Photo/Illutration Sexual minorities celebrate after the enactment of a same-sex partnership system in Tokyo, at the Tokyo metropolitan government building on June 15. (Taichi Kobayashi)

Sexual minority couples will be officially recognized in Tokyo after the metropolitan assembly enacted a bill to revise the ordinance on human rights on June 15.

"We believe this will lead to more diversity in Tokyo," said Yuriko Koike, the governor of Tokyo, after the assembly meeting, also referring to a different ordinance promoting sign language enacted the same day. "We would like to strategically publicize their contents so that people can use the new systems."

The metropolitan government will begin issuing partnership certificates to same-sex couples from Nov. 1.

Applications will be accepted from Oct. 11.

Partners 18 or older who pledge to respect and help each other for life are eligible for the certificates.

At least one of the couple must be a sexual minority living in, or commuting to, Tokyo for work or school. The system, called "the partnership oath system," will not be limited by nationality if they meet the requirements. 

Applications for the certificates will be made online, in principle. The Tokyo metropolitan government will issue certificates after checking the extracts from their family register and a residence certificate submitted by the couple.

The certificates will include their common names and their children’s names.

Those who have the certificates can apply to move into public apartment complexes operated by the metropolitan government.

If at least one of them moves into Tokyo, the metropolitan government will accept applications from three months prior.

The central government has not legally recognized same-sex marriages, though many prefectures and municipalities issue legally nonbinding certificates recognizing sexual minority couples.

In Tokyo, as of June 15, such a system has already been introduced in 10 wards: Shibuya, Setagaya, Nakano, Toshima, Edogawa, Bunkyo, Minato, Adachi, Kita and Arakawa.

The system is also in place in six cities in western Tokyo: Fuchu, Koganei, Kokubunji, Kunitachi, Tama and Musashino, according to the metropolitan government.

Nationwide, eight prefectures have already introduced the system: Ibaraki, Osaka, Gunma, Saga, Mie, Aomori, Akita and Fukuoka.

The ordinance on sign language jointly proposed by all assembly members unanimously passed the metropolitan assembly.


An advocacy group by sexual minorities living in Tokyo, Partnership Act for Tokyo, held a news conference at the metropolitan government building on June 15.

"I now feel we can live together as a family,” said Soyoka Yamamoto, head of the group. “I hope the system will work so that we can use it with ease.” 

Mamiko Moda is involved in operating an association called Kodomap, which holds meetings for sexual minorities who want to raise children.

“Being recognized and socially acknowledged as having a family makes it easier for me to live in society,” she said. 

Moda said she received strange looks from people when she took her child to the hospital with her same-sex partner.

“This new system leads to greater peace of mind,” she said.

Robert Campbell, a Japanese literature researcher who is openly gay, said, “Being recognized by the local government is a driving force in helping more people understand us.

“It is an opportunity to tell my identity,” he said. 

Gon Matsunaka is president of Pride House Tokyo consortium, which helps solve problems sexual minorities face.

"The system gives hope for the future of children who are currently struggling,” he said.

Matsunaka hopes more companies will take up the matter and that the system will be copied across the country.

Fumino Sugiyama, co-representative of the nonprofit organization Tokyo Rainbow Pride, told the conference how he is engaged in child-rearing with his partner.

"I’m glad to be able to put the child's name on the certificate,” he said.

However, the same-sex partnership system is legally non-binding--it only certifies the couple’s relationship.

“We still cannot call it human rights unless the right of marriage is recognized,” said Shelly, a Japanese television personality. 

She said same-sex couples can be declared as being equal to heterosexual couples "when their rights to choose (how to live) is established as a matter of course.”