Two weeks ago, the nightly series "Heart Net TV," which is broadcast on NHK's educational channel, repeated a program about a 35-year-old Japanese man who married a 70-year-old Dutch man in the Netherlands. The series dedicates several programs a month to sexual minorities, and there was a sidelight at the end of the story about a local newspaper that covered the wedding. Same sex marriage has been legal in the Netherlands for almost two decades, so local media attention was about the age difference — and the NHK crew that was covering it. The Dutch thought it interesting that such a story would be considered news in Japan, which they had assumed was sexually open.

Actually, the wedding wasn't news. NHK was the only Japanese media to cover it. In a perfect world that's the way it should be, because it's just a wedding. But the Japanese man was the subject of an earlier "Heart Net TV" report, which he used as a platform for coming out. At the time he was living on a small island in Western Japan and figured if he revealed his homosexuality on television he could also publicly explain his life so far and his hopes for the future. He thought his community would understand much better this way than if they heard about it through hearsay, but he was wrong. After the show aired he was disappointed with his neighbors' reaction. He eventually moved to the Netherlands because, as he put it, he was interested more in a committed relationship than in sex. He met his partner, who was previously married to a woman and has two grown children, online.

"Heart Net TV" is a variety show about matters of the soul. It covers such subjects as depression, domestic violence and school bullying, focusing mainly on young people, which is why homosexuality and gender identity disorder (GID) are such frequent topics. The contradictory impulses some children feel with regard to their "gender assignment" can be troubling. On a recent show, the emcee presented a chart about the meaning of GID that listed three categories: one's physical gender, the gender one identifies with "in the heart" and the gender one is attracted to. These three attributes can come in any combination. GID is a multifaceted condition: a boy could have homoerotic impulses without feeling the urge to dress up as a girl, while a girl might prefer boys' clothing without the need to actually become a boy physically.