Japan's gay parade returns after 3 years in bid for acceptance

Thu Aug 12, 2010 6:21am EDT
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By Antoni Slodkowski

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Japan's gay community is set to put on the glitz as the Tokyo Pride parade returns this weekend after a three year absence with the aim of winning acceptance among the country's conservative society.

Drag queen shows, debates and theater plays are being held in the lead-up to the parade which was put on ice due to a lack of staff as many gay Japanese don't dare to come out to their families or workplaces.

For Japanese gays in Tokyo's Shinjuku "2-chome" district where some 250 gay bars operate, the event is an opportunity to get together and celebrate in style, but also to seek understanding from other Japanese for their homosexuality.

"I lead two separate lives -- during the day, I'm a full-time 'salaryman' in a web design company, but at night I come to '2-chome' to work here as a barman," said Yuu, who declined to give his last name.

"At work no one knows about my secret and I have been living this double-life for some seven years now," he said, singing loudly to the latest karaoke hits.

The district is gearing up for Tokyo Pride on Saturday with a number of side events aimed at making Japanese society more understanding toward the country's gay, lesbian and transsexual communities.

Noriaki Fushimi, a gay rights activist, is holding a debate on the future of the gay movement in Japan, while "2-chome" will hold a "Rainbow Festival" on Sunday with food and beer stalls.

Apart from the celebrations, activists and politicians will also be highlighting the reasons for the gathering as many gays and lesbians feel excluded from society.   Continued...

<p>Participants march at the Tokyo Pride Parade in Tokyo August 11, 2007. REUTERS/Toru Hanai</p>