Posted in LGBTQ in Japan, Teaching Things

To the LGBTQIA+ Students:

Hi, so I’m Bi-sexual. Yep, the rumors were true kids. If some of you asked, I was honest, but I didn’t volunteer that information much. Some of you told me in whispers that you were girls that like girls or boys who liked boys, and I was always supportive of you. However, there were so many of you still in the closet, might still be. This letter is more for you than for the others, but I think both of you could benefit from it.

 

I wanted to tell you all that I supported you 100% for whatever partner(s) you chose for yourself. The road can be hard and long to finding love, but trying to find love in the conservative inaka where you’re not sure you can be yourself around anyone, that’s a lot harder than the average straight love. I would say to you now to go to LGBT Youth Japan to connect with people like yourself online, so you know for a fact you’re not alone in your struggles.

You deserve to be treated equally and fairly. I would be an idiot to think none of you were bullied for it when I wasn’t looking. No one should bear the burden of senseless hatred and malice. If you were bullied or cast out for being yourself, I’m so sorry. It’s not your fault. You’re worthy of love and acceptance, let no one else make you think otherwise.

On that scary note, I do want to encourage you to try to come out to people you trust. It’s better for friends to know who you really are, because only true friends will love you for all that you are. I told some of my friends in Ibaraki, and of course some understood and some didn’t. Most of those friends, though, tried to pretend I was just kidding or didn’t know what I was saying. But there was a solid mix of Japanese and international friends who accepted me, and I chose them over the others as my other family.

Find the people who will accept you, not tolerate or begrudgingly “put up” with your queerness, but celebrate it as a part of you. Life is too short to waste it trying to make narrow minded people happy. You shouldn’t have to drain your emotional energy on people who will never see you as the wonderful person you are. Instead, find the ones who are open minded, who will boost you up and lift your spirits when you feel down. It’s the most important thing to me, that you are happy and with people who make you happy.

There are actually several different groups you can find online if you don’t feel comfortable coming out just yet. Nijiro Gakkou (NPO法人にじいろ学校) is another organization more focused for students in general. If you are all in university by this point, that would be a better group for you. If you would like to join a more international crowd, there is Stonewall Japan  which is the organization I’m currently affiliated with as it is the most English friendly. There is also a queer friendly media news outlet called Out In Japan if you want to find good articles to help you with your journey of self discovery.

In hindsight, I wonder if I should’ve been more open for all of you. Maybe I should’ve worn more rainbow ribbons? Maybe I should’ve pushed for more posters or materials of acceptance around the schools? I wonder these things because I know for a fact that there were more of you than I knew. So many of you were in the closet, hiding who you were, bidding your time until university when you could be yourselves.

But also looking back, I know that in telling those other students and my few co-workers probably meant that everyone knew. I mean, if everyone knew I was going to the grocery store on Saturdays, it’s ridiculous to think information like my sexuality somehow didn’t spread like wildfire. I hope at the very least I wasn’t a disappointing role model for being queer, somehow.

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It also soothes my soul that I know I was donating, volunteering, and doing things for the community whenever I had time. If you’re ever at the Tokyo Rainbow Pride events, you’ll find me there until I leave the country. I will always be a body there to count among the thousands in support of LGBTQIA+ equal rights. I’ll always march for it, for you, in the hopes that one day you’ll get those rights.

With each passing year LGBTQIA+ rights are improving, slowly but surely. Same sex marriages still aren’t legal, but Shibuya and Osaka are allowing for certificates. It gives me hope for the future, for those of you who would want to have a wife or husband who is the same gender as you, or a transperson, or intersex, just so long as you’re both consenting adults. Everyone deserves the equal right to marry the person they love.

I hope you will have that happiness, you deserve it.

 

 

 

Posted in LGBTQ in Japan

Tokyo Rainbow Pride Festa and Parade!

For the Saturday and Sunday of Golden Week, I volunteered to organize the Stonewall Japan booth. Pride events are our biggest draw in, both in terms of members as well as donations. However, I couldn’t do it all on my own. That’s where the awesome Stonewall Japan volunteers come in! We had a blast doing face paints for people, networking with other pro-LGBTQ+ organizations, and in general just talking with new people about Stonewall Japan.

For me, it involved a lot of phone calls and email responding, too. I never realized until I did this event just how much work people behind the scenes had to do. I was non-stop moving from nine in the morning until six thirty in the evening. At one point, we thought we wouldn’t have enough face paint to get through the day, so I had to run over to the DIASO and buy more. Takashita Street DAISO is crazy busy on a normal day, but with thousands of people attending the event? It took forever.

It wasn’t all work though, I had a one hour lunch break where I met up with Rebecca. We went to this place called The Taproom, which served some really awesome craft beers as well as good food. I chose the quickest thing I could think of for them to make, which was yakitori (chicken sticks).

