Nearing the conclusion of Pride Month 2017, we gathered a collection of 20 celebrities who have supported or taken action to raise awareness for LGBTQ people and their social rights.
Japan isn’t a homophobic puritan society by any means, but they still have a long way to go in terms of visibility and equal rights for LGBTQ people. The truth is it’s hard to find direct public support of LGBTQ people from Japanese celebrities, but we can take a look through their work history and subtle choices to make educated assumptions from their associations and consider them endorsements.
From Koda Kumi, Sho Sakurai to the Kano Sisters, these stars have played a part in pushing forward acceptance for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights and visibility within Japan.
It’s important to discuss whether the support from these celebrities, specifically or through a role played in a drama/representation in a music video, falls into the category of exploitation and if that is an “endorsement” for the LGBT community.
There a fine line between exploitation and being a target market. The whole entertainment industry revolves around target markets, all types of people can be broken down and targeted by executives based on what it’s assumed they would like. The thing about having a target market is you have to please the people you’re targeting, or at the very least, they have to feel they’re getting something out of it. However, to be exploited, someone has to have been used without them getting anything in return.
These celebrities put their public platform to good use and there’s no reason to doubt the sincerity of their words or actions, especially in a society where the association could potentially not be in their best interest in terms of marketing.
With that out-of-the-way, check out the list below!
It’s no secret Kiko Mizuhara likes partying at gay clubs and surrounding herself with members of the LGBT community. The model is close friends with Italian-Japanese stylist Nicola Formichetti and frequently posts pictures meeting with drag queens on Instagram all around the world.
In an interview with Dazed Magazine, Mizuhara cited Shinjuku’s Ni-chome neighborhood–dubbed “gay town”–as “the most fun place in Japan!“
In 2011, former singer Maki Goto conducted an exclusive interview with popular men’s adult magazine “BADI”. She was interviewed by her friend, a local drag queen who works in the Shinjuku Ni-chome district.
During the interview Maki acknowledged her gay fans thanking them for their continued support throughout her entire career, and shared how much fun she has hanging out in the Ni-chome district. Click here to see a potentially NSFW promotional image from the magazine.
Actress and former idol Rie Miyazawa played a lesbian in “Peony Pavilion,” a 2001 Hong Kong drama film directed by Yonfan.
“It one of the most important works of classical Chinese opera and although subtle, shows a unique bond between two woman,” commented Miyazawa. “Love between females is pure.“
The film was entered into the 23rd Moscow International Film Festival where Rie Miyazawa won the award for Best Actress.
The opening theme of “Yuri!!! On Ice,” a popular anime that finds itself placed among various sports anime and manga and boys love, begins in a flourish of bright color as sketch versions of the main characters skate to the theme song “History Maker” by Dean Fujioka.
The song itself is an electronic power ballad that gains momentum the more the characters dance across the screen as the lyric “We were born to make history” repeats, speaking to the titular character’s ambition as a figure skater as well as to the nature of the show itself.
Ya’ll can say “OK, they used his song, and?” but attaching his name to a franchise that deals with homosexuality in a country and sport that has present-day issues with homophobia is definitely an endorsement and a positive step from someone with his current status.
Singer Koda Kumi is seen as an icon by the gay community for the way she commands her sexuality in her work.
Her music video for “BUT” consisted of Kumi being chained to the ceiling by a pulley. She attempted to break out of the chain and celebrates when she does. Once free, she becomes more provocative and descends in an elevator to a new room.
Throughout the video, there are hints of homosexuality, including Kumi in a very close, sensual proximity to another woman. The overall theme was about breaking from societal norms and being who you are, a message that resonates with the LGBT experience.
In 2014, TV personality and singer misono attended and performed at the “Tokyo Superstar” awards.
The “Tokyo Superstar” awards took place from 2010-2014, honoring those who help increase the visibility of the LGBT community in Japan and helping support projects/organizations that support diversity. misono commented that she thinks it’s amazing and very important that such an event exists. She’s learned so much since making more friends with people who belong to the LGBT community, and is excited to get more involved in the future.
Sho Sakurai, Arashi
In 2011, reports started to pop up that Sho Sakurai went to bars in the Ni-chome district to wind down and relax.
Reportedly, fellow Johnny & Associates member Yamapi and former Johnny’s Jin Akanishi also frequented bars in the area. This trend continued and was shared publicly when in 2015 Sho allowed cameras to follow him inside a restaurant in the Ni-chome district where he was interviewed by a group of drag queens, who gave him the pet name “Cherry Shoko in the Sky“.
Furthermore, in May 2017 Sho did a special segment for NEWS ZERO where he interviewed two women who have been together for 13 years, and are currently raising their children together. Both of them bore children, are divorced, and work. Not only was this special a very positive portrayal for same-sex couples in Japan, but Sho himself stated that he hopes Japan’s national government starts to recognize same-sex marriages.