For most people who know about Japan, especially fans of anime and traditional video games, the country is considered to be at the forefront pertaining to forward-thinking. As a result, many who consider visiting Japan as one of the tasks on their bucket list do so because of the country’s forward stance on animation, video games, and the like. Japan also has a history deeply rooted in a rich culture. One such place to visit to experience this historic culture are at Buddhist temples. As a matter of fact, the Japanese respect their Buddhist temples so much that many of them no longer allow photography, due to its association with tourists who show disrespect on the hallowed grounds.
From what was written previously, Japan seems to be a place both honoring of the past and positive of the future. However, positive attributes doesn’t equate to certain liberal views, such as the recognition of Japan’s LGBTQ community. That is why it is such a surprise that a Japanese Buddhist temple is now in the limelight for offering the liberal service of gay marriage to same-sex couples both in the country as well as for tourists.
According to the Daily Reporter, Shunkoin Temple offers gay marriage for same-sex couples. This was confirmed by the temple’s duty head priest, Rev. Takafumi Kawakami, in which he stated that five same-sex couples have exchanged vows at the temple. Despite their allowance, it is technically not considered a legal form of marriage. As a matter of fact, Takafumi made it clear that the ceremonies, though symbolic for a temple, cannot bestow the legal rights a traditional heterosexual marriage certificate does. Takafumi is, however, happy that the ceremonies are making LGBTQ issues more visible in Japan. Also, it should be noted that despite Takafumi’s liberal stance on marriage, it isn’t something he considers exclusive or specialized at the temple.
“I am not specializing the gay wedding here. I am just accepting every couple who would like to have their wedding ceremony here regardless of their faith and sexual orientation.”
In another article by Huffington Post, they reported Japan’s official constitution on marriage and what it means for the LGBTQ community. From what is reported, a marriage is a “mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as basis.” Because of the specific gender language, Japan seems to recognize a marriage only existing between a man and woman. Not only that, but the majority of the country agrees with the country’s constitution, as only 24 percent of the population believe same-sex couples should be allowed to marry legally. Takafumi Kawakami, however, made it clear that the majority of the people who don’t agree with same-sex marriage don’t understand that the restrictions have a profound effect on the LGBTQ community.
“Actually, most Japanese people don’t know about the LGBT issues in Japan. They think that LGBTs are only in foreign countries. But not in Japan. Just recently, Japanese medias started talking about the LGBT issues in Japan. But most of them talked about the LGBT issues in the context of economy, like LGBT tourism. Only few of them treat the LGBT issues as the human rights issues. So, I thought it is very important to make people think that the LGBT’s rights are a very important topic to improve in this country. I thought that performing the same-sex wedding can make this issue more visible to everyone in Japan.”
As for same-sex couples living outside of Japan who want to have their gay wedding at Shunkoin Temple, it should be reported that the temple will be more than happy to do it, but that Japan is not LGBTQ-community friendly. That is why Shunkoin Temple has teamed up with Hotel Granvia Kyoto and Out Travel Asia to offer special destination wedding packages for tourist couples who seek to get married at the temple. Shiho Ikeuchi, overseas marketing director of Hotel Granvia Kyoto, explained this in the following statement.
“Japan is not recognized as a gay-friendly travel destination. And I believe that it is important for us to inform our guests that we are LGBT friendly hotel and they can feel welcome here.”
To all of you who are a part of the LGBTQ community, what are your views about having a same-sex marriage at a Shunkoin Temple? Does this kind of marriage ceremony sound appealing or is it something you’d pass up on?
[Featured Image via Hotel Granvia Kyoto, Post Image via Wikipedia Commons]