Good for them.
I’d like to see what Tokyo Pride is like. I was talking to a Japanese gay guy recently and he was saying that Tokyo rarely has a pride celebration.
Not because Japan is massively homophobic however. Quite the opposite.
He was saying that in Japan (and also China apparently) the idea of a gay identity and gay pride is regarded as a very western concept. Japan and China do not have the same shameful history of homophobia as Europe and the west.
Same sex relations have always existed in Asian cultures but have never been condemned in the same way. Neither has a gay ‘identity’ ever existed in the same way as it exists in Europe or the US. It’s just part of someone’s identity.
Since globalisation this is changing, which may be the reason that Pride is starting again in Tokyo.
Simon, gay identity in Japan isn’t so warmly embraced that people have equality yet, so perhaps a bit of politicisation is a good thing!
I know that Dromio, but the whole concept of ‘demanding’ your rights (be they gay rights, women’s rights or whatever) is also a very alien concept to Japanese people and society. It can be seen in fact as shameful – not the desire for the rights, but the act of demanding them. It is seen as shameful behaviour, involving the loss of ‘face’.
Japan may not have equal rights for gay people. But neither do they have an instinctively homoophobic society.
Gay Pride is a western concept. I’m just not sure how effective it will be in Japan.
I know that the Shanghai Pride in China last year, which was so widely celebrated, was heavily foreign-influenced. Gay activists in CHina often draw their ideas from abroad and are very westernised.
While the Japanese might not have a history of religiously-inspired homophobia like there is in Europe, they do suffer a lot from other nefarious social forces that hold back the full equality of gay people. In some ways their problem is more pernicious, because instead of frothing opposition to gay rights Japan just has widespread apathy towards the subject.
The main problem is a huge emphasis on social conformity, coupled with a strongly heteronormative Confucian family ethic. The idea of gay marriage, for instance, is met not with anger but with head-scratching incomprehension by most Japanese people. Why would gay people want to get married? Marriage is between a man and a woman. That’s the way it’s always been. What possible reason could there be for changing it? And it’s not just the heterosexuals who are privy to this culture of conservative apathy – it’s everyone. Gay Japanese people rarely even consider that something like gay marriage is necessary or important. Japanese society tends to discourage rocking the boat, especially by seeking to change the way society works. The Confucian assumption is that social harmony is all-important, and that conscientiously fulfilling one’s proper role in society is the only way to achieve satisfactory harmony. Traditionally, same-sex affairs were passed over without comment if a man or woman fulfilled their Confucian marital obligations and raised a family successfully.
That’s not to say there aren’t liberal or reformist elements in Japanese society, but fundamentally they’re far less common and far less vocal. Japan is a country where a general election campaign is basically the politicians who are already in power telling everyone to vote for them because they’re already in power and doing otherwise might lead to a disagreeable upset in the harmonious running of things. And it works! Japanese public life is all about an outward show of social harmony. Politicians are not sacked because they’ve had affairs, they’re sacked because they’ve failed to keep their affairs quiet by bribing the involved parties. Such corruption is endemic and expected. It’s a country where it’s considered rude and disruptive for the press to report negatively on the lives of public figures, and the media outlets tend to just repeat press releases as is.
These things have their up sides. Japan has the lowest crime rate in the world. It has a thriving economy and a strong work ethic. But as far as gay rights are concerned, these aspects of Japanese society are pernicious, and need to be challenged.
“But as far as gay rights are concerned, these aspects of Japanese society are pernicious, and need to be challenged.”
Is a western style Gay Pride festival the best way to challenge inequality in Japan though?
I’m not sure.
Any Japanese posters here?
I was in Japan last summer, and I spoke to a girl there who said she doesn’t define herself as anything. She said the Japanese are very conformist and dislike anything out of the ordinary, which is why they dislike gay people as well (not sure if she said anything about younger people). Also, she said the Japanese public doesn’t care for politics at all, hence her hard rock band sings a lot about politics, to raise awareness (how whopper is that!).
On the other hand, they did vote for that opposition party in the last election, I forgot its name…
Hi, I’m a gay woman in Tokyo and I joined Tokyo Pride Parade today.
I joined the parade in 2005, 2006 and 2007, too, and today I thought the parade was less political than before. Only a small amount of people had message board and I guess many of the passers by did not recognize that it was a pride parade. A friend of mine heard people talking about our parade as a costume parade.
I think many Japanese people are uncomfortable about expressing or being expressed political opinions, and it would be one of the reasons why western style Gay Pride festival is not the best way to challenge inequality in Japan.
“The parade has not taken place for the last three years”
Actually, that’s not true. The Tokyo Pride didn’t take place in 2008 but it did take place on May 23 2009.
You can read about it here: http://japanvisitor.blogspot.com/2009/05/tokyo-gay-pride-2009.html
I’m from East Asia and I know for a fact that Japan, Korean and to some extent Taiwan are homophobic. Gay couples have zero legal rights in these nations. The only chance they’ll get recognized is when one party suffers from domestic abuse. Then he or she will be recognized as a gay victim. Hate crime law, what is that? Hospital visitation right? Never heard of it.