Kansai Pride! – Osaka and Mie

Kansai Rainbow Pride!

A crowd of people at Kansai Rainbow Pride

First of all, a big thank you to everyone who was able to attend this year’s rainbow event!

The weather wasn’t the best but, on October 8th, we were still able to show our support and walk with pride in the rainbow parade. From info booths and food vendors, to stage performances and even a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony, the Rainbow Festa was educational, emotional and a whole lot of fun.
I hope that everyone who attended had just as much fun as I did! I heard that the event was even featured on Huffington Post Korea’s website! The article is written in Korean, but there are some great pictures of the booths and the parade. If you’d like to check it out, visit http://www.huffingtonpost.kr/minsoo-kim/story_b_18233096.html.

An extra special thank you to the people at TELL, who kindly offered to share their booth with us. Hope to see you again next year!

 

Mie Rainbow Festa

Truck with Rainbow Festa balloons and a Pride flag on it

The first ever pride parade in Mie prefecture!

In conjunction with the popular Tsu festival, a small group got together and marched down the main street with rainbow flags held high and a vintage car float leading the way! It was the first time for and LGBT+ group to have such visibility in a local event, and the organiser hopes to have an even bigger group next year.

If you are interested in participating next year, you can contact the organisers via their Twitter @mieken_RF.

Pride balloons in the sky People marching at Mie Rainbow Pride

 

 

 

 

 

 

Articles from Oct-Nov Stonewall Kansai Newsletter 2017
Photo credit: Hannah Brown, Monique Tong, Shirin ET

2017 Stonewall Japan TRP Group photo in front of Flower Dog

Tokyo Rainbow Pride: Booths, Parades, and Picnics!

Stonewall Japan was ambitious this year! Unlike previous years where we only did a Sunday booth, Leadership decided that we would have a booth and a picnic for both Saturday and Sunday. We also had a fun bar crawl on Saturday night, as well as participated in the Pride Parade on Sunday.

In case you didn’t know, every year Tokyo Rainbow Pride (TRP) gets bigger and bigger. In 2017, TRP had over 108,000 people in attendance, beating last year’s record by about 30,000 more people. According to the TRP website, over 35,000 people came on May 6th, 65,000 on the 7th, along with 5,000 people in the parade, and 3,000 for other events.

That’s why we wanted to try out doing more this year. With more people than ever coming to this event, we wanted to bring more people together into our community. Of course, we also wanted to have a lot of fun!

Before the Main Event
It was a bit intimidating at first trying to organize volunteers and schedules. Luckily I had a secret weapon: previous Stonewall President Louis. After we did a pre-meeting via Google Hangouts, we arranged nearly all the schedules and emails.
Two days before TRP, we both sent articles to All About Japan discussing Stonewall and the Stonewall events planned for those days. With more exposure, we hoped to bring more people to the booth and picnics, as well as just get our presence out there so that others could join our group.
Later, Kanto Leaders Kyle and Kayla were chosen to take charge of the picnic and I was chosen to lead the booth. Our volunteers were finalized, and everything just needed to come together.

Saturday – Booth
From morning to evening, TRP Festa was busy and bustling. When I and the morning volunteers arrived at 9:30, there was already a crowd forming around the drag queen crew at the front entrance for photos.Stonewall Japan Booth at TRP This year TRP was sponsored by a record 190 companies and organizations, all of them set up in huge booths with bright signs, free drinks, and mascots on display. There were big names like NTT Corp., Sony Corp. and Google Inc., which had its annual photo booth for nice pride pics. Every stall this year was literally jam-packed with attendees.

All in all, it was a stark contrast to the first year of TRP, which was mostly a few NPOs and local Tokyo LGBT groups. TRP has come a long way from a small pride event and has transformed into a fully loaded movement.

Our booth was squeezed in between the “Fruits in Suits” booth and a corporation with an orange bear mascot. We received a lot of visitors, and the volunteers worked all day to give out face paints, as well as conduct surveys on the LGBTQIA+ community. Even though the day was hot and the work was hard, we had a great time meeting new people and chatting with everyone who came by!

Saturday – Picnic2017 Stonewall Picnic, Saturday
At about 11, a group came together at Yoyogi Park for some fun snacks, beers, and good times!

For most of the day, people ate, drank, and made good memories with fellow Stonewall members and leaders. The picnic lasted until about 5, when everyone decided it was time to grab some food before the big bar crawl.

Saturday – Bar Crawl
At the annual bar crawl, a large group of Stonewall members headed out for a fun night in Shinjuku’s famous Nichome. Starting at 21:00, we gathered at Aiiro Cafe for a quick drink to get started.

2017 Stonewall Japan Bar Crawl, Saturday night

We slowly met up with both Stonewallers and members of Tokyo’s LGBT Meetup group. We chatted and introduced ourselves to each other, and managed to take our group picture! From there, we wandered over at 22:00 to an already-crowded Eagle. Everyone found new friends to meet and chat with! In order to accommodate both men and women, at 23:30 we headed to the everyone-friendly Arty Farty around the corner. We all danced and sang to some of the best music available in Nichome. As time ticked closer to one in the morning, we made our way to Annex to finish the evening with lighter music, dancing, and lots of opportunities to chat and say our goodbyes as we parted ways. The bar crawl was a fantastic evening, with new friendships forged and old friendships rekindled. Join us at the bar crawl next year and help us make it an even bigger event!

