Japan is often thought of as an advanced country. Robotics, games, trains and architecture are all at the cutting edge internationally. So it may be a surprise to find out that Japan is a little behind in some other areas. However, in 2015 Japan have now awarded their first ever partnership certificate, allowing couples of the same sex to be recognised as a couple in Japan.
Throughout Japanese history, there are many references and records of men engaging in homosexual relationships. During the Heian era, diaries have been found that refer to Emperors being involved in homosexual relationships. There are many records also of homosexual relationships being frequent and common within Buddhist monasteries. In fact, it has even been written that several of the Kami, or Gods of Japan, have also engaged in homosexual love.
The practice of a younger man partnering with an older and more experienced monk also spread to the samurai class. A young novice samurai would be partnered with a more experienced samurai, and they would have a monogamous male relationship. This relationship would build a lifelong bond between the two samurai. In fact, in the Buddhist religion there are no clauses against homosexual relationships. Throughout the years, many books and drawings that were produced based on these relationships have been well received.
In Japan, there are no laws against homosexuality. However, currently there also are no civil laws protecting against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Although now Tokyo and some other local governments have passed their own individual laws banning discrimination in employment based on the person’s sexual orientation.
Some members of the Japanese cabinet have now ‘come out’ as being LGBT. Like is has been for many years, modern Japanese media have a large influence on the public’s opinion on LGBT issues. There are numerous manga and anime which focus on LGBT relationships. Specifically, those focusing on male homosexual relationships are called Gei-comi or Yaoi, whereas those focused on female homosexual relationships are called Yuri.
Homosexual relationships have long been common in Japan. Since marriage between same-sex couples is still not permitted, Japanese adoption laws were used to bind same-sex couples legally. Now the first same-sex couple has received Japan’s new partnership certificate. Although this is not equal to marriage, it allows couples to rent accommodation together, to visit each other in the hospital as next-of-kin, and to share their lives like straight couples have always been allowed to.
Japan still has a long way to go when it comes to equal rights for LGBT people. Hopefully, with the partnership certificate Japan has made a big step in the right direction! Each year, the Rainbow March has been growing since its foundation in 1996. The Tokyo Rainbow Parade has now been extended to last for two days, and interest and support have been continuously growing.