The Shinjuku-2-chome Festival

The Shinjuku-2-chome Festival by bloompy
The Shinjuku-2-chome Festival, a photo by bloompy on Flickr.

Gay Pride Parade began in Tokyo a few years back, but about three years ago it stopped. I could only speculate why, as I have yet to find out the real reasons. Be that as it may, 2005 saw the rebirth of the Pride with a Lesbian & Gay Parade on Saturday (August 13) starting from and ending at the Yoyogi Park (which I unfortunately missed because of a food allergic reaction) and a festival today at the Shinjuku-2-chome, home to the local LGBT Tokyoites.

The Parade went through the Shibuya district, then turning onto Meiji-dori, heading toward Harajuku (via the Omotesando-dori) and back to the Yoyogi Park. I overheard people saying that the Parade was much better than the last one three years ago. Let’s hope that the Parade will be repeated next year.

The festival today started around 5pm and supposedly ended around 9pm. I was there with a couple of friends for the first two hours (as we mistakenly thought the festival would start earlier; we were in the area 3-4 hours earlier, and had had to kill time until the festivities started; geez, I really need to do my homework!!! ).

In other Japanese festivals like the Sanja-matsuri in Asakusa, two rows of attendants would collectively hoist a portable shrine on their shoulders as they did a procession from one point to another (i.e., from the gate to the temple proper). Such a procession was simulated here today, but when it started, everybody died laughing. Instead of marching to the traditional chants or to the beating of Taiko drums, this procession marched to the tune of the popular Romanian disco song “Mai Ai Hee/Dragostea Din Tee” blaring from the loudspeakers in full force. It was a fantabulous riot!!!

The festival brought out the transgenders, transvestites and lesbians out of the woodwork. This is the part of the community that I seldom see in 2-chome. Some attendants wore their yukatas, and at one point, 5 seemingly happy girls with their colorful and patterned yukatas made their stroll in the main street, stopping here and there to flirt with booth attendants. They were also kind enough to let others snap their pictures.

Taking pictures in such event is rather a thoughtful process as one has to consider the privacy of the people involved. True, they are out in public having fun and, to a certain degree, “let their hair down”, but it does not mean that they would like their orientation or association with the community be broadcasted to the entire world. At times, when in doubt, yours truly had had to ask the permission of the subjects before immortalizing their images, including of those portrayed above.

Today’s festival is dwarfed by the similar Pride-related parties in other big cities in the world, but it is nonetheless significant for the Japanese LGBT community to let their presence known. The Saturday’s Parade covered the youth-oriented Shibuya, Omotesando, and Harajuku. Someday, perhaps, the Parade will march through the more traditional Ginza where the older generation is.

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