Tokyo elects first openly gay politician in the history of modern Japan
It is hoped that Taiga Ishikawa will soon become known for being a politician rather than the first openly gay individual to enter political office in Japan in the modern period. After all, when this happens, then the people of Japan and throughout the world will know that sexual discrimination is being tackled openly and this applies to discrimination against homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) individuals.
This issue is important because Japan is a democratic nation, but like many nations, open discrimination against people from different sexual backgrounds is the norm. Therefore, Ishikawa—who was elected in Tokyo’s Toshima ward—is breaking ground in a mainly conservative nation as have other politicians in other nations who are openly gay. It shows that steps are being taken in the right direction in Japan.
In an ideal world, the electorate should not care about the sexual orientation of an individual; the only important factor should be his or her policies and if that candidate is highly motivated about representing his or her constituency.
Harvey Milk in America also broke fresh ground when he became elected to public office because he was the first individual to be elected who was openly gay. Unlike Ishikawa, Harvey Milk was based in a political hotbed of gay activism in San Francisco. Ishikawa, on the other hand, was elected on a much quieter ticket and thankfully the electorate chose him because they deemed him to be the most suitable candidate.
But is this a new awakening and a move toward sexual equality? If we look at Ishikawa’s election in a historical context, Japan before and during the Edo period was very open about sexuality. Several important figures in Japanese history had bisexual tendencies or preferred men and in art and culture you can find depictions of homosexual sex and so forth. The Meiji period (1868) was much more conservative and sexual orientation became more important within the structures of society. Therefore, it could be argued that Ishikawa is re-connecting Japan to its past tolerance of sexuality.
After his election, Ishikawa stated that “I hope my election victory will help those like me to have hope for tomorrow, as many of them cannot accept themselves, feel lonely and isolated and even commit suicide.” He went on to add: “Many LGBTs, or sexual minorities, realize the fact when they are at elementary and junior high schools, many of which are operated by the municipality. As a ward assembly member, I would like to reinforce support to LGBT children at schools.”
It is obvious that Ishikawa wants to raise serious issues related to LGBT rights and this is clearly understandable. However, it is hoped in time that he will become known for being a politician who represents the electorate in Toshima Ward. He is 36 years old and is the author of “Boku No Kareshi Wa Doki Ni Iru” (Where Is My Boyfriend?). His youthfulness is welcomed because the younger generation needs to get involved in politics and break the stranglehold of politics by association.
Ishikawa said that he will do his best to make Toshima Ward friendly toward the younger generation and foreign residents. This is welcome because there is a lot of political apathy among young people in Japan; they feel alienated or have lost their faith in politics.
Modern Tokyo Times