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|TOKYO: Saunas and Hatteneba for Men
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Saunas in Japan often function as over-night hotels when city trains stop after midnight. Expect night-long symphonies of snoring and moaning. When you enter, remove your shoes carefully (do NOT step on the carpet with your dirty shoes). Small coin lockers are provided in the entryway to store them. Remember the number of the coin locker as you may have to announce this in Japanese to get your key back when you leave (choose a number that you can easily remember). There is usually a ticket dispensing machine next to the attendant window. Give your ticket and the shoe locker key to the attendant who will trade both for a robe, washcloth and a separate key for your clothes locker (the locker number will be the same as your shoe locker). Private rooms are also available at a higher price. Park your things in the clothes locker and use a mix (communal) room for resting and cruising. Saunas all feature large, clean bathing facilities (wash at the squat stools or standing showers BEFORE going into the hot pool or steam room), a snack/TV/smoking room, video rooms, and multiple dimly lit mix rooms with futons, pillows, and covers. Robes are provided and almost universally worn (not so for condoms, so bring a supply of your own). You can either wander around, watching events unfold before your eyes, or lie down and wait for someone who fancies you to approach (please do not chase or pester Japanese who try to avoid you). Since privacy in this land of paper walls is inside one's own head, you will undoubtedly witness some mind-blowing tableaus.
Hattenba, cruising spaces or "boxes" are smaller mix rooms, video cubicles or clubs with minimal bathing facilities. It has become trendy for gay men to set these places up in apartments in the suburban areas, sometimes with sheets hung to create "rooms," with a VCR playing videos and ubiquitous tissue boxes scattered about. Hattenba will often have themed days (Mon for torn jock straps, Tue for Speedos, Wed is all-nude, etc.). These amateur clubs have become a popular addition to Japan's gay scene spectrum.
44/F Fukutomi Bld, 2-13-14 Akasaka, Minato-ku, 050-1563-8431. From Akasaka Station Tokyo Metro Ciyoda Line (green line) take Exit 2 onto Akasaka St. Make a right onto Misuji St and walk straight ahead until you reach the 2nd-to-the-last building on the left side. The entrance is between the ladies clothing shops, on the left. Take the elevator to 4/F. Foreign-patronized hattenba, so it attracts Japanese who like gaijin (foreigners). All nude. Open noon-11pm daily. Ages 18-45, all types. Special discounted entry fee for gym goers, youth, big tools, couples and groups.
24 Kaikan (Ni-Yon Kaikan), Asakusa
2-29-16 Taito-ku, 5827-2424. Facing out from the front of the Asakusa Prince Hotel, locate the Asakusa Hanayashiki Amusement Park rides in the neighborhood opposite, near the Senso-ji Temple. Cross the road and take the lane circling around the left side of this amusement park. 24 sauna is located at the rear, in this lane. Look for the sign with "24" on it. This is the first, and oldest, branch of the 24 chain. It has an older and frequently tattooed clientele, but it's definitely an interesting experience. Same basic format as the other saunas listed below. Foreigners are welcome, though not common. Mix rooms are not very clean and the place is a bit shabby now compared to the newer Ueno facility. The steam room and semi-private showers are quite cruisy. Friendly, and plenty of fun during the night, some of it a bit kinky. Patrons are mostly uncles, mature men and their fans.
- Jinya UTOPIA VISITED MAR 2012
2-30-19 Toshima-ku, Ikebukuro Ni-Chome, Utopia Map, 3931-0186. Small, unpretentious, and clean gay sauna and inn. It has always welcomed foreigners (open since 1973!) and so it also attracts gaisen (guys who like foreigners). From Ikebukuro Station, travel west underground to Exit C1. Walk ahead four more blocks and look for the Jinya sign on an electric pole (there are visible signs like this pointing to Jinya all over the neighborhood). If the underground passageway is closed, exit the Station from the escalators leading up to the main West entrance. Walk directly perpendicular from the Station, along the main road, about 10 blocks. Turn right and follow the crooked alley for three blocks. Jinya is on the left, just before the main road. Enter and remove your shoes, put them into a shoe locker (free) and get an entry ticket from the dispensing machine (still Y$2,200. at this update). Five mix rooms, the one in B/F plays gay videos before sleeping hours. Zen mappadaka (nude sunbathing) is allowed on the roof in good weather. Nice, hot Japanese style bath and small dry sauna room in B/F (bath closes for cleaning from 11:00-15:00 daily, so be sure to bathe before 10am if you've stayed the night). They also have more expensive private rooms, but the fun happens in the communal rooms, especially after midnight when the trains stop running and tipsy gay businessmen book in for the night.
- Roppongi Inch
Take the Hibiya Line to Roppongi Station, Exit 3. Make a right, cross the road at the first traffic junction and turn right. You should see TGI Fridays, and eventually Tokyo Tower. Walk a few blocks until you see the green Irish pub, Hobgoblin. Make a left on that street, right at the first alley, left at the next alley. Club located on 2/F in the last building, which is behind a bar called Lost Angels. Lots of hot, in-shape 20-30yo guys in this hattenba. Customers over 40 are allowed in only on Fri.
