Exploring LGBTQ Life in Japan

Jul 26, 2023
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Exploring LGBTQ Life in Japan

Japan is known for being a socially conservative country, but how is it for LGBTQ people living there or visiting as a tourist? In this insightful interview video, vlogger Takashi hits the streets of Tokyo to speak with members of the LGBTQ community about their experiences.

Takashi attends the lively Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade and approaches attendees to share their stories. His first interviewee is Hiroyuki, a gay Japanese and Filipino man. Hiroyuki explains that while Japanese people are tolerant, being LGBTQ is still taboo. Same-sex couples may get stared at for holding hands, and people face difficulties coming out, especially in the workplace. However, violent hate crimes are rare compared to other countries. Hiroyuki notes that events like Pride help increase visibility and acceptance.

When asked if it’s different being a native Japanese person versus a foreigner, Hiroyuki says locals face more challenges being out. For foreigners, being gay can be seen as just a “gaijin thing.” He credits this perception to lack of LGBTQ representation in Japanese media. However, he says youth attitudes are changing thanks to greater exposure from foreign movies and TV.

Next is Pepe, a queer Japanese and Puerto Rican person originally from Osaka. Pepe emphasizes the lack of diversity in Japan compared to Western hubs like Canada. While LGBTQ is gaining awareness, knowledge is still limited mostly to the LGB part of the acronym. There’s less understanding of identities like queer, trans, and non-binary. Pepe advises LGBTQ tourists to visit urban areas like Tokyo rather than the conservative countryside. Joining local LGBTQ circles is key to having a positive experience.

Bade from Turkey shares her perspective as a bisexual exchange student. She feels comfortable expressing herself in Japan compared to the restrictions in her home country. Bade was able to quickly find LGBTQ friends, though she only comes out to other queer people. She notes that as a student, she can’t speak to challenges LGBTQ workers may face being out professionally.

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Finally, Stuart, a gay Filipino-Japanese man raised in both countries, provides insight on growing up LGBTQ in Japan. He felt excluded and had to hide his sexuality to avoid bullying. Stuart wishes schools provided more LGBTQ education to promote acceptance and debunk misconceptions. He advises LGBTQ visitors not to be deterred, because Japan has thriving queer communities and events like Pride where people can freely express their identities.

While Japan still has progress to make on LGBTQ equality, Takashi’s interviews reveal a relatively safe environment for being out compared to many places. LGBTQ tourists can enjoy Japan while taking advantage of welcoming communities in metropolitan hubs. With more international influence and activism, attitudes appear to be gradually shifting.