Japan – 7th IDAHO Observed Different Projects in More than 10 Cities throughout the Country Report from Azusa Yamashita, Co-director of Gay Japan News and IDAHO Committee member from Japan
This year, Japan’s IDAHO campaign marked 7th year since its first participation in the international campaign in 2006. More than 10 cities including Tokyo, Nagoya and Kobe held different unique projects and events. LGBT people and their supporters in Iwate and Fukushima, prefectures horribly hit by the last year’s earthquake and tsunami also joined in the campaign.
In Tokyo, a trans activist and organiser of IDAHO-net, Mameta Endo and some 40 people went onto the street near Shinjuku Station, one of the biggest train stations in Japan and read about 100 messages from LGBT and their supporters calling for understanding and acceptance of different sexual orientations and gender identities. Mameta has organised this street action for 7 years in a row. He says ’The number of bystanders and those interested in our street campaign is growing as we continued this action.’
These messages Mameta and others read out loud on Tokyo streets were gathered on the IDAHO-net website. They were later printed on panels and traveled to Fukushima. Fukushima Gender Equality centre supported the panel exhibition, organised by Fukushima IDAHO Committee, a group specially formed for this year’s campaign.
In Tokushima and Ishikawa prefectures, smaller-sized cozy and friendly meetings were held for LGBT people as these places have few places for LGBT people to safely get together. Some participants at the meeting joined from outside of these prefectures because they didn’t have opportunities to meet other LGBT people in their hometowns. According to Mameda, one of the lesbians there said ’I feel so comfortable to be in this meeting and to be in the network with other LGBT people, but I have few opportunities to meet other LGBT people from my generation back home.’
In Iwate, Iwate Rainbow Network organised a workshop titled ’Towards Rainbow Schools – Tacking Homophobia and Transphobia in Schools’ together with its panel exhibition with the same title as the workshop at their local women’s centre. According to Azusa Yamashita, who’s the Network’s organiser and our IDAHO Committee member, participants including school teachers and local LGBT people watched Spell It Out, Stonewall’s educational DVD on homophobia in schools and had discussion later including on what can be done to eliminate homophobia and transphobia from schools. Some of the participants shared their experiences of being harassed because of their sexual orientation and of witnessing homophobic and transphobic bullying but teachers doing nothing when they were in schools.
Morioka Women’s Centre, local women’s centre in Iwate joined in the campaign. They put LGBT books in their library on display as part of the campaign.
In a research by Hidaka et al (2005), 83% of Japanese gay and bisexual male respondents reported that they experienced bullying in schools and 60% of them experienced being teased by their classmates because of the sexual orientation.
Homophobia and transphobia in schools are widespread in Japanese schools just like in other countries and there’s a lot to be done to win LGBT rights, but LGBT community in the country has gradually been able to raise awareness towards LGBT people and issues including homophobia and transphobia in schools through IDAHO campaign every year.