LGBTQ Couples in Japan Choose ‘Photo Weddings’ Amid Same-Sex Marriage Ban

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LGBTQ Couples in Japan Choose ‘Photo Weddings’ Amid Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Capturing Memories Despite Legal Barriers

TOKYO/YOKOHAMA, Japan (Reuters) – With same-sex marriage still illegal in Japan, LGBTQ couples are finding alternative ways to celebrate their relationships. One popular option is “photo weddings,” where couples dress in traditional kimonos and formal wear for professionally choreographed photos. However, these treasured images often remain private due to societal stigma.

A Hidden Celebration

For eight months, Reuters documented these photo weddings at Onestyle studios in Tokyo and Yokohama. Couples, who wished to keep their identities hidden, shared their experiences of seeking studios that would accommodate same-sex photo shoots. “Not everyone, like my parents or friends, know about our relationship,” said a 40-year-old woman who posed with her partner in Yokohama.

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Limited Legal Recognition

Japan, the only G7 country not recognizing same-sex marriage, offers limited rights through partnership agreements in some municipalities. These agreements don’t allow couples to inherit assets or have parental rights, and hospital visitation is not guaranteed. Despite public support and some court rulings declaring the ban unconstitutional, the conservative government has struggled to pass anti-discrimination laws.

Changing Attitudes

A 53-year-old office worker, who had a photo wedding with his partner, noted societal attitudes are slowly shifting. Established in 2015, Onestyle conducts photo weddings for over 2,000 couples annually, with up to 5% being LGBTQ. “The photos will be our treasure,” said a 32-year-old graphic designer who had a photo wedding with her transgender partner.

Generational Divide

Surveys indicate younger generations are more supportive of same-sex marriage. A Fuji TV survey found 91.4% of young respondents support legalization, compared to less than half of those aged 70 or older. Despite some familial acceptance, many LGBTQ individuals still face prejudice.

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Slow Legislative Progress

Although Japan passed legislation to promote LGBTQ understanding, the language was diluted, providing no human rights guarantees. A landmark high court ruling declared the same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, but it has been appealed to the Supreme Court. Ipsos polling reveals low support for LGBTQ openness in Japan compared to other countries.

“Legal changes are nice, but they don’t mean much if society as a whole doesn’t start to normalize the existence of LGBTQ people,” remarked a 46-year-old man who had a photo wedding in traditional attire.

(Reporting by Kim Kyung-Hoon and Satoshi Sugiyama; Editing by John Geddie and Miral Fahmy)

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