Some 3,000 LGBTI people and their allies Sunday (26 April) afternoon marched in Tokyo Rainbow Pride amid calls for Japan to legalize gay marriage.
The crowd, many waving rainbow flags and dressed as geishas, paraded through the capital’s entertainment and shopping district Shibuya.
Last month, the ward become the first local government in the conservative country to issue legally non-binding certificates recognizing gay partnerships as ‘equivalent to marriage.’
‘The mood is definitely different this year. All the flyers or other goods we have prepared for visitors are disappearing like mad,’ Fumino Sugiyama, one of the event’s chief organizers, told the Japan Times.
Amid a surge in public interest in LGBTI issues caused by the Shibuya’s move, the festival was extended by two days, Sugiyama said.
‘Since sexuality is something invisible, the issue of LGBT people tends to be regarded as nonexistent unless they make their voices heard,’ he said.
‘The purpose of this event is to make LGBT people visible, but do it in a cheerful, funny way.’
But despite the new interest, Kazumi Nakamura, a 51-year-old gay man who married his partner in the Netherlands in 2001, said Japan lagged behind other industrialized nations in recognition of gay couples.
‘We’re not asking for the legalization of same-sex marriages in Japan so we can destroy something,’ he said in response to politicians who say gay marriage threatens traditional family values.
‘Rather, we’re merely asking to create something new so we can be a part of society.’