The LGBTQ community of Japan has experienced its own set of historical challenges, faced today by the queer communities that inhabit the land. However, despite conservative idealogies within the country that encourage the community to remain unseen, change is occurring bringing those within the queer community into the light.
Edges of the Rainbow, a new photo book by Parisian-born New York photographer Michel Delsol and Tokyo-born journalist Haruku Shinozaki unveils the fascinating, resilient and unforgettable characters within the country's proud and present LGBTQ community.
In Edges of the Rainbow, we are introduced to a gay Episcopal priest; a lesbian couple who discuss their lives via radio and TV; a trans female pop star; an intersex author; a gay, all-male music group that addresses LGBTQ culture through electronic music; among other inspiring and motivated people all living their lives openly and honestly.
Long-standing all-female bar Gold Finger has been in operation for 26 years. Owner and manager Chiga began the operation in 1991 in order to supply lesbians with a space where they could find friendship and love, but above all, be themselves.
As of today, just Saturdays are still women-only while on the third Saturday of every month, the bar hosts Tokyo's most popular lesbian party, also dubbed Goldfinger, held at a larger venue called Aisotope in Shinjuku Ni-chome's district. Aisotope is known locally for its strong drinks and nonchalant unisex bathrooms.
Yoshiki is a Episcopal priest living and teaching religiously as an out, gay male. Every Sunday, he conducts a prayer and worship service for the LGBTQ community in a self-appointed church in Ni-Chome a district of Shinjuku, Tokyo, the LGBTQ district of Tokyo.
As early as 1948 Ni-Chome has held a distinguishing place as the queer hub of Tokyo, housing the highest concentration of gay bars in Tokyo. Within the five blocks centering on street Naka-Dōri near the Shinjuku San-chōme Station and, an estimated 300 gay bars and nightclubs provide entertainment for the district's community.
Tatsuki, who is intersex, was born in a hospital in the central Japan region of Nara. The doctors designated Tatsuki neither female nor male prompting his gender identity to be defined as "other." He is happily married to a woman named Eishin.
According to the Intersex Society of North America, roughly 1 in every 1500 births result in intersexuality in America each year, but many more are born with more subtle variations of sexual anatomy.
Ai Haruna is a pop idol and well respected civil rights activist within the Tokyo community. Haruna is a trans woman -- also known in Japanese as a "newhalf." She is one of the hosts of prime-time show Barrier Fre, which airs on Japan's national public broadcasting network, NHK and focuses on fighting prejudice within the country.
Most, if not all of Haruna's fans are familiar with her trans identity. In October 2009, Haruna won the "Miss International Queen 2009" transgender beauty pageant held in Pattaya, Thailand, becoming the first Japanese contestant to win the title. She has used her platform as a pop star to be a face of the transgender community, further normalizing the identity within the country.