tokyo rainbow day

Once again, no photo because the camera cord wanted to stay home, so:


So! I spent most of today at Tokyo’s Rainbow Pride event. Despite having lived in New York City, I’ve never actually attended a pride event before, so I was very, very curious to see how Tokyo would organize theirs. Japan has a very solid reputation in my mind for adorable merchandise and excellent punctuality and scrupulous attention to detail, so I knew it would be easy to navigate and I’d probably walk away with some adorable souvenirs.

And indeed I did!


The event began at 11am, and I showed up just after 12:30. Yoyogi has an event spot behind the National Gymnasium Stadium where the Rainbow Pride event had put up at least three dozen booths and a gateway with TOKYO RAINBOW PRIDE on it.

The parade was, of course, the highlight of the day. I had considered actually marching in the parade, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to have the freedom to see multiple perspectives of the event as well as skip around to various parts of the parade. So I tucked my rainbow flag into my bag and walked or jogged alongside the marchers.

What most interested me was the reaction of the passersby. More people than I expected had warm reactions. Many young girls and middle-aged women smiled and waved at the participants, and many more took photos. Most young men either ignored it altogether or cast mildly annoyed, uncomfortable looks at it. Older men did the same.

To be fair, there is no such thing as a thing that appeals to everyone. I’m sure some of the men who looked pokerfaced or uneasy just don’t like parades. Or were having a bad day. Or just got a coffee stain on their brand new first edition Jane Austen book. Who knows with people – sometimes there are deep, complex stories behind people’s bad moods. And besides, Japan is a pretty restrained country when all is said and done. A lot of people probably didn’t mind at all and just didn’t feel the need to react to the parade. Certainly, some of the passersby were LGBT themselves.

Anyway, the up side is that the majority of people the parade passed were supportive and enthusiastic. When they figured out by the rainbows and the parade leader calling, “Happy Pride!” from the lead car what the parade was for, many people waved back. I saw a few fathers with toddlers on their shoulders encouraging their kids to wave back at the parade’s queen, and there were a lot of girls who called, “Happy Pride!” back.

Having seen how Japan does pride, I’m very interested in seeing other places. Particularly my own country. It kept going through my head that I reeeally want to see how San Francisco does things. Or Brazil where, according to its ambassador who spoke to us today, the pride celebration attracts millions.

When the parade looped back into Yoyogi Park, I spent more time exploring the booths. I took a quiz on LGBT issues and nearly passed with flying colors. The only question I struggled with was how many states in the US had legalized same-sex marriage. So many have passed it recently I couldn’t call up a reliable number in my head. And that’s when the booth guy grinned and sidled up and asked, “Need help?” in English.

“It’s a good problem,” I told him. “Because I think it’s twenty but I also think I’m wrong. Optimism?”

Turns out it’s 17 states and 1 area (DC). He let me pass anyway (though with no flying colors) and I got a rainbow pin as a reward. I also got to write my wish or hope for same-sex marriage in Japan on a prayer card that they hung in rainbow lines on the front of the booth like a modern-day shrine.

I ended up feeling too shy to ask anyone about their personal lives and struggles, even though that would have been the perfect venue for that kind of conversation. I guess, though, I was more swept up in experiencing everything and feeling a little overwhelmed by such an outpouring of genuine affection and earnestness. The Japanese can play their emotions very close to the chest at times, and so seeing such deep expressiveness everywhere warmed my heart.

Around four o’clock the ambassadors of various countries came to the stage to speak. I only watched four, but I was most impressed by the English ambassador who spoke Japanese well enough that no translator was required. I drifted in and out while the procession of ambassadors spoke but I remember a few of them got to a point where they were openly throwing down the gauntlet to other countries.

“Come to ___! We love gay people!”

“We have the best pride event in our country!”

“We did same-sex marriage first!”

I have to admit, I like that. Countries competing over who likes LGBT people best should be a TV show.

Afterward, I walked through Harajuku, one of my soulmate places, until I was sleepy and needed to sprawl on something and headed back to my hotel at a zombie’s pace.

Finally, I met up with some friends to say a temporary goodbye to one of them, and then I enjoyed a long, cool-breeze-laden stroll through the magical land of Ginza.

Tokyo’s a sublime city, and over the last two or three years I’ve been growing a deeper and deeper appreciation for it. This is par for the course, really. I fell for Osaka the same way when I studied abroad, to the point where Osaka remains one of my favorite cities. Same with New York, many years ago. I fall in love with cities like a slow burn and once I’ve had love for something, it never really goes away. Books I read years ago, bands I followed when I was thirteen – I still love the Backstreet Boys to this day.

Walking around the pride festival today made me remember all the little aspects of life that I love. The things that’ve been quietly there all along, like the forgotten hobbies you pick up after a long time doing other things and the friends you haven’t spoken to recently and then you write to them and they say they’ve missed you too. It’s a beautiful reminder to get every now and then.

Next time I go to a pride event, I’ll bring people who’ll make me feel guilty if I try to leave before the whole thing is over. … Although I did like having the autonomy to wander around and indulge my overactive need to see everything twice.

A lovely day indeed. Thank you to the organizers and participants for a most excellent first experience at a pride event.

Much love,
The “B” in LGBT


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