A Japanese company will be offering services for LGBTI tourists who wish to hold their wedding ceremonies in the land of the rising sun.
Ahsh Inc., founded in Osaka in 1986, has set up a online website for bookings. It hopes that through this experience, LGBTI tourist couples will be able to have ‘unique opportunities to experience Japanese culture and take away unforgettable memories of our (their) country’.
‘Japanese omentanashi (hospitality) is world-famous and this generous spirit pervades wedding services in Japan too,’ says President Etsuko Kawabe.
Kawabe adds: ‘We are pleased and proud to be able (to) share long-nurtured tradition with couples from all over the world.’
Four different types of wedding packages are available for LGBTI tourist couples: The traditional wedding at a Japanese shrine, a ‘Machiya’ wedding at a traditional wooden townhouse, a ‘Noh’ (traditional theatre) wedding at a UNESCO site and a new-age ‘Samurai’ wedding which allows for couples to be dressed up as movie stars. These wedding packages, as assured by the company, will cater to the wardrobe requirements of LGBTI individuals. Accompanying staff for the ceremonies are also all English-speaking.
One caveat, however, is that such services are currently only available in Kyoto and Osaka. The company plans to expand their portfolio to cover the entire country in due time.
Even though same-sex marriage remains illegal in Japan as of today, the LGBTI movement in the country is promising. In March last year, Tokyo’s Shibuya ward became the first municipality in the conservative country to adopt an ordinance recognizing same-sex unions as ‘equivalent to marriage,’ with housing and hospital visitation rights. The city’s Setagaya ward followed four months later. In October, the country’s new minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology pledged support for LGBTI students. A month later, the country’s first lesbian TV drama was aired; insurers such as Lifenet has also allowed policyholders to designate same-sex partners as beneficiaries.
A new poll funded by the government and published in December 2015 showed that majority of Japanese now support same-sex marriage. Lawmakers also introduced a landmark LGBTI anti-discrimination bill towards the end of 2015. Earlier this year in February, the city of Iga also announced that they would start issuing certificates recognizing partnerships between LGBTI couples next month – becoming the third city in Japan, and first city outside Tokyo, to do so. The city of Takarazuka in another prefecture, Hyogo, will subsequently issue partnership certificates to LGBTI couples in June.
Moving towards LGBTI equality, though, has not been a bed of roses – in the latest news, a Tokyo lawmaker came out last month to express her opinion that sexual orientation is a ‘personal taste’ and argued that therefore LGBTIs do not deserve recognition from municipal governments.
Late last year, another Japanese politician had also called LGBTIs ‘abnormal animals’. He was urged to resign after that.