Japan: Tokyo Pride Parade

On August 11, 2007, the 6th Tokyo Pride Parade with nearly 3,000 participants hit the streets of downtown Tokyo under the blazing August sun (English news video here). The parade was first organized in 2000 and has been held intermittenly since then. Initially named Tokyo Lesbian & Gay Parade, the event has a new outlook with a more inclusive and internationally recognizable name, the Tokyo Pride Parade, which reflects the organizer's stance to embrace and celebrate other sexual minorities such as bisexuals and transgenders. This year's Pride marked several small but significant changes in social attitudes. The Ministry of Health, Labour and welfare, the Tokyo Metropolitan government as well as other governmental institutions officially supported the event in various ways. Otsuji Kanako, an openly lesbian candicate in the recent upper house elections, gave a speech at the end of the event.

The Tokyo Pride Parade

Otsuji Kanao gives a speech at TPP[Ja]

Many bloggers who participated in the TPP wrote about their experiences with excitement. Blogger Maruyama Tenoru writes:


I felt glad to have participated in the parade. I felt glad in the same way that I feel glad to have been born gay and to be living as a gay person. I felt certain that marching in the parade with joy and living with joy are really the same thing. I realized this time again that this is the meaning of the Pride Parade. Having participated in the Pride Parade and been able to reafirm my own existence, I've gained the confidence to live as a gay person without sense of guilt or remorse, and to proudly live as a human being.

A gay artist, Yu (悠), who participated in the parade with his partner expresses his joy with a colourful painting:


Last year, my boyfriend was in the organizing team so I could not be with him that much, but this year (being a bit selfish) we participated together the whole time. Thanks for being together with me.

TPP painting by Yu
Painting © Yu (悠)
Courtesy of the artist

The painting is accompanied with a poem:

いろんなひとたちと いっしょにあるきながら
ただぼくは あなたの手だけは はなさないように
そんなことを おもいながら あるいたんだ

Walking with many different people
Just don't let go of your hand
I walked thinking about this

Akira shares his thoughts:

(ちょっと言葉の選び方がうまくなくて申し訳ない(_ _;))

But what I think is that (although it is starting to become socially accepted) the sexual minority is still a “minority” and treated as “heresy” so they have to purposely raise their voices like this (Sorry about the poor word choice(_ _;)). To say it the other way around, “normal people”, who are not the sexual minority, are the majority so that they “don't even have to raise their voices”, and that is considered “ordinary”. And there is hardly any chance to realize this fact.
I think that there is a value in this kind of parade as an opportunity not only for the sexual minority but also for other people to face their own sexuality again.
Or I mean, acknowledging the diversity in sexuality, I think it's important to recognize that “you are both physically and mentally a male (or a female) and heterosexual” so that you can establish your own self. Don't just take it for granted.

Tokyo Pride Parade
Participants in their colourful costumes
Photos: Courtesy of Amnesty International Japan

Althought the TPP drew a few thousand participants and spectators, there are still many people in Japan who remain silent and are reluctant to come out to people around them.

Gucchifone echoes the feelings of those who watched the parade from “behind a wall”, with a photograph entitled “A rainbow behind the wall”:


I want to spend time with someone important in the sun too.
I want to say aloud I like what I like without feeling afraid.
But why, why do [you] try to hide my feelings behind a wall?
Why do you not accept the difference between you and me?
You always try to ignore my outcry?
… but I will not give up
Because I see the rainbow shining in the sun beyond this wall.
Because there is a future that I desire awaiting on the other side of this wall
I took yet another step towards a place in the sun.


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