Your reporter (male) was walking through Shinjuku Ni-chōme, Tokyo, Japan’s most well-known gay neighborhood, at around 7-8pm on business the other day when a man in a suit with his hair dyed brown approached me casually at an intersection. The man, who looked like he worked at a host club, glanced at me and then put his hand out to offer me something. At the time, I figured he was just trying to hand me a pamphlet for his club, and ignored him as I walked past. However, I later learned that it was actually a secret signal used by homosexual men in Japan to indicate interest in a potential partner—a practice known in English as “cruising.”

It turns out there are quite a few cruising techniques in Japan, most of which are naturally unknown to the average Japanese female or straight male.

Below are four signals that I know about, either from what friends have told me or my own experience.

1. The Tissue at Hand
The man’s actions at the crosswalk seemed all too strange to me, so I decided to search the internet for answers. It turns out that it was probably not a pamphlet, but a single tissue that the man had offered me. Had I accepted it, I would have been accepting his invitation—which could have led to an awkward situation for the both of us once he realized that I had no idea what was going on.

2. The Secret Handshake
This happened to me while I was working as a dispatched temporary staff at a restaurant in Tokyo. It was my last day at the restaurant as my contract had expired and, before I left, one of the chefs shook my hand and kindly said to me: “let’s go drinking again sometime.”

The strange part though, is that he tickled the palm of my hand while he shook it. I didn’t think much of this either at the time, but I later learned that this is also a signal of interest.

3. The Umbrella Organization
This one I heard from a friend: if you’re standing around Shinjuku Ni-chōme on a rainy day holding an umbrella, and a guy comes up to you and starts nudging your umbrella with his umbrella without saying anything, you’re being cruised. And if you’re a goer, the offer can be accepted by returning the nudge (say no more).

4. Key to the Closet
This last one is for when you’re at a sento, or Japanese public bath. If you’re unfamiliar with sento culture, keys for lockers used to store patrons” clothes are usually attached to an elastic band so they can be worn on the wrist while bathing.

However, word has it that wearing your locker key on your ankle (the left ankle, according to some people) while in the bathhouse is yet another invitation signal, so those hoping to bathe in peace may want to be careful.

As I mentioned before, there are more techniques than the four above, but hopefully this list has made you feel a little more prepared for your next stroll—or cruise (oh my!)—through Ni-chōme.

So what are some secret signals in your country?

photo:Shinjuku Ni-chōme, Tokyo Japan


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