The First-Ever Kumamoto Rainbow Parade

This November, Kumamoto City held its first-ever Rainbow Parade. I felt very fortunate that such an unexpected event happened during my tenure as an ALT and that I was able to participate in it. About 200 people came from all over the prefecture to participate – which was quite a bit over the expected turn out. We gathered in a local park beforehand to take pictures, write messages, and in some instances be interviewed by local media. (I may have come out on prefectural television…whoops). Buzzfeed Japan was even present (you can find their photo album of the event here), the reporter having come down from Tokyo for the event. It was surprising, but very exciting, to see such widespread media coverage from newspapers to television. Check out this video KKT News took of the event below!

The energy of the day grew as more and more people gathered to prepare to walk in the parade. Local citizens and Stonewallers gathered together to celebrate. The route would take us directly through the heart of the shopping districts in Kumamoto. They set up three sections for the parade, each with their own music for dancing. A fellow ALT and I were in the middle of a television interview when they announced they were ready to begin. I was ushered off ahead of the group as a volunteer to direct the flow of the parade. My energy was ill-contained at my post and when I saw the parade approaching me in the distance I was overcome with pride to be part of this magnificent community. Much bouncing ensued.

As the end of the parade passed my post I was able to join in with the last group. As we entered the covered shopping arcades the music would be paused from time to time to allow one of the volunteers to explain who we are and why we were parading. The lineup of this group of brightly colored individuals seemed to garner a few quizzical looks, but mostly it seemed the response on the street was one of positivity. Admittedly I toned down my outfit for Kumamoto – less shiny gold hot pants and sequins, more fully clothed but nonetheless rainbow coat and scarf – to avoid too much shock value for the inaugural parade.

We walked for about an hour before gathering at another park north of the parade path. We took several group photos to commemorate the day, some for use within the group and some that were safe for use in the media. I had forgotten amid the celebration that while we were cheering and showing the world who we are, there are still some for whom it isn’t safe to come out. Though it was a brief jaunt through town I hope the Kumamoto Rainbow Parade will be a step in the right direction for us all.

The festivities continued into a few parties that night. They were terribly good fun, but what I will cherish the most is the memory of meeting wonderful new people and sharing this historic event with people that I love. I hope that the Kumamoto Rainbow Parade will continue next year and grow into the amazing event I know it can be. I think there’s a bright future for Kumamoto, you can definitely see a rainbow on the horizon.