Philip Patrick Philip Patrick

Why Japan doesn’t do Pride

The Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade is a low-key affair (Credit: Getty images)

Want to avoid Pride month? Bit tired of the, almost literally, in your face, carnival of uninhibited sexual freedom we see on our streets throughout June? Then come to Japan. It’s not that Pride doesn’t happen here at all, just that the Japanese for various cultural and historic reasons, don’t make a song and dance – or a borderline street cabaret – out of it.

Japan’s version ‘Rainbow Pride’ is held in April and lasts just two days. It was back on this year for the first time since 2019 and was apparently reasonably well-attended. I say ‘apparently’ because I saw no sign of it, nor watched or read a single report in the media. It was, to use an old-fashioned term, discreet.

But for how much longer? Sexual politics, so long not much of an issue here, is threatening to become as shrill and contentious as in the UK and US. Last week, the diet (parliament) passed a bill supposedly aimed at promoting understanding of LGBTQ people, but watered down to virtual nothingness. It provoked campaigners on to the street in small, and occasionally not so small gatherings: 1,600 gathered outside the diet in Tokyo.

Sexual politics is threatening to become as shrill and contentious as in the UK

The crux of the matter is a couple of tweaks that were made to the wording. Originally the bill promised to outlaw all discrimination but that was changed to ‘unfair discrimination’. Campaigners allege this leaves room for a bit of fair discrimination from time to time. And a last-minute caveat was inserted to the effect that the legislation should be implemented as far as citizens felt ‘at ease’ with it, suggesting that if one person feels a little uneasy, it won’t be. The bill did not stipulate any penalties for those discriminating against LGBGTQ people.

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