Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida fired and then apologized for his aide’s homophobic remarks.
On Friday, Kishida’s now-former aide, Arai Masayoshi, commented in an off-the-record briefing that he would not want a same-sex couple as neighbors, going further to state that he would “not even want to look at them.”
The aide predicted that the legalization of same-sex marriage in Japan would “change the way society is,” causing “quite a few people [to] abandon this country.”
Although Masayoshi retracted his statement and apologized the same day, the prime minister fired him the next day.
Kishida provided a formal apology for Masayoshi’s comments on Monday, stating that the remarks were “completely inconsistent with the policies of the cabinet’s approach to respecting diversity and creating an inclusive society.” Masayoshi also clarified his position, explaining his “opinions” does not represent those of the prime minister’s.
This is not the first time a Japanese government official has lost their position due to homophobic comments. In December 2022, former Vice Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications Mio Sugita stepped down due to her discriminatory remarks against Japan’s LGBTQ-plus and Indigenous Ainu communities.
A daily dose of Asian America's essential stories, in under 5 minutes.
Get our collection of Asian America's most essential stories to your inbox daily for free.
Unsure? Check out our Newsletter Archive.
Despite the administration’s quick response, Masayoshi’s statements sparked controversy within Japan’s LGBTQ-plus community.
Reacting to Masayoshi’s homophobic comments, a Change.org petition was launched calling for anti-discrimination laws in the country for LGBTQ-plus individuals. As of this writing, the petition has reached 33,753 signatures out of its goal of 35,000. “Marriage For All Japan” — an organization advocating for same-sex marriage in Japan — also joined in protest by submitting a document for same-sex marriage legalization and a LGBTQ-plus rights advisor to the prime minister on Monday. The recent controversy comes as Japan prepares to host this year’s G7 Hiroshima Summit on May 19-21.
As the only G7 nation that has not legalized same-sex marriage, Japan also failed to pass an LGBTQ-plus anti-discrimination bill in 2021.
“A country where the government itself is leading the spread of discrimination is not qualified to host the G-7 summit,” Soshi Matsuoka, founder of LGBTQ-plus human rights organization Fair, stated in criticism of Kishida’s administration.
Predicting that a lack of further action would only result in “the government [repeating] the same thing over and over again,” Matsuoka called for “actual legislation to protect the human rights of LGBTQ people.”
In recent years, Japanese voters have expressed increasing support for same-sex marriage.
In 2021, a survey by Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun found that 65% that of voters supported legalization. In June 2022, Tokyo moved to recognize same-sex relationships. In November, the capital city upheld Japan’s ban on same-sex marriage, but also called out the country’s human rights violations due to a lack of legal protection for LGBTQ-plus couples.