Japan: Zen Buddhist temple offers same-sex wedding ceremonies

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto has become one of the first to offer same-sex weddings – even though they aren’t recognised in Japan.

The nearly 500-year-old Shunkoin Temple – located in the centre of Japan’s former imperial capital – has joined the list of iconic venues in the country which are willing to marry same-sex couples.

Japan bans equal marriage in its constitution – which states that “Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis” – but same-sex unions performed abroad are sometimes recognised.

However, one of the key Buddhist temples has opened to gay and lesbian couples wishing to hold a wedding ceremony.

Priest Takafumi Kawakami said in an interview with CNN: “It’s not like we have to keep tradition the way it is.

“We welcome every couple regardless of their faith or sexual orientation.”

“Some say we’re against traditional Japanese value about marriage.”

A statement on the website says: “Shunkoin Temple is against any forms of ‘Human Rights Violations’ in the world. No religion teaches how to hate others. Religion teaches how to love and respect others.”

According to Rocket News, the temple even has a partnership with a gay tour operator Out Travel Asia and a gay-friendly hotel, to offer a wedding package to tourists.

LGBT activist Maki Muraki says: “Japan still has no LGBT protection laws, lawmakers aren’t even talking about it.

“If more people come out and get married, it’ll increase LGBT awareness, marriage equality, and workplace equality.”

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