quietly gained a reputation as one of the most secure spots for unwinding amongst people who are normally uncomfortable in bars, and even though it is tucked away in Higashi-Osaka City’s Fuse district, we think Shippo is well worth the visit!
Gay Cruising in Osaka
Had enough of gay cruising in Osaka – either in the bars or elsewhere? For those who want a bit more guaranteed action, the gay saunas in Osaka will not disappoint you (unlike all those faceless Grinder accounts…) – although they are not quite as high-quality as Taipei, Ho Chi Minh City or Bangkok.
Since most gay sauna in Osaka are open 24 hours, it is not uncommon for men to spend the night sleeping in their private cabin afterward, so as the night goes on don’t be surprised when the moaning changes to snoring! If you are nervous about visiting, read our gay sauna etiquette guide but just remember: Japanese guys are generally very shy and nervous, so you’ll often have to make the first move. Unless you are a dark room, then all their fears seem to melt away…
We have heard reports that older, hairy or chubbier guys being ignored in some saunas, and foreign guys getting attitude from some locals. Some sauna have banned foreigners or have age-discrimination policies. We have tried our best to only include those that are ‘foreign-friendly’ here. You can also be an object of curiosity and desire, so it does work both ways. Gay cruise clubs in Osaka are not nearly as favored – or numerous – as, say, Berlin, Madrid, and Prague but can still be a lot of fun, especially when they are hosting an event and the crowds flock in.
Gay sauna or not, in any sexual encounter, please take adequate precautions. No matter what your intentions are in while traveling, you should bring your own condoms and lube to play it safe. Take home a hot guy or a hot memory, not an STD.
Besides, you never know what other fun surprises your trip might have in store for you...
Business Inn Sauna Royal – A low-key foreigner-friendly gay sauna in Osaka catering to a more mature crowd (late 30’s upwards). Their website has up-to-date admission costs in English, including rates for private rooms – with separate fees for day use and overnight stays. Open 24/7, there are the usual facilities along with a Jacuzzi, a solarium, TV room and manga reading space. Towels and bathing robes are included with your entrance ticket. Located just south of Namba, close to Tennōji station.
Taiyo Men’s Spa – Not exactly a gay sauna, but an erotic gay massage in Osaka provided exclusively by friendly, young and muscular men. Located near Honmachi Station, in the commercial center of Osaka, Taiyo Men’s Spa is extremely clean and welcoming to foreigners – and a fabulous way to relax for a few hours.
Business Inn Sauna Hokuoukan – The most popular gay sauna for foreigners in Osaka, conveniently located in Doyamacho, Osaka’s gay district. Having been open for over 30 years, this fine-tuned operation offers a range of amenities including lockers, a video room, sauna + steam room, and dark zones. Admission is based on age, and it is busiest on the weekend from 7 pm till 10 pm and afterward, you can stay overnight on the top floor private rooms.
Daikishi Sauna – The biggest cruising place for gay men in Osaka, covering five floors in the Doyama gay district. Foreign-friendly, though operating under an age discrimination policy where guys over 40 are not welcomed. This is loosely enforced based on looks more than anything else it seems. Typically very clean, but rather quiet as well and we found many more guys at Hokuoukan. Open 24/7 with discounted prices for those under 26. When using a private room an admission ticket and a private room use ticket are needed.
Gay Cruise Clubs in Osaka
Ranger – One of the most popular gay cruise clubs in Osaka located close to Nakatsu-station, though we were not very impressed. Appealing to athletic and muscular guys in their 20’s and 30’s, with foreigners specifically welcomes. Men who have long hair or a deemed ‘too slim or chubby’ can be rejected admission, and an examination is undertaken on arrival. Those over 40 will be denied entrance. As we previously explained, discrimination is still rife within the Japan LGBT scene. At its heart, this is a house which has been converted into a cruise bar and does not function as cruise bars in Europe or the US do. There are no public play spaces and you must pay for a private room if you want to have fun. Extremely hard to find as there is no sign, but take Nakatsu-station (exit 2), head towards the traffic lights, turn right before the 7-Eleven and then the first left. Ranger will then be the second townhouse on your left. There is no sign but open the sliding door to the reception area – and take your shoes off immediately. Open 4 pm till 5 am.
Geofront – A simple gay cruise space for mostly local Japanese guys. There is a free drink included with entry, no time limit, and manga comics, magazines, XXX films and more. A range of guys can be found here with no restrictions placed on body types or age. A different experience, more relaxed, Geofront offers more of an internet café vibe where only gay men are permitted and you can socialize freely.
Otoko Banduke – A very small, local gay cruise club in Osaka located in the Doyama gay area in a small alley next to K’s Hills. Popular after 10 pm with a younger crowd with cabins, dark room and showers.
Nichigeki Rose – A gay movie theater in Shinsekai district with three cinema inside, and a popular cruising ground. Proficiency of the Japanese language is recommended, and it is generally bustling with a wide range of customers from young people such as students to elderly people. Gay cinema is space where gay people can watch movies and enjoy meeting with friends, thought the films being screened are mainly gay adult Japanese films to be clear. You can find out more about Japan’s gay cinemas and what to expect here.
Just add an adventurous attitude and plenty of smiles - they go a long way - and that about covers it all! Now go out, find your global rainbow family and don't forget to share your best gay stories with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram...We'd love to hear from you!