REPORT: Pride Parade in Japan
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Posted by: Sho WATANABE
The Stonewall Riot was a protest against the discrimination of sexual minorities in 1969. The following year, people around the world rose up in support of the protest campaign. It is said this protest campaign of anti-homophobia was the origin of the Gay Parade. Even if this kind of parade was spreading not only in the U.S. but also around the world, it was not until 1994 that Japan started to hold similar parades. On August 28th in 1994, Tokyo Lesbian Gay Parade was held by the Japanese chapter of ILGA (the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association). This parade was the second pride parade in East and Southeast Asian countries. Since 1994, many pride parades like Tokyo Lesbian & Gay Parade (TLGP) and Tokyo Pride Parade (TPP) had been held in Japan. With these prides, Japan is part of the worldwide pride movement under the umbrella of InterPride. The Pride Radar report of InterPride has identified almost 900 prides around the world so far.
Among the Japanese parades, one of the biggest, famous and most influential is the Tokyo Rainbow Parade (TRP). TRP has been held since 2012. About 2500 people paraded from Shibuya to Harajuku, and the total number of participants not only parading but also lining the streets was estimated about 4500 in 2012. The number of participants in TRP has been increasing annually, about 12,000 in 2013, about 14,000 in 2014. In 2015, about 3,000 people paraded and about 60,000 people came to the TRP.
In addition, a lot of companies like GAP, Google and CHANGE WITH CHEERIO and TV personalities supported TRP. Thanks to their support, various social medias came to cover TRP and improved the Japanese degree of recognition of issues among sexual minorities and TRP itself.
Some embassies such as the U.S., the U.K and European countries opened their booth not only to support TRP but also to inform the visitors of current sexual minorities issues in their country. From this point, it can be said that TRP has something to do not only with sexual minorities in Japan but also with people around the world.
While TRP is the most famous, there are other pride parades. Kansai Rainbow Parade is the most famous one in the Kansai area. Kobe Gay Parade / LGBTIQ Pride March in Kobe 2007 and Rainbow Parade by students of Ritsumeikan University Gender Sexuality Project had been held in the past. In addition, Rainbow March Sapporo and Queer Rainbow Parade in Hakata had been held.
There are many groups supporting sexual minorities in Japan. While the goal for most of these groups is solely to provide a safe and inclusive community for sexual minorities and rarely approach issues relating to sexual minorities, the number of not only sexual minorities but also alliances (ally) that want to engage with LGBT issues is increasing as the environment for LGBT people is changing. At the same time that LGBT issues are being prioritized in Japanese society, there are few groups that conduct their activities from a viewpoint of inclusivity, and those who do want to engage with LGBT issues often do not know how to proceed and cannot keep up with social change. Under this closed tendency, pride parades have an important role not only to make sexual minorities visible in society, but also to help people think of problems that sexual minorities are facing and to include people regardless of their sexuality.
Even though there are some pride parades and they have an important role for Japanese society, there are still some difficulties for the parades. It is true that sexual minorities have been recognized in Japanese society and inequality is decreasing. Thanks to this, Shibuya Yard started to support same-sex couples in 2015. It is difficult to deny improvement is under way for the LGBT community. In today's society, LGBT rights is a pressing topic and because of this, it usually attracts the interest of many people. Many businesses and people may be supporting LGBT rights for the cause of commercial gain instead of for the cause of improving human rights. If the current tendency of regarding LGBT people as a way to make money does not change, the movement will not continue for a long time. The other serious difficulty is that leading activists and supportive people are concentrated in main cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Due to this concentration and a labor shortage, pride parades are rarely held in rural areas. Even if they are held, they have difficulty continuing to be held. As a result, several parades like Rainbow March Sapporo have come to an end.
Japan still has difficulty and inequality for sexual minorities. On the other hand, it is getting more friendly to them thanks to pride parades which help people regardless of their sexuality to know and think of sexual minorities and act for them. However, these important parades have various obstacles to overcome when it comes to continuing them in Japan.
Participants take part in the Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade and march through the streets of Shibuya district on April 27, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo: Keith Tsuji/Getty Images)
On again, off again: Gay and lesbian rights activists demonstrate at the Tokyo Pride Parade in August 2007 in Yoyogi Park. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2012/04/24/issues/tokyo-gets-double-dose-of-gay-pride-for-2012/#.Vx4wLqOLSAw
About the Author: Sho Watanabe is a Waseda University student in Japan. He is a committee of Promotion of Gender Equality in Akiruno City and a president of LGBT Youth Japan.