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Though attitudes towards the LGBT community in Japan are difficult to pin down, it’s not uncommon to find that the average citizen is unaware that such a community even exists. While popular writer and talk-show host Matsuko Deluxe has done a lot to push LGBT issues into the spotlight, there are still many hurdles for sexual minorities in Japan to overcome. However, one municipal government in Osaka is taking charge of the situation by officially declaring their support for the LGBT community!

▼ Yodogawa Ward

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Yodogawa Ward lies in the north of Osaka Prefecture and is home to roughly 174,000 people in addition to a number of temples, shrines, and Yodo River. This year, the ward also started taking active steps to increase awareness and understanding of the LGBT community by hosting events and talks. And this month, the ward announced a declaration of support for all LGBT people and its intention to provide training for municipal staff and outreach education.

▼ Koyuki Higashi and Hiroko, first same-sex couple married at Tokyo Disneyland

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Going back a few months to June, the ward hosted a talk session in which Koyuki Higashi and her partner Hiroko, the first same-sex couple to get married at Tokyo Disneyland, and US Consul General in Osaka, Patrick Linehan, shared their experiences and thoughts as members of the LGBT community. A video from Koyuki and Hiroko’s portion of the talk has even been uploaded to the ward’s official YouTube page, though it is, unfortunately, Japanese only.

In their very personal talk, the couple described some of the struggles that sexual minorities face in Japan, which may be familiar to people in other countries like the United States. In addition to being unable to legally register their marriage, the pair explained that finding a place to live is always difficult as they’re forced to look for “room share” housing. The couple also detailed how, without a legal marriage, they’re unable to make medical decisions for one another in emergency situations.

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Consul General Linehan, who recorded the “It Gets Better” video below, also spoke at the event. The gay American diplomat, whose husband is Brazilian-Japanese, has been actively working to improve acceptance and understanding of LGBT members in Japan and other countries.

Considering the June talk, it’s not particularly surprising that Yodogawa Ward is making this declaration–but it is still a remarkable step!

As Maki Muraki, the main representative for the Japanese LGBT rights group Nijiiro Diversity (“nijiiro” means “rainbow-colored” in Japanese), pointed out, this is the first governmental body in Japan to specifically support sexual minorities. The ward’s pledge, translated below, is simple–but surely uplifting for LGBT people living in a country where they are poorly understood at best.

In order to make this city a livable place for a diversity of people, Yodogawa Ward respects the human rights of LGBT people!

Therefore, we will…

  • …carry out staff human rights training in regards to the LGBT community!
  • …disperse accurate information about the LGBT community!
  • …support the activities of the LGBT community!
  • …listen to the voices of the LGBT community!

▼ Masafumi Sakaki, Yodogawa Ward head

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The head of the ward, Masafumi Sakaki, who took office just last August, has been instrumental in this movement, earning himself much love from the LGBT community in Japan. The politician, an active Twitter user, has received numerous tweets from happy LGBT members, groups, and allies on the social network, showing just how meaningful these first steps are to sexual minorities in Japan.

Obviously, LGBT teens suffer from bullying and depression in Japan as in many other countries–with the rate of attempted suicide among gay male teens six times that of their non-LGBT peers, according to a recent university study. In a country where “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down,” it’s almost expected that minorities will suffer some form of discrimination, which makes Yodogawa Ward’s pledge all the more important. And heartwarming.

Good job, Yodogawa Ward! Let’s hope this is the beginning of a new trend!

Sources: Naver Matome, gladxx, Yodogawa Ward, Twitter
Image sources: Twitter, Wikipedia, Naver Matome