It’s a Sunday night, and Eagle Tokyo Blue, a nightclub in Shinjuku’s Ni-chome neighborhood, is filled to the brim with a raucous crowd fired up for the Tokyo Kiki Lounge. A rotating panel of judges sits at one end of the room; in front of them is a T-shaped runway for dancers and pageant contestants. On either side, there are throngs of ball-goers, sitting and standing, screaming and waving their hands.

In the club’s entry area, I meet a 20-something trans boy from the United States — fresh on testosterone, a hint of dark fuzz starting to form on his upper lip. He’s bouncing with excitement.

“I had no idea this was going on!” he shouts over the noise. “It’s my last night in Japan. I was just strolling through Ni-chome (known as Tokyo’s LGBTQ neighborhood) and saw a bunch of people outside the club, so I came in. I’m so glad! I didn’t know Japan had a space like this!”