 

Sunday – Booth and Parade!
Face paints were a non-stop event at the booth! Everyone was prepped and ready for the main event of the day: The Pride Parade!
Stonewall Japan gathered around 11:30 for the big group picture in front of a very beautiful flower dog at the center of the Festa. Then we headed off to regroup behind float 22. This year we got a DJ float so we could dance the whole way through!

A very special thanks to the volunteers who stayed at the booth for over two hours while we marched. They made sure to keep getting donations and painting faces!

 

2017 Stonewall Japan TRP Parade marchEven though the parade took longer than originally thought, it was exciting to be a part of this massive solidarity experience. A big thanks to everyone who marched in the heat and sun to represent us and to walk for the rights of LGBTQIA+ people.

After all the hard work – over two days’ worth – we closed the booth early so the overworked volunteers could get a chance to be a part of the Festa and the picnic experiences.

Over those two days we made over 26,000 yen in donations. Ioana made some progress on surveys; I believe over fifty people participated. All in all, a success for Stonewall and its fabulous members!

Sunday – Picnic
The Sunday picnic was an amazing success!
We were close to the same spot as Saturday’s picnic, in Yoyogi park. Everything was set up and arranged around 11 a.m. and came to a close at 5 p.m.

The day was full of people coming and going from our little picnic, and of fun, friendly, thoughtful conversations.
Everyone was polite and, when the event was coming to a close, the small group who remained was kind enough to help clean up our picnic area and dispose of trash.

Cheers for more wonderful picnics for Stonewall and let’s hope next year’s Stonewall Japan experience at Tokyo Pride is just as lovely.

Stonewall Japan Sunday TRP picnic

 

Special Thanks!
Without all of the volunteers the event couldn’t have happened at all, so thank all of you so much! All the leaders for those days and activities are also recognized: Kyle, Kayla, Jon, and George, you are all amazing. May so much rainbow love go your way!
See you all at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2018!

Kayla Johnson and Jon Lucas also contributed to this article.

Stonewall LGBT+ Atami Weekend Report

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Last weekend, a group of 10 Stonewallers met up for a weekend break in the scenic Atami, Shizuoka. For some it was the first time to come to such an event, and for others, they had particpated in many ‘queer’ events across Japan. Trepidations are understandable when you have planned to share a room and weekend with strangers, but the ‘Stonewall LGBT+ Atami Weekend’ brought like-minded strangers together, and much fun was had.

 

Participants were mainly from the surrounding area of Tokyo, but people as far as Miyagi and Mie came too. We met at Atami station, exchanged names and started on the first sight of our short tour around the city. Our first stop was Kinomiya Shrine which boasts to have the largest tree in Honshu. Despite a stand taking photos, there we met a kind man who was adamant to help us take our group photo.

 

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Next we went down to the harbor to watch the sun set, and dip our toes into the ocean. As we walked down the hill, zig-zagging through lanes and streets, we were able to see the right out to sea. Arriving at the beach, it was obvious why Atami is a hub for tourists alike; the shore, the sea air, the surfers…

 

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After what felt like a short hike up, and train ride to Atami station, we bought some refreshments and took a shuttle bus to the hotel. After checking-in and discovering a free ‘janken-tournament’ [じゃんけん大会] we revised our evening plans and headed to our rooms. Atami is famous for its onsen and it was first on the list for some of us. By this time the first-time-meeting nerves had melted away, and I personally enjoyed relaxing in the many warm baths the hotel had to offer.

 

The buffet dinner seemed to accommodate everyone in the group, so pescetarians and vegans were able to eat. A favorite of mine was the seafood rice dish and plates of sliced steak. The food was pretty darn tasty in general. Straight after dinner we all entered the janken tournament. Despite losing the practice match, out of 60+ hotel guests, I won the game! I do feel a little sorry for the four elderly women I beat though… After that moment, many a hotel guest congratulated me throughout the evening.


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After janken we headed for an hour of karaoke, played some games and chatted in our rooms, and attempted to have a table tennis tournament. I didn’t see any potential Olympic competitors between us, but some of us could play a mean game of billiards and air hockey! As the evening drew to a close, people started to head to beds to sleep.

 

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The next morning, some of the group headed off early to visit Atami castle, others went back for another dip in the onsen whilst I was locked outside the room on the balcony. Only for a few minutes though! We had breakfast, walked to a viewing spot near the hotel and then headed off back towards Atami station. I came from afar and decided to leave early, but the majority stayed to browse for souvenirs, eat lunch and breathe in the coastal air before they return to their various hometowns. [That may have been stretching the truth a little].

 

Overall, it went better than expected. As one half of the organisers, and someone quite active with Stonewall, I honestly did enjoy spending time with other like-minded people from various parts of Japan. I’ve been to many Stonewall events, and I still enjoy meeting new people, meeting people I’ve spoken to through the Facebook group and or reuniting with those that I haven’t seen in months and years. I hope to see you at the next one, and for those who came, thanks for coming. Last but not least, a big shout-out to Yuki for being the main organiser and instigator of this fab weekend. When’s the next one?

 

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Mie Rainbow Festa – みえレインボーフェスタ

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. 

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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. 

 

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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.

Louis

 

Mie Rainbow Festa Details:

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