Photo/Illutration Masayoshi Arai, left, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, center, in Tokyo in December (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

British author Kazuo Ishiguro delivered a lecture after receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature six years ago.

“We saw significant progress in feminism, gay rights and the battles on several fronts against racism,” he said in his Nobel Lecture.

But the writer noted that racism “is once again on the rise, stirring beneath our civilized streets like a buried monster awakening.”

Disturbing anti-LGBT sentiment may be stirring beneath the streets of Tokyo’s Nagatacho district, the nation’s political power center.

Masayoshi Arai, an executive secretary to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, was dismissed on Feb. 4 over his discriminatory comments about sexual minorities and same-sex marriage.

His alleged remarks are out of tune with the general view among the public. For example, he reportedly said he loathed even looking at sexual minorities.

In particular, I was shocked to hear that he said legalizing same-sex marriage would prompt some Japanese to “abandon” their country.

Does he seriously think opponents would leave Japan if gay marriage became legal?

Arai was Kishida’s speech writer. It is appalling that such a shallow argument was made by a man who held such an important post.

Over the past two years, two district courts have ruled that legal provisions that do not allow same-sex marriage are unconstitutional or in a state of unconstitutionality.

The Diet’s inaction in the face of these judicial decisions has left sexual minorities in distress and torment.

Some same-sex couples have left Japan to register their marriages abroad.

There are people around the world who are forced to leave their home countries.

Some fear for their safety due to protesting a dictatorship. Others risk their lives by fleeing in small boats to escape from civil war.

Arai’s contention that some would “abandon” Japan if same-sex marriage was legalized is an insult to people striving for survival for various reasons.

In his Nobel Lecture, Ishiguro said, “If we are to play an important role in this uncertain future… I believe we must become more diverse.”

He noted that the next generation will then find new ways “to tell important and wonderful stories.”

I wonder if Japanese leaders today are ready to take up the challenge.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 5

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.