Tokyo Rainbow Pride week is the largest annual LGBTQ celebration in Japan. This year, all throughout Golden Week, from April 27 through May 6, there were various parties, parades and conferences dedicated to this year’s theme, “I have pride.”
When I walked through the festival, I got a snapshot of LGBTQ’s fight against systemic discrimination in Japan. They want the right to marry. They want to be protected against employers that fire or refuse to hire people based on sexual orientation. By the looks of Rainbow Pride’s growing success, they have a lot of momentum. A record high number of 52 groups took part in the event. On April 28, the day of the parade, more than 100,000 members of the gay community and their supporters gathered at Shibuya’s Yoyogi Park with 10,000 proud marchers participating in the parade.
Rainbow flags, a symbol of gay pride, shaped the wind. Rainbows were striped across faces, clothes, banners and even coffins. Dance music played the festival’s soundtrack, syncing the party’s rising vitality to the rate of the setting sun. The whole thing could’ve been a day of visual schizophrenia if it wasn’t so revering and empowering. There was a lot to take in, so here’s five things that I saw at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2019.
A transgender woman laid in a radiant rainbow coffin. With a bouquet on her chest, she closed her eyes and the casket closed, becoming a cocoon. It freed her from the prescribed person that she was conditioned to be. A photographer stands nearby, remotely snapping a portrait of her transition. When the coffin was opened, she awoke and rose with an appeasing smile. The symbolic ritual is an affirmation of identity and resurgence. It’s the death of a closeted life, giving birth to an unrepentant one.
Watch My Throne
Queens roam around the festival gracing the crowd with their flamboyant elegance and glamor. Greeting admirers and posing for cameras, they were the oracles of the event. Their fabulous style was that of wearing Sunday’s best, but with ice and fire. A big yellow butterfly sits on a blue haired empress. Flamingos curl their necks over a queen’s shoulders. From the torso of another, white wings spread the span of a tree’s crown. Swirling shades of pink and purple are crowded waves posing as a diva’s hairdo.
Fruits in Suits
Fruits in Suits Japan boasts as being “Japan’s first LGBT Chamber of Commerce.” They are one of the largest LGBTQ business professional networks in Japan. Founder Loren Fykes was there wearing a colorful top hat made of balloons. For the past five years, his organization has been a leading voice for equal rights. As an advocate for both foreigners and Japanese citizens, they believe that no one should be discriminated against because of who he or she loves.
The merciful Jesus Christ was there in a golden robe. As a historical example of absolute love, he emanated multi-colored beams from his heart. “I trust in you,” he said. His followers came with rainbow rosaries and offerings of unconditional acceptance.
“Can you dig it?”
The main thing that was ever present and on display was a sense of belonging. Strangers were happy to see each other. Hugs were handshakes. The atmosphere was bursting with the celebration of life and love. Old and young same-sex couples openly embraced each other. Children wore rainbows on their cheeks. Young joyful men in matching gowns flaunted wrist flowers like pearl bracelets. A black man wore a T-shirt that said “legalize gay.” To be straight or gay sprung from the same well of human experience, but its up to the majority to advocate for the minority. As a sign prominently displayed, “Anyone can be an ally.”
Feature image courtesy of Tokyo Rainbow Pride