An influential Japanese businesswoman has revealed she is in a same-sex relationship.
Kazuyo Katsuma, who was previously named on the Wall Street Journal‘s ’50 Women to Watch’ list, opened up in an interview with Buzzfeed Japan.
Katsuma, who has worked for Chase Bank, McKinsey & Company and J.P. Morgan, is also well-known in the country for her advocacy on behalf of working mothers.
Speaking to Buzzfeed, Katsuma revealed she is in a relationship with LGBT rights activist Hiroko Masuhara.
She explained that as a girl she had always experienced feelings for both men and women, but became aware that same-sex attraction was seen as a “bad thing.”
Katsuma has been married before and has three children, said she learned to suppress her feelings towards women.
She explained: “I kept a tight lid on my feelings of attraction to [women].
“After I met Hiroko, the ice in my heart melted, although it took a few years.”
Japan is more liberal than many other countries in Asia when it comes to LGBT rights.
Although there is no federal recognition of same-sex relationships in Japan, at least seven subdivisions have passed policies allowing partnership certificates to be issued to same-sex couples, while couples who marry overseas can also gain some level of legal recognition.
The country is strongly attached to the ideal of the ‘traditional’ family, but polling suggests a majority supports recognition for same-sex relationships.
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Katsuma is hopeful that by opening up about her own life, she can hope to provoke further change in the country.
She said: “I hope this interview will cheer up someone and trigger a change.”
The businesswoman added that the fact it takes bravery to come out in Japan “proves there is still prejudice and discrimination.”
Speaking to AFP, Masuhara said she was proud of her partner.
She said they had been “surprised” by the level of media interest, but added the mostly-warm reaction shows that “the number of allies is increasing.”
Fumino Sugiyama, co-chair of Tokyo Rainbow Pride festival, praised the “enormous courage” of Katsuma, adding that her announcement “would have a great impact on society as she is such an influential person in business circles.”
Thousands of LGBT people took part in the annual Rainbow Pride parade in Tokyo on May 6.
The theme for the event was “Love & Equality”.
Organisers explained: “Everyone is equal in love. We seek no special rights, but the same thing, the same way. The freedom to love. That basic freedom is what we want to achieve.”