The 2nd annual Tokyo Rainbow Pride attracted 12,000 attendees, more than double its numbers from last year’s figure of 4,500, to the parade and stage event in Yoyogi Park on April 28th. Golden Week, a period containing 4 public holidays and often graced with warm weather and clear skies, sets a wonderful stage for this colorful, joyous event. Tokyo Rainbow Pride’s simple ideology of creating a positive, cheerful atmosphere where lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people can be themselves and celebrate pride in diversity, sets a cheerful mood for participants.
This year’s pride in Tokyo offered many firsts to the LGBT community and their supportive allies, including the collaboration with Tokyo Rainbow Week and implementing “The World Supports You” embassy project. Tokyo Rainbow Week, comprised of seven LGBT organizations in Tokyo, including Tokyo Rainbow Pride, joined forces to promote a positive space for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender people in Tokyo to support each other, show pride in their diversity, and spread awareness to Japanese society.
This collaboration helps to show that sexual minorities exist in Japan. In previous years, the mainstream media has often ignored coverage of LGBT events in Japan, which leads much of society to believe that gay culture only exists in Western countries. This year, however, the Asahi Shimbun reported on the event, complete with video and photos exhibiting the joyous, colorful atmosphere.
“The World Supports You” Embassy Project, is comprised of several embassies in Tokyo including the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Belgium, Israel, Brazil, and Germany who expressed their support for the LGBT community in Japan by participating in Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2013 and talking about LGBT rights in their own countries. Each embassy decorated booths, handed out information on LGBT news and events in their gay-friendly cities, and greeted Pride attendees.
In addition to hosting booths in the event area, several government officials delivered speeches, including the Ambassador of the United Kingdom, Timothy Hitchens, who shared his belief that “whatever and however an individual describes him or herself, LGBT people are entitled to exactly the same fundamental human rights as everyone else.” Ambassador Hitchens shared pride in his countries’ anti-discrimination laws, and discussed how it is “unacceptable for societies to shun LGBT persons. To do so is to turn our backs on our friends, colleagues, and family members. In order for us to thrive as a civilisation, we must move beyond the patronising concept of tolerance and embrace LGBT individuals as equals without any trace of fear or favour.”
Other speakers included Political Officer of the United States, Joshua Johnson, the First Secretary of the Political Section of the Embassy of France, Jeremie Petit, the Embassy of Israel’s Deputy Chief of Mission, Peleg Levy, the Embassy of Brazil’s Minister Councillor, Alexandre Porto, the Embassy of Belgium’s Minister Councillor, Christophe de Bassompierre, and the Embassy of Sweden’s Senior Officer of Press, Information and Culture, Adam Beije. Patrick Linehan, the U.S. Consul General of Osaka, and his Brazilian husband, Emerson Kanegasuke, delivered a speech on how gay rights are human rights, which ended in an onstage “kiss for equality”, resulting in excited, supportive cheers from the crowds.
There were also several Japanese politicians who spoke on behalf of LGBT support in the Japanese government. Taiga Ishikawa, a Tokyo politician and LGBT activist delivered an invigorating speech to the crowd stressing his support and activism in improving living conditions for gays in Tokyo. Boris Dittrich, an advocacy director of Human Rights Watch who initiated the same sex marriage and adoption bills through which the Netherlands became the first country in the world to open its civil marriage for gays and lesbians, also delivered a speech onstage.
Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2013 had nearly 50 booths, 13 main performances, and 9 floats, and 49 booths at the event. The event ran from 11:00 to 17:00, and included big names in the LGBT music scene such as Ataru Nakamura, a transgender singer whose song, “Song for Friends (Tomodachi No Uta)” was a popular hit in Japan. She performed at the NHK Red & White Song Battle (Kohaku Utagassen) in 2007 and won the Best Record Award at the Japan Record Awards in 2010.
Also, Maki Nomiya & Biba, a vocalist for the band Portable Rock and Pizzicato Five performed onstage. The stage MCs, Kim Bianca and Esmralda, are popular cultural figures in Tokyo who have a huge following.
Other musical guests included Harp & Soul, a four-woman indie/pop band which includes a talented harpist, Nijigumi Fights, a gay idol group formed in 2009, and MSN48, which perform hits by the popular Japanese girl troupe, AKB48.
Several uniquely Tokyo performers such as Die Schwarze Frau, a gothic diva who specializes in emotional dance performances, Fab Academy, a group of seven hip hop/jazz dancers, and Men<->Dy gave stunning performances for the crowd. In addition to the prominent onstage speakers, musical and dance performers, and floats, Tokyo Rainbow Pride also hosted several booths by high profile organizations such as Greenpeace, Google, Change.org, and Temple University‘s Queer and Allies group. Of the 49 booths present at Tokyo Rainbow Pride, several includes LGBT organizations in Japan, such as NPO LGBT Family and Friends, G-Pit Works Net, Pink Dot Okinawa, and Rainbow Action.
Of course, corporate sponsors are crucial in helping these events get off the ground, and companies such as Alfa Romeo, Thomson Reuters, Google, Japan IBM Corporation, Phillips Electronics Japan, Mitsui Mutual Life Insurance, help make this event possible.
Tokyo Rainbow Pride aims to increase its number of participants in the future and becoming the biggest gay pride in Asia. By maintaining a cheerful atmosphere focusing on the positive attributes of LGBT awareness, gathering exciting speakers, performers and special guests, attracting progressive sponsors, and incorporating volunteer involvement from all segments of the LGBT community of Japan, TRP2014 will only continue to improve Tokyo’s pride event for years to come.