As a gay Caucasian man living in rural Mie, the double minority status can feel quite isolating. This is why the first ever Mie Rainbow Festa (みえレインボーフェスタ), held in Ise last month, was such a joyous day out! Stonewall Japan organised an opportunity for LGBT+ people and their allies to interact with other like-minded people. We watched numerous musical and dance acts, grabbed some local Ise food, and enjoyed meeting some of the most prominent LGBT activists currently working in Japan.
Organisers Shoichi Yamaguchi(山口颯一), Ichikawa Takeshi(市川武史) and Ota Yuuya(太田有矢) successfully planned and executed it, and as it was in my home prefecture, I had to attend. A group of Stonewallers met in front of the station, and managed to get to the event just in time for its opening remarks. The prefectural governor, mayor of Ise, and the mayor of Iga said some words along with the organisers. Iga was the first city in the Kansai/Tokai region to recognise same-sex couples, so maybe Ise may get some ideas…
Held in the Ise City Plaza, in the centre of Ise, Mie, the venue was full of attendees. The hall was decorated with love-filled messages from local elementary school children, rainbow painted bamboo candle holders and the smiles of supportive friends and family.
We’d seen the event officially start, and then decided to grab some lunch at a nearby restaurant. Whilst we were eating, a panel of distinguished LGBT+ activists had a talk about the current status of LGBT+ equality in Japan. Some stayed behind to watch the discussion. For others, we had a nice catch up with old friends and met some new faces over some delicious food.
After our meal, we returned to the event. The city had really shown its support by decorating the main street that leads from the train station to Ise Shrine (Gekū) with rainbow flags too. We made it just in time to watch some performances from some local musicians and further afield dance groups. Emceed by the drag artist Raira(ライラ), the array of acts was well received with applause. Some special guests included Nijigumi Fight (虹組ファイツ), Rowan, X-ways, NSM = (LIVE) to mention a few. Some emotional words were expressed from the organisers, and the event closed with a group photo. We even managed to speak to Mr. Yamaguchi and grab a photo with him.
Afterwards, a few of us stayed behind to watch the sun set and get to know each other better. I was exhausted by the end of the day, and slept the whole train ride home. But, I can’t wait till next year! In a country that still has no unambiguous, constitutional protections against homophobic or transphobic discrimination, I am thankful to have been part of this event. Thank you to everyone who came.
Mie Rainbow Festa Details: