While doing research for his film, “Midnight Swan,” which centers on a transgender character, director Eiji Uchida was shocked at some of the information he came across. Though in terms of legal recognition and job opportunities, the lives of transgender people in Japan appear to have improved in recent years, Uchida feels that it only takes a scratch beneath the surface to realize that the situation is far from rosy.
“While ostensibly things aren’t as bad as they used to be, transgender individuals remain an oppressed minority in this country,” Uchida says. “There is no specific law prohibiting unfair discrimination against transgendered people, so many struggle to get jobs. As a result, many turn to the sex industry. I saw people forced to work in these tiny apartments crammed together. Many were there simply trying to make ends meet, others were attempting to raise enough money to pay for surgery. It’s so sad to see.”