Japan to Become (a Little) More LGBT-friendly

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Japan to Become (a Little) More LGBT-friendly

(Blogmensgo, gay blog of February 13, 2018) On January 31st, 2018, the Japanese Minister of Health issued a decree banning hotels from discriminating their guests based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and the city of Fukuoka is planning to soon recognize same-sex partnerships. Both of these news reports represent some, albeit small, progress for LGBT people.

Futons in a ryokan

Gay guests in a double bed? Maybe soon. ©Micha L. Rieser

Hotels in Japan have to open up to homosexual guests

The new directive aims at hygiene in hotels but tries to strengthen the existing anti-discrimination laws because hotels may no longer deny LGBT guests based on their sexual orientation.

Apart from classic hotels, the new directive will also apply to about 70,000 traditional Japanese inns (ryokans) and to tens of thousands “Love Hotels” (rabu hoteru) that charge by the hour.

In general, hotels and inns do not bluntly refuse same-sex couples but rather give them a room with separate beds or even two separate rooms. However, straight (unmarried) couples do not have to face strange questions and usually receive a room with a double bed.

Love Hotel, de Jane Unrue

“Love Hotels” – usually for heterosexual hook-ups. ©New Directions

As the only official reasons for denying guests a room, the directive mentions signs of contagious diseases or the obvious intention to conduct illegal affairs in the rooms. Homosexual contacts, however, were legalized in Japan in 1880.

Almost No Rights for LGBTs

In 2017, the Minister of Education ordered schools and colleges to do more against bullying of students based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

As of today, Japan has not officially legalized same-sex marriages or partnerships although all marriages legally contracted abroad are recognized.

Fukuoka to allow same-sex partnerships

Six municipalities or city districts have already established same-sex marriage or partnerships: Shibuya and Setagaya (2 wards of Tokyo, since 2015) plus the cities of Iga, Takarazuka and Naha (since 2016) and Sapporo (since 2017).

From April 1st, 2018 on, the city of Fukuoka wants to offer same-sex partnerships to its inhabitants although the two partners will still count as single individuals for national administrative purposes.

Fukuoka (1.5 million inhabitants) is the capital city of the homonymous province and, like Naha, is situated on the island of Kyūshū. Mayor Soichiro Takashima has not yet given any more details on the planned same-sex partnerships.

 

Registered gay partnerships in Tokyo's Nakano district to start soon

Update of May 19, 2018. In Nakano, a district of Tokyo bordering Shibuya, same-sex couples who sign a „partnership agreement“ can receive a certificate from the authorities from summer 2018 on. However, these documents are subject to various conditions, including a minimum age of 20 years and permanent residence in Nakano.

This certificate, possibly accompanied by a notarial deed, gives couples the same rights and benefits as married heterosexual couples in several areas, such as health (medical treatment and care) and housing, with the notarial deed helping them to apply for a mortgage loan.

In August 2018, Nakano will become the third Tokyo district, after Shibuya (a neighbouring district) and Setagaya, to offer a form of registered same-sex partnership. However, these partnerships are not recognized nationwide because gay marriage has not yet been legalized in all of Japan.

What does Nakano look like? Here is a video report…

It is not clear yet whether the unofficial partnership documents of the eight municipalities or districts mentioned will automatically be recognised by the other seven.

 

Update of August 28, 2018:

The city of Chiba wants gay and straight registered partnerships

From April 2019, the port city of Chiba (JP | EN) will be the first Japanese community to allow registered partnerships (civil unions) for gay and heterosexual couples. Such partnerships have so far been limited to LGBT couples who are still denied the advantage of marriage by the government.

These partnerships have no legal value because such an institution does not officially exist in Japan. However, the municipality of Chiba would like hospitals and business companies in the city area to actively support this future partnership. However, special agreements would allow the spouse, for example, to have a right to visit or a say in the event of hospitalisation or surgical intervention. In addition, partnered couples could also get apartments that are actually reserved for married (i.e. heterosexual) couples.

Chiba is a city just (un)like any other, if you like to judge by this likeable advertising video in tropical English:

 

 

The mayor of Chiba and initiator of this initiative, Toshihito Kumagai, therefore intends to adapt his municipal regulations to the development of customs and family structures in the city of Chiba and the region of the same name. The initiative comes from LGBT stakeholders: They have encouraged the city administration to extend the future partnership to heterosexual couples in order not to counteract a discriminatory measure (no gay marriage) by another discriminatory measure (no registered partnership for heterosexual couples).

Only unmarried couples with (planned) residence in Chiba can enter into such a partnership and the two partners must not be related to each other. The exact terms of this partnership will only be determined after a meeting organised by the municipality in September 2018. Therefore, it is currently unclear exactly what status and benefits the municipality will offer such registered partners, and whether the city will grant the same benefits to registered partners from other gay-friendly municipalities who reside in Chiba.

The city of Chiba is the capital of the region of the same name, about 40 km southeast of Tokyo. It is densely populated (3,580 inhabitants per km2) and has just under one million inhabitants (972,861 in February 2016). According to Wikipedia, Chiba features the longest suspended monorail in the world.

A monorail? Take a look at this short video presentation…

 

 

Frank-S / MensGo

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