♪ And when you do th-this ♪
♪ I like, I like, I like, I like my "S" ♪
Page: I'm in Tokyo with my best friend, Ian, to explore the LGBTQ culture of Japan.
You know, there's, uh, supposed to be an amazing gay district in Tokyo called Ni-chome, and you also have very mainstream manga that is, uh, very gay. [Chuckles] The thing that runs alongside that, though, is same-sex marriage is not legal, and something far worse than that is that there's no anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBT people.
This will be my third time in Japan. Um, the times that I've been here previous, I was severely closeted, so, personally, I'm excited to learn about all these things and excited to share the experience.
Both: "Gaycation: Japan"! Cheese!
♪ Did you see them? ♪
♪ Oh, did you see them? ♪
♪ They're just walking around, yeah ♪
[Horns honking in distance]
Page: This is Ni-chome. It's a gay district of Tokyo, and there are over 300 bars in a five-block radius. And, uh, this is my first time here, even though I've been to Tokyo twice, 'cause, in the past, I was too closeted to come [chuckling] to the gay area.
I was too terrified. Yes.
Page: Behind these closed doors lives one of the most famous gayborhoods in the world.
There are bars that cater to almost anything you might be into, each one drawing a very particular crowd, and we want to check out as many as we can. So, our first stop is Yo Chan Chi, one of Tokyo's oldest and smallest gay bars, to find out about the origins of this area.
So, when did this area sort of start to become the gay area? Like, how did that happen?
You would say that the area's changing quite a bit?
Do you sort of wish it was that way? Or are you happy that things have changed and are more open for people?
The next stop is Cholesterol Bar to meet its world-famous owner...
.. Mr. Takuya.
O...kay. Are you saying that you have a special gift for giving blowjobs?
It's your mouth?
It's your mouth.
My mouth. [speaking Japanese]
20,000 men have a mold of your throat.
I want to touch it.
Inside here is your mouth?
Yes. My mouth.
You just stick the erection...
This is the tongue. Oh, I see.
I'm not gonna try it in...
... in public. But you don't know what might happen in the hotel room.
How late does this place stay open?
I'm just curious about it.
Until I come.
I want to have a penis just to try it, honestly.
Page: We are continuing our gay crawl of Ni-chome.
Bye! I'll see you later!
I want to check out a lesbian bar.
But it's ladies only.
Gold Finger's owner, Chiga Ogawa, is a pioneering member of the Tokyo lesbian scene.
Do you think it's harder for women or men, or do you think it's equal, or... ?
Do you... Just, like, your experience being gay?
Do you think it's harder for women to be gay in Japan?
Yeah, you do?
Gold Finger is a bit of an anomaly.
There are way more venues for gay men to explore their sexuality.
Well, that was fun.
I've never been into a lesbian bar in Tokyo, and I feel like I felt a little shy.
'Cause there's pretty girls.
How could you not? [Chuckles]
We have one last stop to make for the night.
We've been invited to a secret club down a nondescript lane with no signage.
I already like it.
I like to feel like I'm going somewhere secretive.
[Man singing in Japanese]
Can I have a tequila on the rocks?
You have a crush on him. [Chuckles]
Trendy in, like... like a mainstream way or more of a niche?
Oh, wow. Cool. Oh.
Page: According to the manager, about 70% of the patrons of this club identify as straight.
It seems like cross-dressing is another niche or a fun escape from the everyday routine.
Like, does that affect you in any way as a trans person when someone's saying, like, "Oh, this cross-dressing thing's become trendy."
Like, how does that make you feel?
Do you find that you can be very open about your gender and sexuality in Japan or only in safer places like this?
So, why don't you walk me through the process of getting ready to hang out here, if I wanted to cross-dress.
He only likes to wear the maid's dress.
He doesn't have any logical reason.
It just feels good to him.
But actually, it feels a little bit stiff.
So, I'm like, "Give me some, like, Fleetwood Mac, flowing silk gowns."
So, now, my turn. Yeah?
So, let me choose...
This is the one.
Page: I love this place. I mean, the funny part of this is Ian's more comfortable in a dress than I am, which is a good example as to why we're forced to have these stereotypes and ideas attached to us because I'm born with a vag*na and he's born with a penis.
It's just absurd.
Oh, not bad.
Page: It feels like the most natural, organic, welcoming, free, awesome space.
Like, you kind of feel like you're hanging out in someone's house where people want to do something different.
And it also doesn't feel different.
