Two men in traditional crested ‘hakama’ pants walked along a cobbled street in the Ikaho onsen hot spring resort in Shibukawa, Gunma Prefecture under a clear blue sky in the early afternoon.
“Lean on each other more. That’s right. Alright,” a photographer said as he took pictures of them.
Kota Hoshino, 31, and Hirohide Matsubara, 39, who reside in Takasaki, also in the prefecture, are a same-sex couple in their fifth year of dating.
As the couple struggled to make a long trip during the COVID-19 pandemic like they do every year, Hoshino and Matsubara decided to have a photographer take wedding photos “in commemoration.”
The photo shoot in early November was provided by Share Wedding, a company in Takasaki that organizes wedding ceremonies and other events.
It came as a an increasing number of religious establishments and wedding venues are offering nuptial services to same-sex couples, as more and more local governments are beginning to issue official certificates to recognize same-sex partnerships.
Although this form of marriage has not yet been legalized, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) individuals, as well as providers of wedding ceremonies and wedding photo shoots for sexual minorities, expect these offers to be even more widely accepted.
Share Wedding specializes in arranging packages based on customer requests and even organized a cosplay session for anime fans who wanted to take photos on the local Mount Tanigawadake.
Based on the belief that “a need must exist” as partnership mechanisms have spread between municipalities, Yasuyuki Sakurai, 46, president of Share Wedding, has set up a consultation section dedicated to sexual minorities.
“I hope our special section will inspire customers to (use our services) if necessary,” Sakurai said, expressing his high expectations.
Hoshino and Matsubara said they decided to hold the photoshoot because showing other same-sex couples their photos might “give hesitant individuals an encouraging push on the back” to follow suit.
They said while many people wonder how gay people date, same-sex couples spend time together the same way their opposite-sex counterparts do.
TEMPLES, SANCTUARIES, HOTELS
Saimyoji Temple in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, in May 2020 began to allow LGBT couples to get married there, after the municipal government introduced a partnership certification system.
During ceremonies for sexual minorities, priests present couples with Buddhist rosaries representing LGBT people in rainbow colors instead of wedding rings, and oaths are taken before a Buddhist altar.
Myokan Senda, 33, chief vice-monk of Saimyoji, said sexual minorities are not discriminated against in Buddhism.
“Religion prays for the happiness of all living creatures in the world,” he said.
According to Senda, only two male couples got married in Saimyoji as of Feb. 3 due to the novel coronavirus outbreak and other reasons, but some 50 inquiries have come in from Japan and abroad regarding the service. temple wedding.
“I expect our wedding ritual to provide a good chance for all members of society to change their mindset,” Senda said.
The Negainomiya Shrine in the Chuo district of Osaka began offering Shinto-style wedding rites for same-sex couples about eight years ago. He also gives advice to same-sex couples on occasions such as wedding fairs.
“I want to make it common that LGBTQ people can have wedding ceremonies at shrines,” said Kiyoshi Momoyama, 47, chief priest of Negainomiya.
Mikawawan Resort Linx, a hotel in Nishio, Aichi Prefecture, made non-religious service available to same-sex couples when the city incorporated a certificate framework in September 2019.
Her wedding event is held at a guesthouse for just one couple per day, so LGBT people don’t have to worry about third parties watching them.
The Fukuoka Sunpalace Hotel in the Hakata district of Fukuoka omitted the name spaces for “bride” and “groom” in its wedding ceremony application form.
The accommodation is working with a costume rental agency to offer different sizes of clothing in hopes of enabling transgender people, whose physical genders do not match their emotional genders, to find ones that are right for them.
“Just like different-sex couples, same-sex couples hope to stay close to loved ones and see it as a pleasure to be celebrated by others,” said Reiko Shiraishi, a freelance wedding planner who is a wedding consultant. matter of wedding events. Hotel. “I want clients to enjoy rituals and receptions specially designed to clarify their bonds with their lovers.”
CORRECT KNOWLEDGE REQUIRED
Same-sex partnership certificate mechanisms were first introduced in Japan by Tokyo’s Shibuya and Setagaya wards in 2015.
According to data from an LGBT group called Jichitai ni Partnership Seido o Motomeru Kai (the organization that calls on municipalities to install partnership systems), 147 local governments have implemented this certification as of January 4 this year, covering more 40% of all the country’s inhabitants.
Support is offered for wedding ceremonies and wedding photo shoots for LGBT couples in a gradually increasing number of cases. But Hisana Mamada, who heads Hareruwa, a support group for sexual minorities in Gunma prefecture, said that was not enough.
“Few services are still accessible, especially in local areas where support from minority groups is rarely found,” Mamada said.
As sexual minority couples are often reluctant to ask wedding halls and other operators if they can hold ceremonies there for fear of being “subjected to offensive language”, Hareruwa organizes training programs for companies to become more open-minded.
“It would be ideal if same-sex couples could freely choose the locations where they would like to have their wedding ceremonies, instead of having to choose from a limited number of available venues,” Mamada said.