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The advent of internet dating and gay dating applications on smartphones has caused anxiety among Japanese gay men who fear that these technologies, by facilitating social interaction between men, may eventually lead to the erosion of queer spaces. Despite these anxieties, Tokyo’s gay town of Shinjuku Ni-chōme remains a vital space for men to socialise under a limited anonymity. Reflecting upon ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Ni-chōme between 2012 and 2017, I argue that gay dating applications have instead reinforced the production of queer space. Drawing upon Soja’s influential theory of the ‘thirdspace’, I argue that Ni-chōme exists as both a real, physical space and a virtual, imagined space that is accessible via gay dating applications and social media services. Utilizing social media allows gay men to virtually participate in the scene at Ni-chōme, fostering a sense of shared community. Dating applications, through their use of GPS technology, also draw individuals to Ni-chōme by virtually mapping gay bodies/presence onto the district. I argue that the ‘virtual connectivity’ afforded by gay dating applications in the Japanese context has ultimately reinforced Ni-chōme’s status as a queer space and led many gay men to actively (re-)participate within the Japanese gay culture.
- queer space
- gay dating applications
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