To enjoy our content, please include The Japan Times on your ad-blocker's list of approved sites. At a glance, First Dash is just a regular Tokyo bar. Customers laugh and drink, their animated chatter competing with the monotonous beat of techno thumping through speakers hovering somewhere above dimmed, orange-tinted lights. The customer — a portly, balding middle-aged man in a nondescript suit — shuffles over to a table followed by a slightly built teenage lad, ruffled locks partly shielding a furtive, floor-fixed stare.
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I wanted a glimpse of the life I could have — someone who looked like me and could understand my struggle. It was what gay society told me was the pinnacle of male beauty. For a long time, I thought that coming out would open doors to a place where I could be open about my identity without judgement. As gay men, we all go through an emotional journey to discover a sense of self; to allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to come out and let our lives fall into place.
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Nothing outside Tokyo's 24 Kaikan hotel hints at what goes on behind its grey concrete walls. Tucked in off a back-street near the Shinjuku business and shopping district, the seven-story building could be an apartment block for retired civil servants. A steady stream of customers in the salary-man's uniform of dark suit, sensible shoes and winter overcoat files quietly through its innocuous doors. Only in the lobby, cheerily adorned with scenes from a sex movie that depict a portly company president being diligently serviced by a young apprentice, does it become clear that this is one of Asia's biggest gay landmarks. Wander around and watch the sights or lie back and wait for someone who fancies you, instructs one guide, which blissfully advises customers to expect "some mind-blowing tableaus".
Follow our live coverage for the latest news on the coronavirus pandemic. In a film about two young men who develop feelings for each other in high school caught Thai audiences off guard. At a time when it was a struggle to find a gay character on Thai television, the film's success sent an emphatic message to entertainment media companies: there was money to be made in same-sex romance.