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Japan's First Lady Akie Abe Joins Tokyo Gay Pride Parade: VIDEO

Akieabe

Japan's first lady Akie Abe participated in Tokyo's Gay Pride parade on Sunday to show her support for LGBT people, AFP reports:

The 51-year-old wife of conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe donned a white suit to stand on a float with a drag queen, as some 3,000 participants marched through the trendy Shibuya business and shopping district.

Akie, known for her liberal inclinations, wrote on her Facebook page later that she has been involved in the issue since joining a commission set up by UNAIDS and the Lancet medical journal last year.

“I want to help build a society where anyone can conduct happy, enriched lives without facing discrimination,” she wrote.

Watch Akie on her float, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Gay Artist's HIV Awareness Billboard Censored In Japan For 'Indecency'

Murata_hiv_billboard

Last December, an HIV-awareness billboard commissioned from gay artist Poko Murata appeared in the Tokyo gay district of Shinjuku Ni-chome. The billboard — advertising the AIDS pharmaceutical company Viiv Healthcare — featured a ring of Japanese men alongside the text, "There are people living with and without HIV and we're all already living together."

In January, Murata received a complaint from the Shinjuku district office that his billboard was "contrary to public order and morality" because of one of the men in his ad was wearing only underwear. After re-drawing the man in a slightly unzipped pair of shorts, the office continued to complain because the man's underwear was still visible.

The artist himself considers the complaint "an obvious prejudice and discrimination against gays," especially considering that the district has numerous advertisements for straight bars featuring real-life women in skimpy underclothes. Journalist Dan Littauer also notes that the Tokyo police have arrested gay bookstore employees in the past for selling obscenity even though one can easily find similarly "obscene" books in hetero sex shops.

A clothed version of Murata's sign was placed over the original earlier this week.


17-Year-Old Japanese Student Comes Out In Inspiring 'I Have a Dream, Too' Speech: VIDEO

Japan

This past December, a seventeen-year-old Japanese student entered the Hokkaido Prefectural English Speech Contest, held in Sapporo, Japan and gave a rousing speech on LGBT rights. Little is known at this time about the young man who gave the oration which began with an examination of Russia’s recently enacted anti-gay laws and the controversy over the then-upcoming Sochi Olympics. The student asked, 

Why do gay people have to face discrimination? Is it because they are not heterosexual? Is it a sin to love somebody of the same gender? The law cannot control love or people's feelings.

However, what began as a more academic examination of persecutions LGBT people face quickly became personal:

I have faced discrimination too. I am gay. I realized this when I was a junior high-school student, although I never told anybody somehow my classmates guessed that I was. They rejected me and treated me like I was not a human being; one girl said to me "I can't believe someone like you exists". It made me feel like I was completely alone. In high school I decided to keep my secret safe and never tell anyone about who I really am on the inside. But this year I wanted to stop hiding that part of myself.

The student went on point out the differences between attitudes towards LGBT person in the United States and Europe and the rest of the world, particularly Japan:

In Japan, we are afraid of being different, but we don't show our hate so openly. It is silent discrimination. If nobody talks about the problem then it doesn't exist. Many gay people in Japan hide who they really are because they are afraid of being rejected, not with angry words or threats of violence, but with isolation. Being gay in Japan is a very lonely existence.

Maybe it will be difficult for me to live my life just like other people. But this is my life. I'm going to live it no matter what people say. Martin Luther King once said "Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." When I feel scared I often think of this quote. Making this speech was my first step, I never thought that I could tell people that I am gay.

 I too have a dream. One day down in the meadows of Hokkaido, gay people and straight people are chatting together and eating BBQ in the sunshine. I have a dream of a world without any prejudice, hate or ignorance which causes blind discrimination against what we can't understand. I can see the road ahead will be difficult, but I must be brave. Not just for myself, but for other young people like me.

You can read the full transcript of the speech and watch the video, AFTER THE JUMP…

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Japanese Government Defends Mass Dolphin Kill: VIDEO

Dolphinkill

The Japanese government Monday defended its practice of dolphin killing on Monday after U.S. ambassador Caroline Kennedy tweeted objections to it, the NYT reports:

DolphinMs. Kennedy objected to a form of fishing called “drive hunt” killing, in which dolphins are herded together by boats into an area they cannot escape, resulting in the capture of scores, if not hundreds, of dolphins. Critics have called the practice inhumane for the sheer number of dolphins killed and the threat it poses to the animal’s populations.

“Deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing. USG opposes drive hunt fisheries,” Ms. Kennedy said in her post on Saturday, referring to the United States government’s position on the issue.

On Tuesday, responding to the criticism, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, defended the practice.

“Dolphin fishing is a form of traditional fishing in our country,” he said, responding to a question about Ms. Kennedy’s criticism. “We will explain Japan’s position to the American side.”

