“Making videos has been a fun, creative outlet for us and is also a rewarding way to be ‘out’ and proud,” says Clare, who with her partner Miho, produce “L Japan”, a YouTube vlog about lesbian life in Japan. Miho and Clare self-identify as lesbians.
“We decided to start our YouTube channel one because, while we found other Japanese-Japanese lesbian couples, we couldn’t find anyone like us,” says Clare in an interview with Global Voices. “And I personally wanted to create a resource for other women like myself who wanted to date women in Japan but always thought it was impossible.”
Clare is originally from Florida in the United States, while Miho is from Nara Prefecture. Both now live in the Japanese port city of Kobe, to the west of Osaka, and have been together for a year and a half.
“We have videos where the two of us talk in Japanese about various topics, do some fun activities, or go on dates,” says Clare to Global Voices. “I also have videos that I make alone, in English, about lesbian dating in Japan.”
Miho and Clare started the channel in November 2019, and so far have produced nearly thirty videos. In the video below, Clare and Miho return to Nara to meet Miho's parents, and also reflect on the year ahead. While the video is in Japanese, YouTube provides English subtitles.
“Miho's family (in Nara) have all been very accepting of her and me, including her grandparents, aged 87 and 91,” says Clare, who also says notes in general, life is comfortable for her as a lesbian living in Japan.
“Japanese people seem to have little to no opinion on LGBT people, which on one hand makes activism, (such as getting the laws around same-sex marriage changed) difficult, but going out very easy,” she says. “We comfortably hold hands and tell others we are a couple. It is confusing for some, but we have never had any negative reactions.”
Marriage equality and legalization of same-sex partnerships remains a key issue for LGBTQ+ people living in Japan. In early February, Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo rejected calls to legalize same-sex marriage. In the absence of national leadership on the issue, local authorities and municipalities across Japan are increasingly recognizing same-sex partnerships, which has important implications for shared ownership of assets, estate planning and retirement planning.
“Same-sex partnerships are not yet recognized where we live (in Kobe), but areas around us which do are increasing and I believe it’s only a matter of time until Kobe also implements the “partnership” system,” says Clare. “We do plan to marry abroad though, even though it won’t be recognized here.”
At the end of the day, however, Clare says their goal is to provide a fun and informative look at life in Japan.
“Although we promote our videos with tags like ‘lesbian couple’ or ‘international couple’, we really just want people to see that we are not so different from other couples,” says Clare.
Watch videos by Miho and Clare on L Japan on YouTube, including this introduction to Japanese lesbian slang: