Asia

Japan same-sex couples recognised in two Tokyo districts

  • 5 November 2015
  • From the section Asia
Hiroko Masuhara and Koyuki Higashi hold certificate Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Hiroko Masuhara (L) and her partner Koyuki Higashi were the first to register their partnership

Two districts of Japan's capital Tokyo have started issuing certificates recognising same-sex partnerships.

They are designed to encourage landlords and hospitals to treat gay couples the same way as married ones.

However, the documents do not provide the same legal status as marriage.

BBC Tokyo correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes says campaigners are welcoming "a small step forward in a deeply conservative country".

Younger people in Japan generally support gay rights but the prime minister has previously urged caution over changing the law.

Hiroko Masuhara, 37, and Koyuki Higashi, 30, were the first to register their partnership in Shibuya district.

Ms Higashi, an actress, told reporters she hoped the measure would spread across Japan and eventually lead to same-sex marriage being legalised.


Analysis: Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, Tokyo correspondent

The certificates are at best a symbolic step forward and have no legal teeth to prevent discrimination.

Nevertheless social attitudes towards gay and lesbian couples are slowly starting to change here.

An opinion survey published by Japan's Mainichi newspaper recently showed 44% of people now support same-sex marriage while 39% are opposed.


Japan does not have any national legislation specifically banning discrimination against gay people. Couples complain of being blocked from tenancies and prevented from visiting loved ones in hospital.

"I hope the day will come soon when there will be equality in society," Ms Higashi said, according to the AFP news agency.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The same couple held a wedding ceremony in 2013 but there is no legal recognition for same-sex marriage in Japan

Shibuya district mayor Ken Hasebe, congratulated the couple.

"It took a long time to get to here," he said.

Another wealthy district of the capital, Setagaya, has also started to offer the certificates.

Setagaya's mayor Nobuto Hosaka issued five same-sex couples with the papers on Thursday afternoon, according to the Kyodo news agency.

Mobile phone networks NTT DoCoMo and KDDI have previously said they would offer their family discounts to same-sex couples who provide a certificate.

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