The Drag Queens of Tokyo: How I Became a Nonbinary Drag Performer in Japan

Source: Gaijin Pot

In this new GaijinPot series, American-born drag king/queen Le Horla takes us through what it’s like to be a part of Tokyo’s budding drag scene.

“I’m ready,” I thought. “I’m ready to go to Nichome.” I was not ready.

If you’ve only been to Tokyo’s premier gay district Nichome on weeknights or daylight hours, then you haven’t really been at all. Nichome’s streets come alive on Friday night and fall back asleep by Sunday.

Compared to the gay scenes in other cities around the world, Nichome is relatively small but extremely tight-knit. On most weekend nights, the 7-Eleven (Club 7 as we call is) is crowded with lively cliques of younger queer folk. Everyone seems to know each other, which is a bit terrifying to a newcomer.

Le Horla, my nonbinary drag queen/king persona.

I’d been an introvert in university and a geographical introvert in JET when I lived in the countryside of Kyushu for three years. But when I moved to my language school in Yokohama and found a readymade pack of fellow LGBTQ classmates, I decided this was finally the time for my queer flower to bloom.

“They all look so cool,” I whispered to the classmate I’d gone with—a prince and Adonis among the gays himself—as we stared at a club kid with a bright blue mohawk.

“Godddddd,” he slurred. “You’re fine. Just go up and be like, ‘heyy!’”

“I’m not a gorgeous man like you.”

“Well, no, you’re not,” he said. “You just need a niche. You’ll find your scene. You should watch RuPaul’s Drag Race.

A lesson in drag history

Drag is at the heart of the Western LGBTQ scene and is quickly catching fire in the east as well.

Photo: Wiki Commons
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