Urasoe City, Okinawa Declares Support For LGBT, Raises Rainbow Flag

Ryukyu Shimpo 1/4/2017

On the morning of January 4th, the city of Urasoe raised a rainbow flag, the symbol of sexual diversity, in front of city hall. At the ceremony corresponding with the first day of work in the new year, Mayor Matsumoto Tetsuzi read the “Rainbow City Urasoe Declaration”, designating the city as one that accepts sexual diversity.

The declaration was dated January 1st. The statement also included that “everyone must be respected regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. Recognizing these differences and protecting human rights will lead to a peaceful and enriched society.”

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Google Japan Airs Commercial Featuring Gay Man During Prime Time Music Program

Google Japan made a bold move during NHK’s annual Year-end Song Festival (紅白歌合戦), airing a commercial that featured, among others, a gay man. The Year-end Song Festival is aired every New Year’s Eve from 19:15~23:45 and is watched by millions across Japan.

The commercial is called kotoshi wa ‘yaritai’ kara hajimeyou, which translates to “start the new year with goals” and features people of all ages and walks of life saying what they would like to do in the new year.

The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment happens around 16 seconds in, where the man, who appears to be college-aged, says “I want to tell him how I feel”. 

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LGBT Rights in Japan 2016: The Year in Review

On December 14, Google revealed its annual “Year in Search“, shining a light on the most popular search queries of 2016. The breakout searches were to be expected: Pokemon GO, the summer hit game that needs no introduction. Olympic, referring to both the Rio Summer Olympics and the excitement (and drama) surrounding Toyko 2020. SMAP, the “Johnny’s idol” group that will dissolve at the end of the year.

But a look at the top search queries starting with “what is…” revealed a surprising and optimistic result:

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Japanese Transgender Idol Unit “SECRET GUYZ” Overcome Gender Boundaries

Suponichi Annex 11/26/2016

SECRET GUYZ, Japan’s first ever FtM idol group, is broadening the scope of its activities to spread understanding of sexual minorities as it cements its position as a ‘new generation idol group”. In addition to releasing their 6th single on November 30th, the group will hold a one man show on December 1st in Toyko. The group says, “Rather than raising awareness in a serious way, we want to get the word out through entertainment.”

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Osaka’s Yodogawa Ward Launches First-Ever LGBT Awareness Poster Campaign

Yodogawa Ward in Osaka City is unique in that it became the first municipality in Japan to declare support for LGBT individuals back in 2013. And according to a recent article published by the Japan Times, it appears that Yodogawa Ward is positioned as a municipal model on LGBT rights due to the various ways in which the local government has worked to create a more comfortable environment for LGBT citizens to live in and for the ward’s contributions to creating LGBT awareness in Japan.

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Rainbow Parade for LGBT Awareness Held in Kumamoto City 

Kumanichi.com 11/14/2016 

Rainbow Parade Kumamoto, an event which aims to create understanding of sexual minorities, was held on November 12 in downtown Kumamoto City. About 200 people marched magnificently in the spirit of wishing to live as their true selves.

While many LGBT individuals still hesitate to come out due to the threat of discrimination and prejudice, and holding such parades in the region is uncommon, an action committee consisting of LGBT individuals and their supporters created the first of such events to be held in Kumamoto.

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Kyushu Rainbow Pride 2016 [Slideshow+Video]

Kyushu Rainbow Pride 2016, the third LGBT Pride event to be hosted in Fukuoka City, was held on November 6 in Fukuoka’s Reisen Park. Attendees of all ages, nationalities, sexualities and genders gathered in celebration of diversity and to express support for the LGBT community.

I had a wonderful time speaking with NPO groups and company representatives about their efforts to support LGBT individuals, and I even got to meet some readers of this blog! There was so much positive energy and cheerfulness. Experiencing such a scene made me feel so much hope for the advancement of LGBT awareness and the creation of a more diverse and supportive society in Japan.

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