It actually just feels like a really totally natural, normal thing to do, which it should be.
Here's how I feel about it.
I feel like, because I didn't do the full immersion...
I didn't shave my beard, I have a thing that shows my chest hair... that it's potentially insulting to people, but I just want to make it known that I'm having a beautiful experience.
To meet people that are accepting of me, that love to be here is... is a beautiful experience, and I think you look beautiful and everyone here is beautiful.
And I feel a little bit beautiful.
So, now what?
[Chuckles] We're cute!
[Camera shutter clicks]
[Woman singing in Japanese]
Page: Several bars and countless drinks later, we've come to the end of our gay-bar crawl.
And believe it or not, our night in Ni-chome is actually quite tame by Tokyo standards.
And from what we've heard, some of the stuff going on in the light of day is much more surreal.
Oh, my Lord!
After spending just one night in Ni-chome it is clear that Tokyo can cater to the most specific fantasies for the gay community.
But despite the variety, the vibe felt very much "behind closed doors."
But by the light of day, there's quite a bit of gay culture hidden in plain sight.
So to continue to explore the fascinating complexity of sexual identity in Japan, we're hitting up a comic-book store.
Here in the heart of Akihabara, the anime-lovers district, there is Mandarake, an eight-floor manga-comic emporium.
We're here to look into yaoi, or boys' love, which is a genre of essentially h*m* male comics written by straight women for straight women.
Daniel: Oh, my...
What is he saying?
Is he giving himself a blowjob?
I think so.
Look at that. It's so full-on.
It makes me finally...
It's hot, honestly.
You can buy one.
I'm gonna go, uh... to the bathroom.
Take this to the bathroom.
Wait, what? Hold on.
He's like, "Ellen!"
I'm gonna take this as, like, just some sort of sign.
I don't know what the sign is.
You picked the right one.
What does... What does this say?
"Ellen, you have a boner."
This is too much.
And you feel like mostly women would read this?
That's the main demographic?
I just think it's interesting how popular this, like, genre of manga is, how visible the h*m*, you know, intimate interaction is... kissing, blowjobs, et cetera.
What... What do you think's, like, going on there?
Like, why isn't there that connect in everyday life for gay people here, lesbians here?
Like, who reads this, right?
'Cause I feel like if I were a young gay man... which I am... but if I were 16, I would find this pretty interesting.
Page: We want to figure out why these straight women are getting so worked up reading about young gay men.
So we are heading to Otome Road, the epicenter of yaoi, to meet up with two super-fans.
In Japanese, "otaku" means someone who's deeply interested in something specific.
"Fujoshi" translates literally to "rotten women" and refers to fans of yaoi comics.
Many boys' love comics have been turned into audio books, and it's become a trend for the rotten women to get together and listen to these stories in karaoke booths.
Let's go. Let's go.
[Both speaking Japanese]
This is a CD.
It's... It's an audio experience. Or it's a DVD.
[Man speaking Japanese]
Okay, now we're talking.
Please listen. Please listen.
So, I'm wondering what you hope to experience by listening to this.
To feel some sort of sexual arousal?
Because this is a more erotic story, that's for sure.
It's a long one.
Do you feel like you'd have the same sensation that you're having if you saw two real-live men kissing?
Page: Do you guys have a lot of gay friends?
Yeah? And how do they feel about this kind of thing?
It feels like the rotten women are objectifying gay sex rather than understanding the reality of being gay.
So what's it like to just live your life as a gay person in Japan?
That's what I'm interested in finding out.
So far it seems to me, that Japan interprets h*m* as a cluster of fetishes and naughty hobbies.
And like a hobby, it is often presented as a choice.
But what's it like to live as an openly gay person in Japan?
To find out, we are meeting with lawyers Kazayuki and Masafumi.
They represent LGBTQ in anti-discrimination cases.
They are also a couple.
Since you guys are an open gay couple, can you talk about what that's like to be open?
So do you feel like you always have to live your life hiding, to a certain degree? Like, do you...
Are you physical in public?
Will you hold hands in public, or... ?
Would people react in an angry or violent way?
Would you just feel personal shame?
I mean, would there be repercussions to you doing that?
Do you think there will be a major cultural shift soon?
What is... What is sort of your perspective of the potential change that hopefully is coming up?
It's uplifting to meet people making bold steps to promote awareness for the LGBT community.
But how far is this progress permeating through Japan?
We've discovered another voice of progress coming from the heartland of the country in Kyoto.