SHINJUKU NI-CHOME, SAN-CHOME
The easiest way to get to the gay area is to take the underground walkway from Shinjuku Station's East Exit (down one floor after the train exit ticket machines) or the Shinjuku Sanchome Subway Station (Marunouichi Line) to Exit C5, C7, or C8 (see map):
- 24 Kaikan (Ni-Yon Kaikan) UTOPIA VISITED APR 2013
2-13-1 Shinjuku Ni-Chome, Utopia Map, 3354-2424. The most international and convenient branch of this popular gay sauna/inn chain, right in the heart of the gay nightlife area. It attracts the bar crowd who come here to overnight, expats and visitors. Signage in English and staff speak basic English. When you arrive, take off your shoes and put a Y$10 coin into the locker slot to take the key. Buy your entry ticket, which allows a maximum 14-hour stay, from the vending machine. Then, give your key and ticket to the counter staff to exchange for a locker key and a bag consisting of a robe, face and bath towel. They will ask your name and, if you are staying overnight, may request to see your passport. Crowded, and there's something for everyone here and it's easy to have multiple encounters. Showers, baths, rain mist room and steam room on 3/F. 4/F and above feature a variety of video rooms, mix rooms with futon and bunk beds, private rooms and sun roof. Safety supplies available at reception. Crowd is a mix of younger and mid-aged Japanese with foreigners of all ages and body types.
B1 Dai-2 Seiko Bld (see map), 2-18-5 Shinjuku Ni-Chome, 3226-4006. Red sign on the corner of the building. Dark cruise space with theme nights and DJ spinning. Open 9pm-4am.
1/F UI Bld, 5-9-6 Shinjuku-ku (see map), 3226-4448. There is a small sign above the door. Type is younger to middle-aged butch guys. Open Mon-Thu, 3pm-10am and 24 hours Sat-Sun.
- Masquerade Tokyo
Waseda Dori, 3-13-3 Takadanobaba, Utopia Map, 03-6304-0792, FAX , email. Discretely located. Walk west from Takadanobaba Station along Waseda Dori and look for the big green sign that says "Hair Snick" in white lettering. Turn right and go upstairs. Open the black door and you're in for a good time. Creative theme nights such as Thick Day, Blow Fiesta, Edging Day and Facial Galore (check their website). Dance vibe. English spoken. Any age 18 or over and no racial discrimination. Discount entry for foreigners with picture ID. Utopia Member Discount
- 24 Kaikan (Ni-Yon Kaikan) UTOPIA VISITED MAR 2012
Showa Do-ri, Utopia Map, 3847-2424. From Ueno Station's large atrium, take the central main exit east and climb up to the elevated pedestrian walkway. You will see a large orange and gold sculpture in the center and Mitsui Garden Hotel beyond that. Take the walkway past the sculpture and down to street level on the other side of the elevated highway and walk in the direction of Mitsui Garden Hotel which you will pass on your right side. From this point keep walking straight ahead on Showa Do-ri, beneath the elevated highway, for 6 large city blocks (not counting the small alleyways mid-block), about 10 minutes. Along the way you will pass ComeCome, UPC Ride On, Tackleberry and just after the 6th block you will see a 7/11 Seven & i Holdings sign. Just beyond is the 24 sign in yellow and the entrance is around the corner to the right, up the stars next to the parking garage. Alternatively, you can also take the Hibiya Subway to Iriya Station, Exit 1 and walk along Showa Do-ri towards Ueno Station). English spoken and signs and announcements here are in English and Japanese. Note that the shoe lockers have two kinds of keys: the red keys are for expensive, private rooms, the white keys for a standard locker (around Y$2,400 yen before 9pm for 12 hours of use; Y$2,800 after 9pm for 14 hours). Take your shoes off before stepping onto the carpet. Put your shoes in a locker, add a 10 yen coin, close the door and remove the key. Use the vending machine for your entry ticket. Give the attendant your ticket and shoe locker key. The attendant will ask for your name and give you a plastic bag with your towels and robe, as well as a wristband with your locker key. Be sure to return all towels and robe in this same plastic bag when you leave. Lockers are on 3/F, bathing facilties on 4/F (including different temperature pools, rain mist room, showers with glory holes and steam room). 5/F and above feature video rooms, mix (communal) rooms and cruise spaces, private rooms, a gym on 10/F, and rooftop sunbathing. Crowd here is mostly mid-aged 30+, short hair, beards, bears, chubs and G-men type (masculine), though there are some younger, thinner and non-bear chasers as well. Note the Zen koan-like sign which admonishes "no hair dyeing or gum chewing." On the bathing floor, leave your robe or towel in any cubbyhole outside the wet area and carry your washcloth (remember, wash first in the showers or at the soaping stools before entering the relaxing tubs).
Comments from Utopians:
"A good place if you're into stocky and mature guys, although a range of ages go there. Good facilities, including large common play/sleeping areas where action can be uninhibited. Good sized crowds even mid-week. If the smokers that infest the place could be moved to one area it would be better. No problem for westerners to be there, although only a minority of locals will be interested. Utopia's directions make finding it easy." -- bear4unz, Jan 10, 2013
- Gate In
Email. Small gay nudist cruise spot. Basically an apartment with small cubicles divided by partitions in the middle and narrow walkways. Young crowd.
1-1-15 Negish, Taito-ku, 3844-4567. Sauna.
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