A Small Step In The Right Direction

The LGBT community lives in a bizarre hinterland in Japan. The public face of the community being its outspoken, popular ‘new-half’ presenters such as  Haruna Ai and Matsuko Deluxe and the private side of mass denial and FINGERS IN EARS LA-LA-LA-LA-LA!

Matsuko Deluxe
Matsuko Deluxe

There is a general consensus that although homosexuality is legal, lets not talk about such things around the dinner table please Taro!  Gay couples regularly face discrimination when trying to rent apartments or getting visitation if the other is in hospital.

This week the Shibuya district in Tokyo announced it will start to issue certificates that recognize such relationships as “equivalent to marriage.” Although the certificates are not yet legally binding they will hopefully put pressure on businesses, landlords and hospitals into providing the same level of service as heterosexual couples.

Same-sex marriage is currently not legal in Japan. Marriage is defined legally as “based only on the mutual consent of both sexes.” Compared with the west there is very little activism happening to fight that.  The certificates will be open to any resident of Shibuya Ku over the age of 20. It will give the couple next of kin privileges and they will be able to become each others guardian. It will be annulled if the couple breaks up.

Openly gay politician Taiga Ishikawa praised Shibuya and said that ;

“Cases overseas suggest that local municipalities’move to grant same-sex couples more legitimate status sometimes affects national policies. So I’m very happy about it,”

Famous LGBT activist Koyuki Higashi has said she is “over the moon” and plans to get a certificate as soon as they become available.  Higashi and her partner held the first same-sex marriage at Tokyo Disney Land in 2013. Although the marriage has no legal basis.

Higashi has said;

“We’re virtually married. But without legal backup, it’s still very difficult to live in this society. Prejudice remains deeply ingrained in Japanese society. But I hope this move will become the first step to turn Japan into a society more accepting of the idea of diversity.”

Koyuki Higashi and Hiroko Matsuhara's 2013 Disney wedding
Koyuki Higashi and Hiroko Matsuhara’s 2013 Disney wedding

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The strange world of the Lolita

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The word Lolita immediately conjures up images of overly sexualized
tweens and clammy handed old men; On the streets of Harajuku it the
complete antithesis.
Showing less skin than Queen Victoria’s prude aunt, Lolitas inhabit
the streets of Tokyo’s most famous district, Harajuku.

The cultures origins are unclear but it reached a peak in the 1990s
when visual-kei bands (androgynous man-boys wearing make up, elaborate
hair styles and Tim Burtonesque outfits) and brands such as Baby, The
Stars Shine Bright and Metamorphose temps de fille became mainstream.

The craze is almost always portrayed in a sexual way. Japan’s infamous
obsession with all things young means the term Lolita is also shared
with the far creepier and disturbing, Lolicon (google at own
risk…………..seriously)
One Lolita follower talked about this with Publishers Weekly


“We certainly do not do this for the attention of men. Frequently,
female sexuality is portrayed in a way that is palatable and
accessible to men, and anything outside of that is intimidating.
Something so unabashedly female is ultimately kind of scary, in fact,
I consider it to be pretty confrontational. Dressing this way takes a certain kind of ownership of one’s own sexuality that wearing expected
or regular things just does not. It doesn’t take a lot of moxie to put
on a pencil skirt and flats.”

Although the culture was at its most popular in the late 90s early
2000s, many still truss themselves up in bloomers, corsets, mounds of
petticoats and a nunnery’s worth of lace (even in the blistering heat
of a Tokyo summer).

There are also sub cultures within the Lolita movement (sub-sub
culture?)
Gore Lolita; incorporating fake blood and bandages.
Wa-loli; traditional Japanese clothes modified to fit the Lolita aesthetic.
Oji-Lolita (Oji meaning Prince); embracing Victorian era boy styles like knickerbockers, boating hats, blouses
and knee-high ribboned socks

The cutesy concept of Lolita fashion is a staple in Japan with flowery
girly brands such as Liz Lisa and Cath Kidson catering to the
pigeon-toed girly girl masses who flock to Shibuya and Harajuku.