Japan’s gay community must make itself known in the country, the country’s only transsexual politician announced last week.

Aya Kamikawa addressed around 4,000 people at last weekend’s Tokyo Gay Pride, proclaiming, “If we do not raise our voices, nobody will know of our existence.”

“If we do not make other people think of us, nothing will change. Let’s raise our voices together to make a better future.”

Kanako Otsuji , Japan ‘s first openly lesbian politician said: “I was so encouraged by all of the smiles on everyone’s faces. I think that society begins to change when so many people can share in an experience of self-affirmation.”

The parade toured around the fashionable Harajuku area-the same place Gwen Stefani sang about in Harajuku Girls. It drew people from all across the country as well as many international visitors.

“It had a beautiful feeling and was so colourful,” said Hans from Belgium.

Jason from the USA said, “It’s a very interesting atmosphere compared to American pride events. It seems to be less sexual and more ‘cute’. There’s no attitude at all. Just very friendly and a strong sense of community.”

The Pride events continued the following day in Tokyo ‘s gayborhood, Shinjuku Ni Chome at the Ni Chome Festival. Several blocks were closed to traffic as thousands of people flooded into the area for music, shows, the ceremonial carrying of a Shinto shrine as well as food and drinks.

The country’s next gay event will be the Sapporo Rainbow March on September 17 2006.