On Nov. 22, over 5,000 people attended Kyushu Rainbow Pride at Reisen Park, with 300 marching in Kyushu’s second ever LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and unspecified) parade. Fukuoka Now was on the scene to report on this day of campaigning and celebration.
From 10:00, the park was buzzing with excitement. People wandered between the various stalls, posing at photo booths, talking to campaigners and getting snacks. Many in the crowd wore creative costumes and face paint, carried free balloons, waved flags, and boasted rainbow-themed accessories; everyone wanted to demonstrate their enthusiasm for publicly expressing and celebrating LGBT+ identities and relationships.
The parade’s organisers chose the theme of “For All the Future Children” because they not only wanted to encourage members of the LGBT+ community to be confident in their own identities, but also to help create changes in society that help those in the future. Whilst Japan has seen some progress regarding LGBT+ rights in recent years (most notably this April, when Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward began to issue partnership certificates to same sex couples), legal recognition and protection is still largely unavailable to LGBT+ people, and coming out at a young age is a very difficult and intimidating process. The organisers also wanted to encourage people from across the island to participate, so they changed the event’s name from Fukuoka Rainbow Pride to Kyushu Rainbow Pride.
At the park, there were ten delicious food and drink stands for people to enjoy (including well-known establishments, such as With the Style), and eighteen stalls hosted by organisations dedicated to Japanese LGBT+ support, campaigning and celebration. Amongst these was Stonewall Japan, an organisation that aims to nurture a community for LGBT+ nationals and foreigners by hosting events and providing resources. Stonewall raised over ¥17,000 in ¥100 donations over the day to fund its work, and encouraged many people to sign up for its events. They were also painting people’s faces with flags which corresponded to a wide-range of sexual and gender identities (including some less well-known ones, such as pansexual), as well as the all-inclusive rainbow.
Fukuoka-based Rainbow Soup (an LGBT+ support group) was also present, promoting the national “Out in Japan” photo campaign, which seeks to spotlight the LGBT+ community and individual stories of coming out. KI-YO, an openly gay artist who sang the theme song for this campaign, “We are One” (which has over 45,000 views on YouTube), was one of the main headliners for Kyushu Rainbow Pride 2015, putting on an impassioned performance after the parade.
There were numerous other events and performances throughout the day that were entertaining and moving. This included performances by various dance groups, including gay idol group Nijigumi Fights, music from Fukuoka-based performers, and a moving public wedding ceremony between a female-to-male transsexual and a woman.
Only 300 people could register to take part in the parade, and all the spots were filled quickly. The participants were practically fizzing with excitement as they assembled.
Setting off from the park at 14:00, the parade passed through Nakasu and Tenjin, led by cars boasting booming sound systems.
Onlookers waved enthusiastically from buses and cars as the parade members, including some fabulously dressed drag queens, walked and/or danced their way through town. Many pedestrians even stopped to take selfies with the paraders.
There was an uncontainable sense of unity and pride, especially given that, even though Kyushu’s first ever LGBT+ parade was only a year ago, support and enthusiasm for the cause have swollen to such a huge extent. People from all across Kyushu had travelled to Fukuoka for the event, with some groups I spoke to having come from as far as Sasebo, Kumamoto and Nagasaki. A large number of foreigners also attended the event, adding to the inclusive atmosphere and message of the day.
Whilst walking around we asked people to express what they loved about Pride on a whiteboard. The responses were varied, with some emphasising a need to embrace love for themselves, others penning a cheeky, flirtatious message, and still others writing something more political in nature. The most common message, however, was of hope for love and equality for everyone. A simple but powerful message at the core of LGBT+ campaigning, and of people’s hearts. (More whiteboard photos in the gallery below.)
The passionate sincerity of this message, and Kyushu Rainbow Pride as a whole, was best reflected at the closing ceremony: Fukuoka-based singer Hibikiko was joined on stage by the event’s organisers and some of the participants, and together they sang a poignant song. The enthusiasm of the swaying crowd, the broad spectrum of LGBT+ identities represented on stage, and the overall success of the day proved to be too much for one of the main organisers, who broke down into tears. With this sort of passion and popular support behind Kyushu Rainbow Pride 2015, it looks like Fukuoka will be hosting more successful and further-reaching pride events in the coming years.
Written by Grace Carroll for Fukuoka Now.