Kazuyo Katsuma, a high-profile businesswoman in Japan, surprised the nation on Monday when she announced her relationship with Hiroko Masuhara, a prominent LGBT activist.
In 2005, Katsuma made it to the Wall Street Journal’s “The 50 Women to Watch” after winning “legions of fans among Japanese working mothers” through the management of an online forum.
According to the Japan Times, she had worked for big corporate firms such as McKinsey and JPMorgan before pursuing a career as an economic commentator.
She has also written several best-selling books on work-life balance, self-management, and other topics, selling over five million copies.
In 2009, “Katsumer” — how her fans are called — was nominated as buzzword of the year.
Speaking to BuzzFeed Japan, the 49-year-old mother-of-three revealed that she has been living with Masuhara, 40, who “melted the ice” in her heart.
“I kept the lid on my feelings of attraction to members of the same sex,” Katsuma said.
“After I met Hiroko, the ice in my heart melted, although it took a few years. I hope this interview article will cheer up someone and trigger a change.”
A visible LGBT activist, Masuhara, together with her previous partner, Koyuki Higashi, received Japan’s very first same-sex partnership certificate in 2015, the Guardian noted.
While their relationship ended last year, Higashi still runs an advocacy group with Masuhara. In fact, she congratulated her and Katsuma, calling them Japan’s “first power lesbians.”
Same-sex marriage remains illegal in Japan, but unions are slowly gaining acceptance. To date, there are seven municipalities that recognize such unions.
In an interview with AFP, Fumino Sugiyama, co-chair of the Tokyo Rainbow Pride festival, said that Katsuma’s announcement “would have a great impact on society as she is such an influential person in business circles.”
“It must have required enormous courage for her to come out. Sometimes I personally hear about a well-known artist or Olympian coming out but they say they are worried about the impact,” Sugiyama said.
Featured Images via Twitter / kazuyo_k