Japan Reacts Fiercely to PM Secretary’s Anti-LGBTQ Remarks

Japan Reacts Fiercely to PM Secretary’s Anti-LGBTQ Remarks

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Man getting flamed on social media
Picture: metamorworks / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
How discriminatory comments by Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio's secretary may lead to actual reform on LGBTQ+ issues in Japan.

Just days after Prime Minister Kishida minced words on legalizing same-sex marriage, his secretary Arai Masayoshi made things worse. Speaking to reporters off the record, Arai expressed his distaste for sexual minorities, saying, “I don’t want them living next to me either.”

Arai’s comments very much made it on the record. The ensuing backlash led to Kishida summarily sacking him. Arai’s blatant discrimination prompted politicians and activists to decry his comments and reignited discussions on the government’s failure to protect sexual minorities.

Politicians React

Ara’s misconduct is causing some to wonder if Kishida shares in those sentiments. Komeito leader Yamaguchi Natsuo thought it was very telling the comments came from someone at the behest of Kishida:


The prime minister himself ensures his own staff shares an understanding in keeping with government policy. Wouldn’t it be better if the Prime Minister and his office made an effort to listen to the voices of the people affected [1]?

Members of Marriage for All Japan pose with Komeito leader Yamaguchi Natsuo after handing him a formal request for a draft of a marriage equality bill. (Source: Twitter)

Members of Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are also speaking out. House of Representative member Hosono Goshi was reluctant to address Arai’s comments directly. However, he still distanced himself from them:


I won’t comment on alleged statements, but I will say this — if you want to talk about LGBT people, make just one friend who identifies as LGBT. That way, you’ll be able to understand why we should create a society where people can live freely without discrimination, as freely as I do [2].

Meanwhile, House of Representative Koizumi Shinjiro mused on the intertwining issues of raising Japan’s declining birth rate and same-sex marriage:


Looking at the news reports on these statements, once again I feel that the government’s efforts to tackle the declining birth rate on a different dimension will never come to fruition if their policy is based on denying diverse values and ways of life [3].

Bridging the Gap

Ichinose Ayaka, one of the first celebrities to go public with her same-sex partner and marriage, said discriminatory remarks “should never be tolerated:”


…. 自民党内にも、まだ一部ではあるが、LGBTQの実情に詳しく、社会の世論と党内とのギャップを感じている人もいる。党全体で学び、行動してもらいたい。

I want a happy society for everyone, where every person can accept themselves and respect other diverse people. [Recognizing same-sex marriage] will only bring about more happier options for homosexuals. It won’t change anything for non-homosexuals. What’s there to be afraid of?

…. Even within the LDP, there’s still a small faction who understands the actual circumstances of LGBTQ people and recognize there’s a gap between public sentiment and the party. I want everyone in the LDP to learn and take action [4].

But as past incidents show, the bigotry against sexual minorities may be too deeply rooted in the conservative LDP to ever fully exorcise.


Photojournalist Yasuda Natsuki saw firsthand the consequences of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation while on assignment last year in Poland, where over 100 “LGBT-free zones” exist. The parallels she drew between Poland’s anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and Japan’s alarmed her. The incident with the secretary, she believes, is just the tip of the iceberg:

秘書官更迭は「幕引き」ではありません。「LGBTは生産性がない」と発言した杉田水脈議員をなぜ総務政務官に任命したのか? 自民党議員たちが参加した「神道政治連盟国会議員懇談会」で配られた差別表現のある冊子については? 旧統一教会の支援を受けた井上義行議員はじめ、党内の差別問題は? このような問題をあやふやにしたままでは、また同じことが繰り返されるでしょう。

今回の発言は本当に「個人」の問題なのでしょうか?「差別禁止」ではなくLGBT「理解増進」法案に留まり、それさえも通らない「土壌」は何でしょうか? その根本にも切り込む必要があるはずです。

The secretary’s dismissal doesn’t end this. Why did they appoint Diet member Sugita Mio as Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications despite her stating, ‘LGBT people are unproductive?‘” What about that discriminatory booklet distributed at a Shinto Political League gathering that several LDP members attended? And what about discrimination within the party, starting with Inoue Yoshiyuki, who’s backed by the Unification Church? The cycle will repeat itself so long as these issues remain unresolved.