Right after lunch was over, I was running right back to the booth to make sure volunteers managed to find their way to the booth. Unfortunately, a few people got lost, so I had to direct them as well as call people to find the picnic that was set up in Yoyogi Park.

It sounds like I’m complaining maybe, but I did enjoy it. I was just so exhausted! After having gone to Kyoto for two days, then running around Tokyo the day before, working as a volunteer on the weekend running around yet again was just hard! Don’t get me wrong though, being a part of Pride was well worth all of the stress. I liked feeling I was being a part of a good change in things socially here in Japan.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take as many pictures because of the working things. I ended up just staying near the booth until breakdown at six thirty. Immediately after that, I got in line for the best pancakes ever! If you haven’t been to Cafe Gram, you really should. They have the fluffiest pancakes you’ll ever eat.

Rebecca and I managed to get the last order of them (see photo left). In order to get these fluffy pancakes, you have to show up at certain times in order to get the pancake reservation, and then wait another hour or so before you can eat. They only make these pancake in limited batches. We got the last order of the day, how lucky is that?!

The only downside is that you’re not allowed to share orders, so Rebecca had to buy something too. She chose the apple pancakes, which were not a bad choice at all. There were also kiwis and oranges between the pancakes, which was delightfully tangy and sweet all at once.

When we finished eating breakfast for dinner, we got also the last reservation for the Harajuku Owl Cafe!

I don’t know how we got this much luck, but it was awesome! The owls were super tame, very calm, and a joy to pet. That’s right, you can pet most of them. However, one spotted owl (bottom left in the photos) would like to bite at you rather than let you touch him. And there was a tiny angry owl you could pet, but he wasn’t pleased about it so much.

However, the larger owls were totally fine with getting picked up and petted.

When our hour was over, we had to run yet again. Stonewall Japan was doing a bar crawl that night in Nichome, and I wanted to catch up with the group just to say hello. Most of my friends intended to stay out all night, but I couldn’t do that as I had to get up early for the booth and parade prep the next day. Still, I did manage to meet some new people as well as see some old faces I hadn’t seen in a long time.

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The Bar Crawl in Nichome is a lot of fun, and I really do wish I could’ve stuck around, but I was about ready to drop as it was.

The next morning, I got up early and prepped before getting on the train. I had decided months ago that I was going to do a really silly cosplay. Rainbow Brite was a staple of my childhood, and I mean a spunky girl with rainbows and magic, what’s not to like? So I got all dressed up and headed out.

Before I headed out with the Stonewall group, I made sure volunteers were set up at the booth with everything. I also took an opportunity to get some pics with various drag queens at the event as well, because hello fabulous!

Stonewall met up for a group photo around eleven so we could all walk together to the float area right after. Thankfully, a lot of people showed up to support the walk, even though it was a super hot day and the march was not a short one.

Pre-Parade

We actually waited just in the sun for a good forty five minutes before we actually started marching, it was a bit tough, but when we did start marching it was magical!

We managed to get behind a DJ float, which meant we got pumping music the whole way through! It was so amazing to see the support lining the streets. Everybody was cheering and waving, high five-ing people as they walked onward, and I swear there were way more camera people than the previous year.

The walk took a good hour long trek from Yoyogi Stadium, to Shibuya Crossing, and then back around through the Shibuya main highway area, and then we returned to Yoyogi Stadium. The police were allowing traffic to flow, so unlike in New York City and other Prides, there isn’t a standstill to let the parade go without a break, which is part of the reason for why it took that long.

We broke records yet again for both attendance in the Festa and the Parade, with over 6,000 attendees. How cool is that?! Here’s hoping these solidarity efforts will make some effective changes sometime soon. I would love for marriage equality to come to Japan before the 2020 Olympics. As it stands, I’m not sure it will happen, but at events like Tokyo Rainbow Pride, I have hope.

I’m proud of what Stonewall managed to accomplish that weekend, even though there were bumps along the way, it all managed to work out. Hopefully, next year will be even better.

After six(ish), Rebecca and I headed home to go plan out the last day of her vacation. We wanted to get one more sightseeing spot squeezed in before I saw her off to the airport. And so we chose the obvious one: Tokyo SkyTree!

Posted in LGBTQ in Japan

LGBTQ Date Spaces for Valentine’s Day in Japan (Tokyo & Osaka)

Valentines Day is a day of love and some women love women, while some men love men, and then there are bi people like me who date both! For LGBTQ people in Japan, generally dating out and about isn’t met with harassment. At the same time, when it comes to a romantic special day, you might want to go to a place that openly accepts and celebrates your special love.

