A national women’s university in Tokyo will start accepting students in April 2020 who were assigned male at birth but identify as female.
The education ministry said it believes Ochanomizu University will become Japan’s first women’s university to accept transgender students. Ochanomizu, founded in 1875, was also the country’s first institution of higher education for women.
Ochanomizu officials said Monday they will hold a news conference soon to explain the details of the admissions changes, including how the university will confirm whether an applicant is transgender. The school issued a statement saying it intends to accept “transgender students who hope to study at a women’s university based on their gender identity.”
Women’s universities in Japan have previously restricted applicants to those registered as female under the family register system.
Many of the schools, including Tsuda University and Japan Women’s University, both in Tokyo, are considering modifying their admissions requirements following similar moves by universities in the United States in recent years.
“There is no reason to turn away transgender people as long as they are eager to study at a women’s university,” said a 20-year-old student at Ochanomizu University.
A graduate student, 25, welcomed the move as well, saying, “Some students might wonder what to do with rest rooms and dressing rooms, but I personally have no problems with it. A greater variety in the people on campus brings more fun.”
Japan has slowly started to accommodate the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Some municipalities have started recognizing LGBT couples at a local level due to the lack of a national-level system to recognize such partnerships, while some junior high schools are introducing genderless uniforms or flexible uniform codes to support sexual minority students.
One in 13 people in Japan is estimated to be a member of the LGBT community, according to a 2015 survey by the Dentsu Inc. advertising agency.