Photos Courtesy of Japan Week & Insider Images
To many, Japan may seem like one big sophisticated high-tech metropolis of the future when images of flashy Tokyo fly across your screens. But its LGBT rights movement remains a work in progress.
After a few years away from the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), Japan will be attending the organization's annual meeting this year in Los Angeles and looking into attracting more LGBT tourists. Yuki Tanaka, the executive director of the Japan National Tourism Organization, said that the initiative is still in its fledgling stages, but it's making progress. "Tokyo and Kyoto are the most popular," she said, "people like the modern design of Japan, the high-end hotels, and the nightlife."
Similar to the United States, it's the major cities -- such as Tokyo and Kyoto -- where LGBT rights are making their first advances. In Japan, couples renting houses or apartments need some sort of authorization, and a marriage certificate is usually used. But since gay couples can't get married in Japan, it was difficult for them to rent property when the owner could deny them.
Now, in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, gay couples can be granted similar authorization, and other districts and cities are thinking about following suit. Some temples in Kyoto have also started to recognize gay weddings. Though it can't be recognized as an official marriage by the government, the temples host the ceremonies for the couples.
It may take a while for countries around the world to be entirely receptive to the global LGBT community, but it all starts with places like the Japan not only moving towards rights for its domestic LGBT population, but visitors too.
A recent Japan Week event in New York City's Grand Central terminal featured a lesbian couple dressed in traditional wedding kimonos. Brittany Boccio and Theresa Hittel (pictured below), along with two other couples, were fitted with luxury Watabe kimonos worth more than $10,000 are being voted on to win a honeymoon-esque trip to Japan.
Pictured: Theresa Hittel (in red) and Brittany Boccio (in white)