Regimes of desire: young gay men, media, and masculinity in Tokyo

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


Shinjuku Ni-chōme is a nightlife district in central Tokyo filled with bars and clubs targeting the city’s gay male community. Typically understood as a “safe space” where same-sex attracted men and women from across Japan’s largest city can gather to find support from a relentlessly heteronormative society, Regimes of Desire reveals that the neighborhood may not be as welcoming as previously depicted in prior literature. Through fieldwork observation and interviews with young men who regularly frequent the neighborhood’s many bars, the book reveals that the district is instead a space where only certain performances of gay identity are considered desirable. In fact, the district is highly stratified, with Shinjuku Ni-chōme’s bar culture privileging “hard” masculine identities as the only legitimate expression of gay desire and thus excluding all those men who supposedly “fail” to live up to these hegemonic gendered ideals.

​Through careful analysis of media such as pornographic videos, manga comics, lifestyle magazines and online dating services, this book argues that the commercial imperatives of the Japanese gay media landscape and the bar culture of Shinjuku Ni-chōme act together to limit the agency of young gay men so as to better exploit them economically. Exploring the direct impacts of media consumption on the lives of four key informants who frequent the district’s gay bars in search of community, fun and romance, Regimes of Desire reveals the complexity of Tokyo’s most popular “gay town” and intervenes in debates over the changing nature of masculinity in contemporary Japan.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAnn Arbor, USA
PublisherUniversity of Michigan Press
Number of pages256
ISBN (Electronic)9780472129188
ISBN (Print)9780472132645, 9780472038619
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NameMichigan Monograph Series in Japanese Studies
PublisherUniversity of Michigan Press


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