LONDON – Daiwa Foundation held a seminar Sexual Diversity in the UK and Japan, Firday October 16, 2015.
The contributors were Kanako Otsuji, Director of the LGBT Policy Information Center of Japan, based in Osaka, Michael King, Professor of Primary Care Psychiatry in the Division of Psychiatry at University College London and Stephen Dodd (Chair) Professor of Japanese Literature at SOAS, University of London.
Japan has a long history of sexual diversity; homosexuality appears to have been fairly common among Buddhist monks, while samurai warriors also often took male lovers. But during modern times the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community has for the most part kept itself out of the limelight. The world of showbiz is to some extent an exception, and transgender personalities in particular are not uncommon on TV “talent” shows, though of course transvestitism is not necessarily linked to sexual orientation. (The prevalence of transgender people featuring in the world of Japanese entertainment may have its roots in traditional theatrical forms like Noh and Kabuki, in which female parts were played by men, and the parallel all-female Takarazuka Revue, founded in 1913.)
From left: Kanako Otsuji, Stephen Dodd and Michael King
But although there are some signs of change (Shibuya Ward, in Tokyo, recently announced that it would formally recognise homosexual partnerships), Japanese society appears less tolerant of sexual diversity than the UK.
The seminar discussed the nature of discrimination and prejudice against lesbians, gay men and bisexuals; why such homophobia has existed in nearly every society throughout history; its recent manifestations and the possible psychological and social mechanisms that underlie it.
Kanako Otsuji is a Japanese LGBT rights activist and former member of the House of Councilors of the National Diet of Japan. She was also a member of the Osaka Prefectural Assembly (April 2003–April 2007). One of only seven women in the 110-member Osaka Assembly, Otsuji represented the Sakai-ku, Sakai City constituency. From May to July 2013, Otsuji was Japan’s first openly homosexual member of the Diet, after taking over from the seat from a retiring member. She is currently the Director of the LGBT Policy Information Center of Japan, which is based in Osaka. Otsuji remarked on her experience and how Japan is coping with LGBT.
Organised by The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, London