Is this recent discrimination truly an issue with one person? What’s the basis for stopping at promoting understanding of sexual minorities, but not banning discrimination? It’s imperative we cut to the heart of these issues [5].

The aforementioned Inoue Yoshiyuki made statements similar to Arai’s in 2022, as this side-by-side comparison shows. Inoue likened same-sex marriage to the end of the human race (Source: Twitter)

With the lack of true marriage equality in the news, the Diet is revisiting the “Act for Promoting Understanding of LGBT” (LGBT理解増進法; LGBT rikai zoushin hou) first drafted in 2021. Unsurprisingly, renewed discussions have hit another stalemate, particularly over the bill’s phrasing and how to interpret Article 24 of the Constitution.

Article 24 guarantees marriage equality based on the consent of both sexes; nowhere does it prohibit same-sex marriage. Yet Minister of State for Economic Security Takaichi Sanae called its interpretation a “difficult issue” [6]. In regards to passing any kind of legislation, House of Councilors member Nishida Shoji urged caution, stating that a bill prohibiting discrimination would lead to “inner turmoil” summarily “dividing society” [7].

No More Halfway Measures

Activists say that any legislation needs to ban discrimination outright, not simply pass halfway measures promoting empathy. But Kishida and Arai’s gaffes may work in their favor. With Japan set to host the G7 Summit in May, it would be shocking if same-sex marriage didn’t come up in discussion. Japan remains the only G7 country without LGBTQ+ protections.

The Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation started a Change.org petition that currently has over 50,000 signatures. In the petition, they called on the Kishida government to pass stricter anti-discrimination laws, legalize same-sex marriage, and revise laws pertaining to gender dysphoria:


A country that would rather actively propagate discrimination against sexual minorities by central figures in the government, instead of defending their rights, isn’t qualified to act as the host country for the G7 Hiroshima Summit [8].

Based on Kishida’s comments, the reluctance to legalize same-sex marriage is over unfounded fears that doing so will spell the end of Japan’s traditional family values. But making sexual minorities the scapegoats for society’s ills is perpetuating discrimination that not just harms, but can even kill. A 2022 poll by NPO ReBit found 48.1% of LGBTQ+ teens had contemplated suicide. 14% actually attempted it [9].

Passing stricter discrimination laws will only improve society. Partnership systems, an uptick in LGBTQ+-friendly businesses, and even picture books reflect Japanese society’s growing acceptance of sexual minorities. Sacking Arai was the right move. But, ultimately, the government needs to do more to regain the public’s trust – and the support of sexual minorities.


[1] 公明・山口代表「当事者の声聞いて」 同性婚めぐる差別発言受け. FNN.

[2] 自民・細野豪志氏「LGBT語るなら当事者の友人持ったらいい」荒井秘書官発言に自民からも異論. Nikkan Sports.

[3] 小泉進次郎氏、差別発言秘書官の件で私見語る 「あなたの息子の性的指向が同性だったらどう思うか」. Sponichi Annex.

[4] 「寛容な保守であって」 タレント・一ノ瀬文香さん、自民へ直言. Yahoo! Japan News.

[5] 更迭は「幕引き」ではない なぜ差別は繰り返されるのか?. Dialogue for People.

[6] 高市氏「同性婚、難しい問題」 LGBT法案、慎重検討を 衆院予算委. Yahoo! Japan News.

[7] LGBT理解促進のため議員立法 早期成立なるか 自民党内で調整へ. NHK.

[8] 更迭だけで終わらせない! #岸田政権にLGBTQの人権を守る法整備を求めます. Change.org.

[9] 10代LGBTQの48.1%「自殺を考えたことがある」。マイノリティの心の声「安心して話せる相手や場所がない」【調査結果】. Huffington Post Japan.

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Alyssa Pearl Fusek

Alyssa Pearl Fusek is a freelance writer currently haunting the Pacific Northwest. She holds a B.A. in Japanese Studies from Willamette University. When she's not writing for Unseen Japan, she's either reading about Japan, writing poetry and fiction, or drinking copious amounts of jasmine green tea. Find her on Bluesky at @apearlwrites.

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