/

Japan Inc. tiptoes onto LGBT bandwagon

by Ryusuke Morihara

Kyodo

Businesses are increasingly showing support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as Japan comes to acknowledge LGBT needs and concerns.

Companies are sponsoring parades, gatherings and other events that aim to draw attention to LGBT people and the issues they face.

Japan Airlines Co. and Japan TransOcean Air Co., a JAL group carrier based in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, were among companies that sponsored the “Pink Dot Okinawa” event held in the prefectural capital in mid-July.

The event, held three times in the past, included a concert and same-sex marriage ceremony. Participants were clad in pink to show support for LGBT rights.

Organizers said JAL and JTA are the first Japanese airlines to sponsor a private LGBT event.

“Support from airlines, which lay weight on their brand image, makes us realize that the image of LGBT people is changing in a favorable way,” said Hideki Sunagawa, one of the event organizers.

A JTA official said: “As a carrier based in Okinawa that heavily relies on tourism, we would like to contribute to the creation of an area LGBT people can readily visit.”

The fifth Tokyo Rainbow Pride, held in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward in May, was sponsored by companies including Lush Retail Ltd., a British cosmetics retailer, U.S. movie streaming firm Netflix Inc. and Japanese soft drink manufacturer Cheerio Corp.

Lifenet Insurance Co., which joined the group of sponsors for the event this year, released a life insurance policy covering same-sex partners last year.

It was “well received” by the targets and others, a representative for the Tokyo-based insurer said.

Local governments are also increasingly supportive of LGBT people. In April last year, Shibuya Ward became the first place in Japan to recognize same-sex partnerships as “equivalent to marriage,” passing an ordinance that allows couples to receive certificates declaring their relationship. Other municipalities, including Iga, Mie Prefecture, Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, and Naha followed suit.

Starting this year, JAL allows officially certified same-sex couples to share their frequent flyer miles as family members.