Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

"The Gays Will Not Go Away"

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

"The Gays Will Not Go Away"

Article excerpt

On a Sunday afternoon in Tokyo, nothing beats a little subcultural voyeurism. In Yoyogi Park, Japanese rockabillies jive sombrely while a sugar-dusted scurry of Harajuku girls patter on to Takeshita Street. But in a country where dressing up is something of a national pastime, some costumes still unsettle: gay Pokemon outfits, for example, worn by some of the revellers at the Rainbow Pride Parade on 29 April where 2,500 participants marched through the Shibuya District before partying in Yoyogi Park to celebrate and raise awareness of the LGBT community.

Bar a period in the 19th century, when missionaries briefly became more influential, the Japanese have had no problem with gay sex, unburdened as they are by the Judaeo-Christian shadow of sodomitic "sin". But to celebrate sexuality publicly, irrespective of orientation, is simply not the national way. A Japanese aphorism, loosely translated as "the nail that sticks out will be hammered flat", encapsulates the overriding preference for harmony or homogeny, depending on your perspective.

This year's first ever Tokyo Rainbow Pride, with its mission to celebrate "diversity and individuality", was a bold move. Despite the capital's cosmopolitan credentials and flamboyant gay party scene, Tokyo has hosted only small-scale LGBT celebrations in the past two decades.

Rainbow Pride, however, takes inspiration from a very western model of LGBT activism, in which the right to difference rules. As the radio presenter and blogger Chiki Ogiue told me, "Things that stand out will invite conflict. …

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