One of the nation’s most influential businesswoman on Monday surprised many of the country’s working women by disclosing she is in same-sex relationship, possibly a game-changing milestone in the nation’s slow but growing acceptance of sexual minorities.
Kazuyo Katsuma, a 49-year-old mother of three, was on the Wall Street Journal’s list of “The 50 Women to Watch” in 2005 for gaining “legions of fans among Japanese working mothers” through the management of an online forum for working mothers.
Her fans are known as “Katsumer,” which was nominated as the 2009 buzzword of the year.
Katsuma had previously been married twice.
In an interview with the website BuzzFeed Japan, Katsuma said she has been living with Hiroko Masuhara, a 40-year-old activist for the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people.
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“I kept the lid on my feelings of attraction to members of the same sex,” said Katsuma, who has authored a number of best-selling books. According to her website, more than 5 million copies of her books on work-life balance, self-management and other topics have been published.
“After I met Hiroko, the ice in my heart melted, although it took a few years,” she said. “I hope this interview article will cheer up someone and trigger a change.”
After working for several international companies including McKinsey and JPMorgan, Katsuma has been working as an economic commentator.
Acceptance of same-sex unions has begun to spread slowly in Japan, although legal marriage still remains limited to the union of a man and a woman.
In April, the Fukuoka Municipal Government began recognizing the partnerships of LGBT couples, adding to efforts to eliminate discrimination against sexual minorities.
The city became the seventh municipality in the country to begin recognizing such unions, thereby conferring various rights and privileges to them. Shibuya Ward in Tokyo became the first local administration to do so in 2015.
Katsuma’s partner, Masuhara, received the first such certificate from Shibuya Ward when she registered her partnership with another woman. The couple later ended their relationship.
According to a survey conducted in 2015 by advertising giant Dentsu Inc., one in 13 people is estimated to be a member of the country’s LGBT community.
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