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Satisfy your inner samurai this winter and say “Ohaiyou!” to Japan with exclusive new packages from gay pal American Airlines, especially when they start flying direct into Tokyo Haneda airport, shaving an hour off the transfer from distant Narita.
Book by December 31 and travel between January 11 and February 28, 2011 for only $899 (plus tax/international fees) round-trip economy per person from Los Angeles including at least a three-night and up to six consecutive night stay at a three-star hotel. Airfare is near that much on it's own, so it's like getting the (typically expensive) hotel for free! Fly nonstop to Narita from Chicago for $60 more, Dallas for $110, and New York's JFK for only $100 more – including the Haneda route beginning January 20. Prices are per person, based on double-occupancy.
Call 800-237-0027 (6am-midnight CST) or click here to see full list of hotel options, terms/conditions, and to book.
Once in Tokyo, don't miss our gay-ish fave places to...
PARTY: Time your trip for the monthly C.H.U.R.C.H. party in chic subterranean resto-lounge Bar 57 in Roppongi. Founded by two French expats, it's mix of A-gays, style mavens, and expats, and one of the rare spaces in which gays, lesbians and the odd cool-seeking straight mix. ChurchTokyo.wordpress.com
Midweek can be quiet (the notorious 14-hr day Japanese work ethic is not a stereotype) but weekends heave in gay nabe Shinjuku Ni-Chome. There are literally hundreds of small 10-seater bars stacked on top of each other in what seems like a six-block radius. If that's not daunting enough, consider that most of the bars in this area are “chat” or “snack” bars – a place to buy a bottle which the bartender keeps for you, get a nipple, have a chat, and maintain as your local hideaway – and are expensive and difficult to enjoy unless you're fluent in Japanese. To sample one without the commitment, try Kinsmen, a friendly second-floor boite where they charge by the drink. Or stick to the larger gaijin-friendly Dragon Men, Advocates, Arty Farty, and its newer offshoot The Annex for shoulder-to-shoulder sweaty dance fun. Check Utopia-asia.com/tokybars.htm for listings
STROLL: Win some yen (but lose your hearing) in the Kabuchiko red-light district at one of the many pachinko parlors, an ADD-inducing fury of lights, sound, chrome, and cigarette smoke. Then check out the rows of love hotels and tarted-up straight boys with sky high feathered hair trying to cajole passers-by into their host bars. Yes, they look like a bit like transexual anime characters, but who are we to judge the tastes of their predominately middle-aged female clientele?
SHOP: Go to your credit card's content in the Daikanyama neighborhood. High-end fashion boites like APC or Onitsuka Tiger anchor the streets while homegrown temples of hipsterdom such as Bonjour Records (Bonjour.co.jp) bring boho cred. Or head to Harajuku for the The Beams flagship (Beams.co.jp), a collection of seven buildings that offer everything from skater-inspired streetwear to custom suits and cowboy boots.
Foodies will love Kappabashi-dori, a street where the restaurant industry shops: carbon steel knives, ceramics of all types, even the ubiquitous plastic food. It's both a kitsch-lover and home chef's heaven.
EAT: Be a glutton for choice, and just a glutton, in the basement of any big department store. Combo grocery store and food courts, the offerings are high-end ($50 cantaloupe anyone?) and immense. Go hungry and go wild. You may even get free sashimi samples. Our favorite is the Tokyu Hands in Shinjuku, if only for the stellar souvenir shopping upstairs (they literally have 37 kinds of everything), particularly the bizarre toys and postcards on the top floor. Shinjuku-Tokyu-Hands.co.jp
THINK: Feed your brain, too, at the Mori Art Museum, a temple to contemporary art with monumental exhibits and a killer gift shop on the top floor of the toney Roppnogi Hills tower. Mori.Art.Museum
For general trip-planning information, see our Tokyo Travel Guide.