Areas of Tokyo start issuing certificates recognising same sex relationships
Two Tokyo districts issued Japan's first certificates officially recognising same-sex partnerships today (Nov 5), a major step forward for gay couples in the country.
The certificates are a step towards equality, allowing same sex partners the ability to visit each other in hospital, rent an apartment and gain a variety of other benefits as a couple.
"I am exhilarated that the city I am living has recognised my partner as my family," a smiling Ms Masuhara told reporters outside the agency where they collected their certificate this morning.
Shibuya and Setagaya are the two districts issuing the certificates out of Tokyo's 23 areas.
"I hope that this will be a step forward not only for Tokyo but for the whole of Japan to become a more comfortable place to live in, because there are LGBTs nationwide," said Ms Higashi, although she said she still hadn't abandoned a dream of one day getting legally married.
Shibuya mayor Ken Hasebe, who ran for office on a pro-LGBT rights campaign, congratulated the couple. "It took a long time to get here," he said.
The central government, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has said it needs to be "very careful" when considering whether or not to make changes in the constitution allowing same-sex marriage, and some older Japanese remain wary.
"Humanity will deteriorate with fewer children being born... If we want to leave offspring, couples have to be the opposite sex," said Mr Tetsuyuki Akiyoshi, an elderly man at a Shibuya street corner.
But younger Japanese are generally in favour of LGBT rights and Japan's new education minister, Mr Hiroshi Hase, surprised the LGBT community last month by vowing in an interview to promote LGBT rights ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
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