Here, a Buddhist monk has teamed up with a hotel events planner to offer same-sex ceremonies in one of the city's oldest temples.
Ian and I want to know how it feels to experience the symbolic gay wedding, even if it's unrecognized by the law.
Don't mind us. Oh, thank you.
And we're both dressed in the guy one.
Oh, they like it.
They like it!
What the [bleep] is that?
Oh, my God. This is really crazy.
Oh, good Lord. All right. [Chuckles] Okay.
Oh, thank you!
Thank you so much.
Thank you. Thank you.
That was a legit red carpet.
I did not expect that at all.
Now we're going to the temple to meet the monk who holds these same-sex ceremonies, and we're gonna experience what they're like.
Obviously, we are not the same sex, but we're a couple of gays.
Mr. Kawakami is the first Zen priest to hold gender-inclusive Buddhist wedding ceremonies in Japan.
We don't really specialize for, you know, the LGBT wedding, but our stance here is we welcome every couple, regardless of, you know, sexual orientation or faith, so that's the idea.
Then, the first couple who got married here in 2010, they were actually the lesbian couples.
The very first couple to be married here was LGBT?
Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah.
There's no teaching against LGBT.
As a religious clergy, most important thing is you have to actually make people happy.
So, that's the job.
I mean, situation keep changing.
So that's actually a really important Buddhist teaching, and so that's concept of non-permanency.
Things keep changing.
So be flexible, you know, open-minded. That's also another Buddhist teaching.
So, then, what made this temple move in that direction?
Was it just the one woman asking to do it?
And then you just said, "Of course. My way is to be open and be peaceful... "
"... and make people happy"?
So it was that simple?
Yeah. Really simple. [Chuckles]
[Chanting in Japanese]
It's amazing. It's really beautiful.
Then, you know, after this, sometimes, you know, a couple kind of exchange their own vow, as well.
You want to do it? Start it?
I'll go first. Yeah.
I'm gonna really do it.
Oh, my God. Okay.
Watch it. We're gonna cry and stuff.
I might need some sake.
Um, Ian, I love you.
You, um, came into my life in the most wonderful, strange way.
I truly don't know who I would be or what I would do without you and without your friendship.
You're one of the most supportive, non-judgmental, kind, generous-of-spirit people I've ever met.
And I'm so grateful that I'm on this journey with you.
And I love you so much.
That was good. She's really good at doing that.
Wow. Okay. Here I go.
Wow. I'm really grateful for you. You're, uh, so generous, giving, loving, understanding, and you're such a great support to me.
I feel very protected when I'm around you.
And I love you dearly.
And [chuckles] um, this is a very special day to me to actually be able to share even those thoughts with you.
Page: The temple wedding is beautiful.
And, of course, a union is more than just legal status.
But if religion clearly is not an obstacle to acceptance, what is?
We are looking at q*eer culture in Japan.
And while there seems to be no ingrained religious obstacle to it, living as an openly gay person is very much frowned upon.
So I wonder just how many people remain permanently in the closet here and how do they cope.
Page: This is Mr. X.
He's agreed to speak with us as long as he remains completely anonymous.
Mr. X met his wife through an underground service in Japan that arranges marriages of convenience for gay clients to help them convince their families and friends that they're straight.
Can you walk us through a day in the life of a friendship marriage?
Are you ever in a situation where you want to have a proper relationship with a man that could potentially, you know, evolve into something, you know, very real and very special and how... wondering how you're able to do that.
If in, say, the next 5 or 10 years, there's a lot of really progressive, positive movement for LGBT people in Japan and people can start living very, uh, outwardly and perhaps same-sex marriage does become legal in Japan, I mean, is that potentially something you would want in your future?
After speaking to Mr. X, the only thing that is clear so far is that h*m* is a very complex issue here.
There's this interesting thing going on where you don't really have this, like, intense, obvious hate.
You don't have the religious aspect like we have in America.
But that being said, for the most part, LGBT people, it seems, have to live sort of hidden.
So there's this sort of strange paradox going on.
To understand this better, I'm meeting with Assemblywoman Kanako Otsuji.
She's the first openly gay woman ever elected in Japan's history and a prominent LGBT-rights' activist.
Why do you think people struggle with being comfortable with h*m*?
And why do you think that it's sort of in this what seems to be... what we call a, like, "don't ask, don't tell" kind of space?
Despite the shame and social stigma, it's remarkable that the Assemblywoman has made gay rights a public issue.
