87% in Japan Say Sexual Diversity Should Be Honored: Survey

87% in Japan Say Sexual Diversity Should Be Honored: Survey

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LGBTQ+ flags
Picture: Chinnapong / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
A new survey shows support for businesses with LGBTQ+-positive messaging - and a surprising level of support for sexual diversity in general.

As LGBTQ+ awareness spreads in Japan, more businesses are grappling with how to respond to it in their own sales and marketing materials. A new survey aimed at providing marketing insight finds that LGBTQ+-friendly messaging, on balance, generates a positive perception. But it also found a surprisingly large percentage of people approving of sexual diversity in general.

Broad tolerance for sexual diversity

Neo Marketing, the marketing research firm that conducted the survey, notes that many companies are considering how to address LGBTQ+ issues as part of a push in Japan toward Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDGs are benchmarks set by the United Nations in multiple areas to improve quality of life. Initiatives include goals such as eliminating poverty or promoting gender quality. Interest in SDGs has exploded recently, making the term one of Japan’s hot new buzzwords back in 2021.

For this survey, Neo Marketing focused on LGBTQ+ awareness. It also asked a few questions about gender equality. It conducted an Internet survey of 1,000 men and women ages 20 to 69 in Japan over three days. Of those, 200 identified as LGBTQ+; 300 identified as knowing someone who is LGBTQ+; and 500 identified as not knowing an LGBTQ+ person.

The poll found widespread awareness of the terms LGBTQ+, LGBT, and LGBTQ. Even close to 86% of people who said they didn’t know an LGBTQ+ person said they were strongly or somewhat aware of the meaning of the terms.

More impressively, the survey found that a total of 87.7% of respondents agreed with the following statement: “There’s no ‘correct’ or ‘ordinary’ when it comes to sexuality and no question of superiority or inferiority. Therefore you should honor your own sexuality and that of others.”

Survey from Neo Marketing showing that 87.7% of respondents support sexual diversity
Source: Neo Marketing

Broken down by bracket, 91.5% of LGBTQ people agreed with the statement (I wanna know what the other 8.5% were thinking), while 91.3% of people who knew an LGBTQ+ person agreed. But even among those who didn’t know an LGBTQ+ person, a full 84% answered in the affirmative.


30% say they think better of LGBTQ+-friendly companies

The survey also asked respondents what they think of businesses that showed consideration towards LGBTQ+ people in their promotional materials. Of the 563 people who responded to the question, 32.2% said their positive feelings about such companies increased. And 26.6% said they would want to support such companies in the future. (Interestingly, the group that most said their positive feelings would increase was the group that said they knew LGBTQ+ people in their lives.)

Graph of results of survey asking how people felt of ads that offered positive impressions of LGBTQ+ people

Neo Marketing asked the same question regarding materials that touch upon gender equality. Here, it found 30% felt better about such companies but only 21% would be more willing to support them.

In both cases, the group that most dragged down these results was the group that didn’t know any LGBTQ+ people in their lives. Only around 21% of them would think better of a company that supported LGBTQ+ people and only 15.3% would support them. The numbers for gender equality support – 18.3% and 13.6%, respectively – were even worse. This speaks perhaps to the overarching difficulty that feminists have promoting their message in Japan.

In response to both questions, a majority across all categories said that LGBTQ+-friendly messaging didn’t impact their attitudes one way or another. Again, this trend was more pronounced amongst those who didn’t know anyone in their lives who is LGBTQ+.

Positive impressions from LGBTQ+-friendly entertainment

One result that really stood out is how people perceive entertainment that shows consideration for LGBTQ+ people and issues. In total, 550 respondents say they’ve seen such scenes in movies, drama, or anime. 48% said such scenes left a favorable (22.2%) or mostly favorable (25.8%) impression.

Survey from Neo Marketing showing broad support for scenes in TV, movies, etc. that are LGBTQ+-friendly
Source: Neo Marketing

Not surprisingly, LGBTQ+ people themselves were the ones most likely to view such scenes favorably, at 66.7%. Of those who didn’t know any LGBTQ+ people, only 23.4% had a favorable impression. However, of those, 50.9% said it didn’t affect them one way or another. Only 12% of that group said it left a negative impression.

One consistent finding from these results is that actual ill feeling toward LGBTQ+ people is a minority position. Positive messaging regarding LGBTQ+ people in Japan leaves a positive impression.

The problems faced by LGBTQ+ people in Japan

Another interesting section of Neo Marketing’s survey focused on its respondents who identified as LGBTQ+. It asked them if they were things they couldn’t do, or things they felt they had to endure, because of their gender identity or sexuality. 66.5% of LGBTQ+ respondents said there are (41%) or occasionally are (25.5%).

Survey from Neo Marketing showing that 66.5% of LGBTQ+ people feel their freedoms are limited
Source: Neo Marketing

Neo provided a verbatim section for respondents to provide details on the restrictions they feel in modern Japanese society. Some common themes include:

  • Inability to get married or rent/buy a home
  • Trouble with contracts (many same-sex couples cannot enter contracts together because their unions aren’t recognized)
  • Feeling unable to talk freely about their partners in casual conversation
  • Being misgendered (e.g., being recommended women’s clothes and accessories while shopping)
  • Feeling unable to dress as one wants
  • Feeling unable to engage in simple public displays of affection, such as holding a partner’s hand

LGBTQ+ rights make progress in Japan – and work remains

LGBTQ+ issues have gained significant traction and public support in Japan in recent years. Mainstream TV shows and print media routinely cover LGBTQ+ couples and the struggles they face. Support for marriage equality in some surveys hits 80%. And local “partnership” systems for same-sex couples, which confer some legal benefits, now cover over half of the country’s population.

But many challenges and obstacles remain. Marriage equality at the national level is still a distant goal. LGBTQ+ couples – especially transgender people – still face discrimination at work and in the courts.

Although awareness of LGBTQ+ people is spreading, acknowledgment of their rights is still a work in progress.


[1] 「ジェンダーに関する調査」. PR Times

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Jay Allen

Jay is a resident of Tokyo where he works as a reporter for Unseen Japan and as a technial writer. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and is fervently working on his Kanji Kentei Level 2 certification.

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