Battered but unbowed by coronavirus, Tokyo’s gay district forges stronger ties

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12/02/2020

TOKYO (Reuters) – When Toshitsune Tamashiro was young and closeted in 1980s Japan, Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ni-chome gay district was a haven. Now he runs a bar there, and has fought to keep the district going during the coronavirus pandemic. Ni-chome, believed the most dense concentration of gay bars globally, fulfills a vital role for Japan’s LGBT community in a nation where some gay men still marry women, and even a few Ni-chome bar owners haven’t come out to their families. In April, under Japan’s state of emergency, it became a ghost town. Landlords slashed rents, bars crowdfunded to stay afloat, and business leaders petitioned the local government desperately for help. Six months later, though, the story is a bit different. Only a handful of businesses failed but were replaced by new tenants, events are held live again, and most customers are used to hand sanitiser, masks and social distance.

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