But until further progress is made, how can people come out if they're conditioned not to stand out?
Page: The idea of the collective consciousness is pervasive in Japan.
And the pressure not to stray from the norm in any significant way is strong.
But what about the brave people who want to come out?
How do they do that?
Well, some Japanese are finding very innovative ways.
We are in Shibuya, and we are going to meet Mr. Ishii, who owns a company called Family Romance, which is a company that rents out people to act as family members to go to weddings that you feel like you're not gonna have enough people or even a funeral.
Recently, LGBT people have been contacting Family Romance for specific reasons, and we're gonna go find out why that is.
I think, firstly, we would just love to hear about your business and how it works.
What are some of your most popular events?
Are they weddings, funerals... ?
What is it specifically about Japan where this service is so desired?
Where we're from, there's the same social stigma, but, as far as I know, this doesn't exist.
That's a big job.
This is the client? He's cute.
This client is paying roughly $33 an hour to have Mr. Ishii in the room while he comes out to his mother.
He has also invited us to tag along, which is amazing and humbling, but also nerve-racking and surreal.
Hi. I'm Ellen.
Nice to meet you.
Nice to meet you.
[Both speaking Japanese]
I think, um, it became so important to me to not be at all hiding anymore.
You know, like, the level of toxicity of it was just so extreme, and wanting to be in love and, like, love someone openly was far more important to me than... being in movies or, uh, having someone dislike me for my sexuality, and, also, I just think it's so important for us to move past just the shame and discomfort that we all grow up feeling.
And that's gonna happen, obviously, the most when, you know, people really start coming out.
And I just wanted to be happy.
And I wasn't happy.
[Indistinct conversation in distance]
[Chuckles] I feel like we have to, like, look less weird.
It's kind of awkward.
Well, he wanted us to be here for it, so... we're here for it. But it's...
Page: Hi. I'm Ellen. Ellen.
Daniel: Ian. Nice to meet you. Hi.
[Chuckles] She's nervous?
[Door opens, closes]
Page: This young man has just come out to his mother, and she's fled the apartment.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ishii, the rental friend, has gone out to talk to the mother.
Never experienced a kind of moment like that.
I think that was a lot. The whole setup was a lot for her.
She really felt his nerves.
And us. I mean, it doesn't...
Yeah, we're like... hovering over.
No. Don't be sorry.
You don't have to be sorry, especially not to...
It's a lot. It's heavy.
We're understanding that it's a tense environment when you have everyone in the room, and, um, we acknowledge that, on some level, we put... put you on the spot, but I think for both of us, we can say that we appreciate being able to support you, on some level.
I totally understand your reaction.
I think it's very brave for you to come back and face your son and face the truth and face the reality.
And I think the relationship between you two will blossom and grow and get stronger as long as you, you know, stick together.
My mother's a single mother, so we're very close, as well.
You need each other, you know?
Society will catch up.
Page: And just like that, we all parted ways.
The fact that Mr. Ishii was paid to be there is a reminder of the extreme loneliness that the young man must feel.
But he found a way to speak his truth, and that can't be all bad.
I think the interesting thing about the LGBT community or, you know, people who have a hard time with it is honestly the moment there's awareness or when someone in their life comes out, the change is... is fast.
It's not always super-easy at first, but I feel like people evolve quite quickly.
And I think it's because we all, obviously, understand love and desire it and [chuckles] can understand what that means for other people and hopefully can see that, you know, being gay is not a choice.
The amount of people that struggle so much because of internal issues and the shame they feel or the external issues because of the fear of being oppressed or... or hurt or k*lled, and, you know, why would someone make that choice?
Why would someone make that choice?
On April 1, 2015, the Shibuya ward of Tokyo became the first in Japan to recognize civil unions for same-sex couples.
[Cheers and applause]
Daniel: We had the best time in Japan.
To get to come to a country and meet so many people who've shared so many intimate moments, emotional moments, is just such an incredible, incredible experience, and to get to do it with my best friend.
Yeah, we had a really good time.
[Japanese singing continues]
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01x01 - Japan
Episode transcripts for the TV show "Gaycation". Aired: February 2016 to April 2017.
"Gaycation" follows Ellen and Ian as they set off to explore LGBT cultures around the world. From Japan to Brazil to Jamaica to the USA, the two meet some fascinating people during their travels and hear their stories.
1 post • Page 1 of 1
1 post • Page 1 of 1