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Monday, May 09, 2016

Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016 - Gay Tokyo


Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016 on Sunday May 8 was the explosive culmination of "Rainbow Week" in Tokyo, which ran from April 22 and was marked by daily events from film to futsal to committee meetings to exhibitions to parties.

Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016 float, Harajuku, Tokyo.
One of the many colorful Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016 floats

Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016 happened on a balmy spring afternoon under blue skies. Yoyogi Park Event Plaza was packed with tents run by dozens of gay and gay-friendly organizations and corporate sponsors, and attended by an ebullient crowd. Attendance at this, the sixth Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade, was estimated to be around 70,000 people - a hands-down record.

Lesbian club float, complete with its own DJ, Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016, Japan.
On the women's disco float, complete with its own DJ booth
Dozens of different LGBTQ groups and organizations in Tokyo took part, each at least with their own troupe of paraders, at least with some sort of uniform - at best with its own float. The variety of colors of uniforms of the different parading groups was enough in itself to warrant the moniker "rainbow."

Kimono at Tokyo Rainbow Pride, 2016.
A touch of traditional Japanese Rainbow Pride

The main theme of Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016 was "No Hate," a slogan that was chanted by thousands as they marched through the streets of Tokyo, and one that will need to be kept alive as Japan marches ever closer to freedom for its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer population.

Slogans being waved and chanted at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016
"No hate!," "Solidarity" - slogans being waved and chanted at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016
On the sound stage was a full LGBT marching band that kept part of the crowd entertained, while others browsed the tents, tried something from the food and drink stalls, or just socialized.

"We love diversity" - Marchers at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016 with flags.
"We love diversity" - Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016

The climax of the day was the Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016 Parade which followed a loop around the Harajuku area, leaving from the Shibuya side of the plaza and coming back from the Yoyogi Park side. Participation in the street parade itself is by application only, and limited to 5,000 people - a limit that was very easily reached - because of the disruption to road traffic involved and the resulting need for a supervisory police presence.

A drag queen strikes a pose at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016
Striking a pose at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016

The enthusiasm, creativity and outright joy of the participants was boundless, with those in the parade responding with high-fives and shouts to the hundreds of other Pride participants who lined the route cheering from the sidelines.

Booths at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016, Yoyogi Park Event Plaza, Tokyo.
Tents at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016, Yoyogi Park Event Plaza
No gay parade is a gay parade without tons of makeup, wigs and costumes, and there was makeup, wigs, costumes - and, of course, attitude - galore worn with all the creativity, uniqueness, nerve and talent a queen can muster.
Two drag queens collect money for charity at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016
Queens collecting for charity at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016

One big change that had happened since the last LGBT parade was that Shibuya ward, in which the parade takes place, has afforded de facto recognition of gay couples as married, which is as good as it gets at the moment in Japan in the absence of legal recognition.

Microsoft tent at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016.
Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016 attracted some big corporate sponsors

Another encouraging sign of how Japan is getting on board the cause of LGBT rights was the sight of the Marui department store in Shibuya which was festooned today with rainbow flags specially for the Parade.
Rainbow flags on Marui Department Store for Tokyo Rainbow Pride, 2016, Japan.
Marui Department Store, Shibuya, sporting rainbow flags for the day
Also notable was the lack of "no photo" groups in the parade for those unwilling to appear in images of the festivities. This Pride celebration was also a first in attracting as many politically important people as it did, including ambassadors and a leading member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

One of most memorable things about the parade was the passionate chant, voiced in unison by the hundreds of marchers of "Tokyo no hate!" Love indeed ruled the day, and saw the Parade though to its conclusion - which was every bit as upbeat as its launch.

A Google employee at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016.
Corporate sponsorship with style

Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016 was a mammoth project in terms of organization, and the amount of sponsorship and breadth of participation across the LGBT community was unprecedented.

Fruits in Suits tent at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016
Fruits in Suits, Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016

Here's to an at least equally successful Pride 2017!

Watch the following YouTube video of Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016

Read about Tokyo Pride Parade 2015

Read about Tokyo Gay Pride parades in general

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