Thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people paraded through Tokyo’s Shibuya district on Sunday to express hope that Japan will further embrace gender equality and diversity.
The LGBT parade was the finale to the annual Tokyo Rainbow Pride festival, and this year’s theme was “Change.”
“I believed that nothing would change. But, little by little, things are starting to change,” the event’s flyers say, quoting an unnamed individual. “Let’s achieve a future where everyone is respected as an individual, despite differences in sexuality.”
“My company is very tolerant of LGBT people. A consultation program is available for anyone whose sexuality makes them feel uncomfortable among their coworkers,” said a gay man who participated in the festival, which was held in Yoyogi Park.
The man, who only wanted to be identified by his initials, H.U., added that over the past few years his company’s grasp of gender issues had improved and that management was more understanding of the situation of LGBT staff.
In the park, where performers took to the stage and booths hosted charity events, H.U. said he was surprised to see that the festival was much larger compared with two years ago, when he first attended.
According to the organizer, an estimated 5,000 people took part in Sunday’s parade.
This year, Tokyo Rainbow Pride was sponsored by a record 190 companies and organizations, including big names like NTT Corp., Sony Corp. and Google Inc., as well as fast-growing media company BuzzFeed and music streamer Spotify.
On the event’s official website, local government leaders left congratulatory messages, including Shibuya Ward Mayor Ken Hasebe and Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto.
In 2015, the ward’s assembly passed an ordinance and agreed to issue legally nonbinding certificates that declared same-sex partnerships “equivalent to marriage.”
The document allows gay couples to be treated on a par with married couples in terms of hospital visits and apartment rentals. Other cities, such as Sapporo, Naha in Okinawa Prefecture and Iga in Mie Prefecture have since established similar programs.
“I find it important to create an atmosphere in which all LGBT people, not just couples but also children and adults, can feel comfortable living,” Hasebe said in his message.
As of April 1, 17 same-sex couples in Shibuya had been issued the certificates.
Sapporo plans to issue similar certificates starting next month.
“We would like to remove as many obstacles as possible that are making life difficult for sexual minorities,” Akimoto wrote. Sapporo also plans to establish a phone consultation service to help LGBT people by next April.
However, H.U. said that “certification is only a half measure.” He is hoping for further legal developments that will allow same-sex couples to officially get married.