Gay Osaka: Growing gay scene

The cityscape of Osaka comprises an urban carpet of wall-to-wall ultra-modern glass and steel structures punctuated by pachinko parlors and elevated expressways. There are few historical or cultural sites remaining in this tricked-out modern metropolis.

However, it is possible to find plenty of fun here. Boasting some of Japan's best restaurants and entertainment zones, a lively youth neighborhood, and (according to Japanese gays) the handsomest men in the country, Osaka is definitely worth a stopover on your way to/from the cultural wonders in nearby Kyoto and Nara, the all-female theater extravaganza in Takarazuka, or the ancient seaport city of Kobe. Osaka's Kansai International Airport, a marvel of design and engineering in itself, is a much more efficient travel hub for the region than aggravating, old Narita Airport outside Tokyo.

There are plenty of attractions here to add to your itinerary, such as the Aquarium with its huge whale shark, Osaka castle (especially when its plum trees blossom in early spring), the Open Air Museum of Old Japanese Farmhouses and a branch of Universal Studios. If eating and shopping is more your thing, try the Amerika Mura neighborhood in Shinsaibashi, or the trendy HEP Five complex in Umeda (adjacent to Osaka's largest gay neighborhood). At night, stroll along The Dotombori canal notable for its Blade Runner scenery.

Osaka is home to the second largest gay community in Japan after Tokyo, though for its 8.8 million population the scene is all but invisible. Gay Japanese seem to prefer drinking in bars to dancing at clubs, and most gay bars are tiny, often seating around dozen drinkers at a time. Venues that actively target foreigners (both male and female) are located in the Doyama nightlife district.

Restaurants to check out