Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016 musings
a long and rather pointless post in which i write out some of my thoughts and experiences along with photos from last weekend’s Pride in Tokyo.
this post is photo heavy. for more photos from TRP, see these posts:
☆ ace & nonbinary photos
☆ general photos
warning: slurs, scantly clad men and mention of genitalia.
this year i went to TRP on both Saturday and Sunday for the first time. while i’m glad i did, i’m really kicking myself in regards to how i did it. i ended up being ridiculously exhausted both days before i’d even boarded the train to Tokyo all because i called myself saving money by not booking myself and Yuki (my hedgehog) into a hotel so that i could spend the night in Tokyo. the result was 5 hrs/day of riding trains two days in a row.
i’m still not recovered and this entire post is a product of sleep deprivation.
anyway, here. have a totally random Instagram photo that i took during TRP weekend at Shinjuku Station that has absolutely nothing to do with anything, but it has rainbow colors so it’ll presumably help you get through the following wall of text.
i seriously do not expect anyone to make it through this post alive.
deep conversations & a picnic
on Saturday some friends and i went to a picnic hosted by Stonewall Japan & the Tokyo LGBTQIAP+ Meetup Group. the picnic itself was great, got to see some familiar faces and meet up with people who i haven’t seen outside of the internet in a while. after lots of nice conversation, food and ukelele melodies, my little group of friends and i wandered away from the picnic to the main festival but didn’t spend too much time there as none of them were particularly interested in the event itself. eventually the group dwindled down to just M-san, her friend J-san and myself, so we went to a cafe and had what was probably the deepest convo that i’ve had with a Japanese person in a long while. refreshing.
prior to going to the cafe, i’d found the flags at Nijiiro Komachi and made a big deal out of it, so of course the meaning of the flags, the differences between the Japanese words for asexual, non-binary etc and their English equivalents came up in our conversation. with both M-san and J-san being the religious history scholars that they are, the conversation eventually went to differences between LGBT-related stuff in general in Japan and in other countries, the role that religion has played in influencing society’s current views etc on sexuality and gender, etc. stuff that i never really expected to discuss with anyone because i’m very “religion? yeah, no thanks,” but the view point that they came at those topics with was really different from any that i’ve encountered in the past and it was rather interesting to hear. i already knew this, but it was a pointed reminder that, generally speaking, the topic of religion in Japan among Japanese people is so very different from the topic of religion in America among Americans.
anyway, Saturday was a rather tame day compared to Sunday. i exercised my sleep-deprived brain more than anything else.
i’m not going to recap what happened Sunday because there’s photographic evidence of that. instead, i’ll just talk about random points of interest to me.
commercialism & pink capitalism
having been to TRP three times now, i think it’s safe for me to say that TRP is commercial as hell. so much pink capitalism it’s rather ridiculous, if not a little insulting. i’m sure that most if not all Prides on the scale of TRP (which isn’t even THAT big compared to Prides in Western countries, but whatever) suffer from pink capitalism and commercialism to some degree or another, but TRP… yeah.
anyway, Google was there again(?) and Netflix, which is trying its damnedest to break into the market in Japan, was there for the first time. actually, with all the Netflix signage everywhere, it’s obvious that they were a major sponsor this year. they had a pretty big booth and were pushing Orange is the New Black really hard, as it was released in Japan relatively recently. dear god, i can only imagine what watching OitNB would even be like for a Japanese person who has none of the cultural context with which to watch it– good fucking luck to you, Netflix. lol
the pink capitalism wasn’t limited to TRP itself, of course. all throughout Harajuku, especially along the parade route, there was store after store with some kinda rainbow thing in their window, on their sign, etc. i think that it’s great that so many companies are showing their support, but for 95% of them their “support” ends at putting a rainbow on something to attract customers and yeah. at least Netflix and Google are doing a lot more than that.
a collision of worlds unique to Japan?
+ why TRP is not a safe place for some
another feature of TRP is the cosplay, kinky outfits, spandex full-body suites and, umm… bare skin. i’m sure that people wearing things that they do not normally wear in public is a thing at many a Pride, but TRP? like many things Japan does, at TRP that kind of thing is totally on an entire different level. seriously. i don’t even bother taking photos of people’s outfits to be able to provide the best examples here because that kind of thing doesn’t really interest me, but take these two bondage Pokemon for example.
they’re pretty “tame” by TRP standards, i think, or perhaps i’m just used to them by now. anyway, there’s a team of them that comes to TRP every year. there’s also a lot of cosplay of other characters and even what seems to be original creations. modernized and often eroticized versions of traditional Japanese outfits are also common.
sometimes the outfits are rather, err…. playful and obvious in their commentary on things, such as the sign that says “gender non-applicable” on the back of the person above. however, sometimes it can feel like you’re at a convention or a fashion show instead of Pride and…. yeah. like, i literally saw a person in an outfit that consisted of fake Campbell tomato soup cans made to look like they were poured all over her like blood or something and it’s just like…. okay?
