Tokyo Rainbow Pride returns in style as LGBTQ+ community vows to ‘fight’ for same-sex marriage: ‘Japan is really far behind’

Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2023

The first Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade in four years has taken place in Japan – the only country in the Group of Seven (G7) that still doesn’t recognise same-sex marriage. 

The G7 is an organisation of the world’s seven largest “advanced” economies – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States.

In May 2023, the group’s annual summit will take place in Japan, where the 2023 Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade calling for better LGBTQ+ rights was held on Sunday (23 April). 

The downtown Shibuya district was a sea of rainbow flags after around 10,000 people gathered on the streets, calling for Japan to prioritise gay rights and same-sex marriage, waving rainbow flags and shouting “happy Pride”. 

A protestor who referred to themselves as Himama told Japan Today: “Japan is really far behind … We will fight until the entire country has same-sex marriage. 

“I think the government is both pretending to see us and pretending not to, but that change will really start happening from here on in.”

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According to Japan Today, Masako Mori, a special advisor to Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida on LGBTQ affairs, attended the parade but didn’t remark on same-sex marriage, instead urging for “greater understanding of LGBTQ”.

Marchers included a group from Taiwan –  the first southeast Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2019. Despite this huge milestone in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, in 2022, couples protested for true marriage equality in the country. 

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LGBTQ+ folks and allies from across the world attended the parade and shared their Pride participation on Twitter. 

One user from Ireland tweeted a number of colourful photos with the caption: “Great to be at Tokyo Rainbow Pride today to show Ireland’s support for #equalrights for all.” 

Another commenter remarked on what a “nice and peaceful festival” the parade was. 

Tokyo Rainbow Pride festival today and tomorrow in Tokyo, next to Yoyogi Park (parade tomorrow/Sunday). Great fun, lots of giveaways, all sorts of people, food and music,” an attendee from Germany posted.

The parade took place over Saturday and Sunday (22-23 April) but events celebrating the LGBTQ+ community will continue around Tokyo until 7 May.

The last Pride parade in Japan was held in 2019 and since then, the number of Japanese cities and towns allowing some form of same-sex partnership has risen from 26 to around 300, covering some 65 per cent of the population.

Despite Japanese same-sex couples being permitted to engage in civil unions, marriage remains, at a constitutional level, between a man and a woman.

This means that, while a union can be recognised, same-sex couples cannot inherit each other’s assets or adopt.

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Furthermore, hospital visits in the case where one half of the couple is either dying or in a critical condition are usually not permitted as the couple are not legally recognised as family members. 

In December 2022, a Tokyo court ruled to uphold a ban on same-sex marriage, but noted that the absence of a legal system to protect same-sex couples is an infringement of their human rights.

In February, Japan’s prime minister, Fumino Kishida, fired an economy and trade official who made hateful comments about LGBTQ+ people, saying he didn’t even “want to look at” LGBTQ+ couples.

Masayoshi Ara also claimed that people would flee the country if same-sex marriage was permitted and remarked that he wouldn’t want to live next to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender couples.

According to a recent poll, around 64 per cent of Japanese people would welcome same-sex unions.

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