Watch a Euronews report on the cull, AFTER THE JUMP...

The Sea Shepherd conservation society has been monitoring the slaughter with a livestream and on Facebook.

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Watch As Scientists Levitate Objects With Incredible Sound Wave Technology: VIDEO

Tokyolevitation

Researchers at the University of Tokyo have created sound wave technology powerful enough to levitate small objects in three dimensions, and the resultant images are fascinating. Using four sets of speakers aimed directly at each other, the scientists are able to create an "ultrasonic focal point" and move small, bead-like particles around in the air. Though levitation via sound waves has been achieved before, this research ups the ante by allowing the particles to move up and down, side to side, and at different angles, their varied movement dictated by shifts in the output of each speaker set. 

Check out an informative, awesome video of the levitating action, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Gengoroh Tagame’s ‘The Passion Of Gengoroh Tagame: Master Of Gay Erotic Manga’: Book Review

BY GARTH GREENWELL

PassionI tend to cover my eyes at horror movies, if I can’t avoid them altogether; I hate violence of all kinds; Law & Order has about as much gore as I can manage. And yet, when I first flipped through this collection of Gengoroh Tagame’s erotic manga, which is obsessed with the domination and  torture of burly, hyper-masculine men, all of it depicted in sexual explicitness, my reaction shifted quickly from cringing shock, to fascination, to something like amazement.

In the most brutal of the seven graphic narratives here (there are also helpful essays by Edmund White, Chip Kidd, and Graham Kolbeins), men are kidnapped, drugged, beaten, and raped in horrible ways, often for the entertainment of an audience. In no way is this book for everyone, as Tagame himself acknowledges in discussion with Kolbeins. But neither is it a book only for those whose fantasies tend in the direction of Tagame’s own. I loved this book by the time I finished it, and I found myself lingering over even very brutal panels, not out of titillation but wonder.

This has mostly to do with Tagame’s art. Even in depicting violence, his drawings have an extraordinary delicacy, conveying extremes of emotion—humiliation, pain, despair, but also arousal, relief and, in one story, heartbreaking devotion—with incredible economy. The essays offered here discuss Tagame’s debt to Japanese woodblock prints, and I found myself marveling at the fine textures of his work, the gorgeous patterning of clothing, floor tiles, landscapes, the hairs on a man’s legs or the sweat on his face. 

Most of Tagame’s panels are too explicit to be shared here. But my own introduction to his work came through this wonderful short video my brilliant friend Max Freeman made as part of an interview he did with Tagame for the Huffington Post. (Max is also one of the creators of the fabulous queer web series The 3 Bits, whose Kickstarter campaign you should rush over to support.) In the video, Max films Tagame making one of his sketches (this one is rated PG) and talking charmingly about how he became an artist. 

 

For all their beauty as art, the narratives collected in The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame—appearing here for the first time in English—are also compelling as stories. They range across genres, styles, and historical periods, and often have elements of fantasy or science fiction. (One story features a drug that turns men into sexual beasts; another has a detective who receives psychic revelations through sexual experiences of certain kinds.) Though all of them have at their center sexual interactions defined by domination and submission, not all of them are brutal. In four of the stories, the sex is consensual, and in my favorite, the very moving “Exorcism,” a world of samurai warriors is the unexpected setting for almost unbearable tenderness. 

TagameIt may be precisely this emotional range that lifts Tagame’s manga. In “Missing,” a story of political kidnapping that has some of the most excruciating scenes in the book, what seems like an unremittingly dark narrative transforms suddenly into a story of love, if of a disquieting kind. These kinds of moves elevate Tagame’s stories above simple narrative frames for sexual acts, and they kept me dizzied and invested as I read. As did the intelligence that's everywhere evident in these pages, a restless interrogation of phenomena with which we’re all complicit, whether the ritualization of violence in sport and entertainment or the cult of masculinity that Tagame’s stories repeatedly undermine and exploit.

I don’t think it’s likely I would have found this collection without Max’s video and the recommendation of other friends. Had I stumbled upon it in a bookstore, I’m fairly sure I would have set it down after the briefest of glances. But reading it through I felt what is one of my measures of meaningful art: having spent time in Tagame’s imagination, I turn from it with a richer sense of the world. As I say above, this book certainly isn’t for everyone—but don’t be too quick to conclude that it isn’t for you. 

Previous reviews...
Jason K. Friedman’s ‘Fire Year’
David Levithan’s ‘Two Boys Kissing’
Thomas Glave’s ‘Among the Bloodpeople: Politics and Flesh’
Duncan Fallowell’s ‘How to Disappear: A Memoir for Misfits’

Garth Greenwell is the author of Mitko, which won the 2010 Miami University Press Novella Prize and was a finalist for both the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award and a Lambda Award. He is currently an Arts Fellow at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.


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