Japanese LGBTQ couples opt for ‘photo weddings’ amid same-sex marriage ban

Japanese LGBTQ couples opt for ‘photo weddings’ amid same-sex marriage ban

LGBTQ couples in Japan are turning to creative ways to celebrate their love despite the odds. Same-sex marriage is illegal in Japan, so young same-sex couples are instead holding “photo weddings,” where they dress in traditional kimonos or trendy wedding gowns and trendy formals for lavish photo shoots.

These types of “photographic weddings” are carefully arranged images that are intended to be nothing more than a tangible keepsake for the couple.

Given Japan’s conservative society, where LGBTQ people often face prejudice and stigmatization, even from their families, photo shoots give them an opportunity to accept their true selves with their partners.

Reuters spent eight months documenting these weddings in collaboration with Onestyle, a studio based in Tokyo and Yokohama.

Japan’s ‘Photo Weddings’: An Escape for LGBTQ People in a Conservative Society

The couples taking part in the Reuters survey waived the right to remain anonymous to avoid any future discrimination.

The 40-year-old office worker shared her experience of such a wedding photoshoot, when she arrived at the studio with her 35-year-old partner in a matching dress. She stressed the importance of creating a tangible memory for themselves, as not everyone in their lives is aware of their relationship. They chose the day to apply for a partnership agreement with their local council for the photoshoot, highlighting the challenges of finding studios that are willing to accept same-sex couples.

Another couple in their 50s who attended a wedding photoshoot noticed that society’s attitudes towards LGBTQ people are changing, although progress is slow.

Onestyle, founded in 2015, serves more than 2,000 couples each year, of which founder Natsue Ikeda says up to 5 percent are LGBTQ.

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Japan is the only G7 country that does not recognize same-sex marriage and does not provide legal protections for LGBTQ people, despite public support and court rulings opposing such a position.

While many municipalities allow same-sex partnerships, they do not provide the same rights as marriage. Partners cannot inherit property, obtain parental rights or provide hospital visits.

A Fuji TV poll found that 91.4 percent of respondents in their teens and 20s support same-sex marriage, while fewer than half of those over 70 support it, highlighting a generational divide in Japanese society over views on same-sex marriage.

The 27-year-old genderqueer spoke about her mother’s traditional expectations and her grandmother’s warning against revealing her relationship to other relatives. The couple wore kimonos and exchanged specially made rings containing each other’s DNA.

Japan is under domestic and international pressure to improve LGBTQ rights. A landmark ruling in March declared Japan’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, a decision that is currently being appealed to the Supreme Court.

Photographer Kim Kyung-Hoon captured the weddings for Reuters, highlighting the joy of couples and the challenges of living in an open atmosphere in Japan.

(With agency guidance)

Riya Teotia

Riya is a Senior Contributing Editor at WION and a passionate storyteller who creates moving and detailed stories through her articles. She enjoys writing about defense

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