personally, i don’t especially care how people choose to express themselves at Pride, but i came across commentary on Twitter, in a LINE group i’m a member of, etc from Japanese people who expressed frustration with it and i thought that noteworthy. maybe i’m just more in tune with Japanese social media this year than in the past…
there is one point of concern that i think is especially important related to the above, though. even though i personally am not bothered by a person walked around topless with an giant inflatable penis strapped to his crotch (srsly, this guy wore the exact same thing last year), stuff like that makes Pride inaccessible to people who are sex repulsed, averse or who simply don’t feel comfortable around such things for whatever reason. it also makes Pride feel like an unsafe place for LGBT families who might want to bring their children or for parents of LGBT children who might otherwise jump on the opportunity to take their kid(s) to Pride. meh.
while i’m on a roll with the meh things about TRP, might as well bring this up too.
adventures navigating the LGBT community in Japan
is there a more potent example of Japan’s importation of English words completely devoid of history or context than this? a photo studio that caters to people who want to have their photo taken with ニューハーフ / “new halves” (equivalent to “tranny” in Japanese to me, but some disagree), 女装 / male crossdressers and 男の娘 / feminine men that goes by the name “Shemale Style”……………
for me personally, there’s a lot of things like this that makes navigating LGBT spaces in Japan culturally difficult. yes, language is a problem, but even if you can speak the language you could be talking about a topic with someone but still be speaking different languages culturally because you have your own cultural-based understanding, point of view and related feelings about said topic and the Japanese person that you’re speaking with does too, but it’s entirely different from yours. you could find something offensive, while for them it’s just how things are and vice versa.
….kind of like me not even being able to refer to myself as asexual (Aセクシャル) in Japanese among Japanese aces without that being taken to mean that i’m an aromantic asexual, because that’s how the word asexual was imported into Japanese. instead, for the sake of clarity i should refer to myself as “nonsexual” (ノンセクシャル), which to me feels all kinds of wrong.
….and now to be more positive!
increased visibility for this year’s parade
the parade’s route was different this year and i think (hope) it had a positive effect. instead of going down less traffic-heavy streets like we’d done the past two years, the parade went right through the heart of Shibuya, one of the busiest and famous places in Tokyo. even in past years we’ve walked through Shibuya, but not the heart of it. instead of turning left away from the famous Shibuya Crossing, we went towards it and turned at the Hachiko JR exit.
we even went down Omotesando for a little while longer this year, which again is one of the busiest and most famous hotspots in Tokyo, especially among young people. what does this mean? it means that a LOT more of the general public saw the parade than last year and with more visibility, hopefully there’ll be more awareness.
support and awareness for マイノリティのマイノリティ
changing topics, it was great to see 手話フレンズ and Crystal Community at TRP giving free lessons in Japanese Sign Language. they were teaching LGBT-specific signs and signs that would be useful when interacting with deaf or HOH people in the LGBT community. 🙂 wish i could have had a lesson myself.
obligitory mention: Nijiiro Komachi
and of course, another amazing thing to happen at this year’s TRP was Nijiiro Komachi, who’s praise i’ve already been singing for a while now.
i recently found this article in English about Nijiiro Komachi, for anyone interested in learning more about the shop and its owner. if you read it, you’ll see that the pink capitalism that i was whining about earlier also comes into play here, but whatever. no one else is giving me any reason to throw money at them with their generic, mass produced rainbow-colored stuff.
when the internet meets real life
last but not least, i want to comment on the IRL effects of social media etc that i’ve been experiencing lately.
for example, each day before i went to Tokyo i tweeted a selfie using the ‘official’ TRP hashtag just because it was a rare occasion when i actually liked how i looked and i would be meeting up with lots of people each day, so it’d be easier for them to find me. not that it’s possible for anyone to miss me here in Japan, but anyway.
i was surprised when a random stranger approached me saying that they’d seen my photo on Twitter. D; was not expecting that, even though it’s obvious in hindsight that that might happen. anyway, while i don’t at all mind what happened, it was kind of a reality check of sorts in terms of the usage of hashtags on a social media platform like Twitter.
in another “whoah, that’s crazy” reality-check-type moment, another person approached me saying that the’d seen me on YouTube….
this has happened to me a few times now, always at an LGBT event among foreigners, and it’s just… wow. i never know how to respond. i really don’t think of my channel or visibility on YouTube being big at all– i mean, i am what is referred to as a “little youtuber” because my subscriber count isn’t even big, but when people that you don’t know IRL tell you that they’ve seen you on YouTube… wow.
i’m both honored and flattered, to put it mildly. i can’t even express how i feel about it because i’m still processing it. there is this kind of awkward feeling, though, knowing that someone you’ve just met, whose name you don’t even know, already knows some pretty intimate stuff about you because that’s the nature of most of the content on your channel.
it’s a real shame that i wasn’t able to make it to VidCon this year. would have been an amazing(ly terrifying but interesting) experience to have modded the panel on sexual orientation on YouTube…
fuckin’ life in Japan. sigh.