Tokyo on Sunday opened its first major community hub for LGBTQ people this month, part of a pre-Olympics project that campaigners hope will tackle stigma and raise awareness of discrimination.
Pride House Tokyo is based on similar inclusive pop-up sites set up at past Olympics, but will offer a permanent meeting space and information centre, seeking to educate the public about sexual diversity and offer refuge to those suffering harassment or discrimination.
While Japan has some protections for sexual minorities, it remains the only G7 country that does not recognise same-sex unions, and many couples say they can struggle to rent apartments together and are even barred from hospital visits.
Those challenges mean spaces like Pride House, set up in coordination with Tokyo 2020 Olympic organisers, are sorely needed in Japan, activists say.
“Japan, not just in sporting circles but society as a whole — including schools and workplaces — is not friendly to LGBTQ people, and it is hard to come out,” Gon Matsunaka, who heads the project behind Pride House, told AFP.
While the centre is being set up under a recent Olympic tradition, the project is officially named “Pride House Tokyo Legacy”, and activists hope its influence will extend beyond the Games.
The venue “will be a landmark that could change the landscape for LGBTQ people in Japanese society,” Matsunaka said.
The International Olympic Committee echoed hopes for a lasting legacy.
“In sport, we are all equal,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement released Sunday.
“We therefore welcome that Tokyo 2020 has embedded diversity and inclusion in the Olympic Games model,” he said, wishing “the Pride House Tokyo success”.
– ‘Unthinkable to come out’ –
The first Pride House — inspired by the tradition of Olympic hospitality centres for national teams — was launched at