In response to a gaffe by a ruling Liberal Democratic Party executive, the Foreign Ministry invited same-sex partners of foreign dignitaries based in Japan for the first time to a reception to celebrate Emperor Akihito’s 84th birthday.

The reception on Dec. 22 was hosted by Foreign Minister Taro Kono and his wife at the Foreign Ministry's Iikura House in the Azabudai area of Tokyo's Minato Ward.

The emperor's birthday is Dec. 23, a national holiday.

It marked the first time the ministry has included several same-sex partners of foreign dignitaries to the annual event where diplomats, Japanese government officials and other experts are in attendance. The ministry didn’t list the countries involving same-sex partners due to privacy concerns.

The partners were invited following a controversial remark by Wataru Takeshita, chairman of the LDP's general council, who said on Nov. 23 he disagreed with the idea of letting partners of state guests in same-sex relationships attend banquets hosted by the emperor and empress at the Imperial Palace.

Responding to the fierce backlash against Takeshita's gaffe, Kono declared at the Lower House Budget Committee on Nov. 28 that companions of ambassadors and others would be treated as a “spouse” or “partner” at ministry events regardless of their marital status: legal marriage, or in a de facto marriage, or if they are of the same or different genders.

However, the ministry retained its policy of not recognizing the same-sex partner of foreign dignitaries as “spouse” because same-sex marriages are not officially recognized in Japan.

Same-sex partners of foreign dignitaries are treated as dependents, in the same category as “children under 23” in such invitations.