This list is welcome to all preferences, no limitations to boys only or girls only. I’m focusing here on mainly cafes and restaurants for sit down meals, since Valentines is supposed to be romantic and all. However, there are a few sit down bars and such in the mix as well.

Tokyo

The Shinjuku area, specifically the Nichome part of town, is the gay friendliest place to go in Tokyo. Although it’s seen as more of a clubbing area, there are a few places tucked away where you can sit down to just talk, eat and/or drink.

Cocolo Cafe is the number one recommendation. The mostly LGBTQ staff welcome everyone in to dine with a smile and sweet pop music playing in the background. “Cocolo” is a play off of the Japanese word “kokoro” (which means heart-or mind depending on context), for the restaurant warms the hearts of all who enter.

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Cocolo Cafe Front
People love the food here. There are Western-style plates along other Okinawan-style dishes. Their taco-rice is super popular, and often mentioned in reviews as their best side dish. With delicious food and a nice atmosphere, you can’t go wrong in bringing a date here.

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Credit: Cocolo Cafe Menu
R Diner makes for a nice date night location as well as a great queer hangout spot. With its casual atmosphere, you can pop in for a lunch with a special someone, and then go back later that night for some drinks. They’re even selling chocolate there specifically for Valentine’s Day!

r-diner
Credit: R Diner Facebook
The diner provides good meal food too, with a bit of an American/Western fusion. The plates are rather big, with side salads and a drink all in a set. It also features some lovely specialty drinks, such as the Cointreau hot chocolate that’s to die for.

r-diner-2
Credit: Tabelog
Cafe Lavendaria  is a great little cafe that’s out from the main Nichome drag. It’s a cozy little place, and I love the tea and beer selection there. They have a large selection of books on one wall that are LGBTQ friendly, most of them in Japanese but there are a few English ones if you search for them. There are couches in the back and tables out front, but that’s not even the best part of this place.

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Interior of Lavendaria
Lavendaria has cats! They’re not advertised, and sometimes they’re a little human shy, but if you stick around the little orange fluffy kitties will come out. The only downside for Lavendaria is the food is only of the snack variety. Still, it’s a great place to go with a date to grab a drink with a date (and possibly pet a kitty).

Shinjuku isn’t the only place that welcomes LGBTQ customers. In the back streets of Harajuku there’s Irodori, another comfy style cafe like Lavendaria. It’s run in collaboration with Colorful Station, a Shibuya based community focused social group. Because of that, it’s a great place for LGBTQ events and meet ups.

irodori
Credit: TimeOut Tokyo
The cafe features some good eats, like its meat pie and melon shortcake. And of course, coffee and tea are a staple, so grab a nice hot mug to keep this lingering winter chill away. A date here will be nice and pleasant, as well as helping out a good cause!

Osaka

Out in the Kansai area, Osaka has the Do With Cafe. It features a drag show every night that its open which makes it for a fun place to eat, drink, and have a show! The cafe might be more for the person who wants something a little more excitement, and not just romance.

The menu is focused on Japanese/Asian cuisine. The meals range from soba salad to fried chicken to beef rice bowls. As for drinks, you can choose anything from a hazelnut latte to pear tea to the longest whiskey menu I’ve ever seen in my life.

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Do With Cafe Interior
This Sunday they’re actually doing a Valentines Day special event!  Head on over there with your special someone to have some fun.

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Credit: Do with Cafe Event Page
Close by is a little place called Ducks. It’s fairly new, only a couple of years old, but it’s steadily growing a following. Another kind of a hidey-hole style place, Ducks is great for a meal, or maybe just a nightcap with your special someone.

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Credit: GuruNavi
Their food is seasonal, so the menu changes every few months to spice things up. At the moment, the chef makes meat in tomato sauce with chickpeas over rice, as well as a chocolate torte for dessert.

Other Areas

A great resource for finding other places to date in Japan is Utopia Asia. This site has many different LGBTQ friendly places available: bars, clubs, restaurants, you name it. Most of the listings are for gay men, but there are a fair share of lesbian friendly places too. Some of the information is a bit outdated, so be sure to check links and do a quick internet search about the location of the places (some I found for Osaka and Kyoto had closed down, be careful). 

Even though it’s generally safe to go to just any other Japanese restaurant, if you want to be proud and queer, these are the places to go. And also, you’ll be supporting the efforts of the owners who want to help Japan become more accepting of the LGBTQ community. Most of these restaurants and cafes support endeavors to strengthen visibility, such as sponsoring and/or participating in Rainbow Pride. Love begets love, and when is a better time for love than Valentines Day?

If you know of a great LGBTQ restaurant or neat dating spot in general, please put it in the comments! 


A very special thank you to Stonewall Japan members for helping me with recommendations. They’re the best for LGBTQ events and resources, along with just being awesome people in general.