Nakano Ward to recognize same-sex couples.

Chizuka Ooe(right)and Yoko Ogawa(left), their relationship is more than 25 years.

Nakano Partnership Oath started on September 6th. Nakano Ward, Tokyo started offering partnership certificates at the ward office.

The first couple that received a same-sex partnership certificate in Nakano is Chizuka Ooe and Yoko Ogawa. Ms. Ooe is the representative of a support group for lesbians and female bisexuals, LOUD, and another support group aimed at legalizing same-sex marriage in Japan. The couple met at a get-together for lesbians about twenty-five years ago. They have lived together for more than twenty years.

Speaking of twenty-five years ago, the internet was not common at all. There was no magazines for lesbians at that time. It must have been extremely difficult for them to get information about sexual orientation and survive from discrimination and prejudice. Ms. Ogawa was actually thinking about killing herself at that time. It is nothing but a miracle that they met at that time, decided to live together, and finally received the same-sex partnership certificate after experiencing the ups and downs. No one can listen to their story without shedding tears.

On September 6th, the partnership ceremony took place in the ward office. Not only Naoto Sakai, the ward mayor of Nakano, but also Wataru Ishizaka of Nakano Ward, members of a support group that had worked hard to start the partnership system, and many persons concerned attended the ceremony. The couple took an oath and received the certificate. Everyone at the ceremony applauded them loudly.

“Congratulations! I want to thank you for applying for the certificate. Nakano Ward highly values diversity and we keep working hard for everyone to be accepted as who they are,” Ward Mayor Sakai gave a speech. After the ward mayor’s speech, Ms. Ooe made a speech. “Thank you for coming to celebrate us today. We have been together for more than twenty-five years and we never thought our relationship would be recognized and celebrated like this in our town. It means a lot to us. We know this couldn’t have happened without all the sacrifices that many activists have made. Many LGBT+ people live in Nakano. We hope many more people will find it nice to live in Nakano and we would like to make an effort for our town, too.

“Thank you all for coming to celebrate us today. We have gone through many ups and down before we finally came here to be cerebrated as a couple. It has been really hard to live as a same-sex couple in Japan. We both experienced our parents’ death. We could never have come this far without all the support from our friends, colleagues, and family. When I was young, I was always thinking if I was worth living. I thought about killing myself. I started wanting to keep living because of my partner, family and friends. I hope the day will come when many more people feel accepted by living in this town, Nakano. I want to make an effort for that, too,” said Ms. Ogawa.

Wataru Ishizaka of Nakano Ward and members of a support group, Nakano Niji Net have worked for a long time. They held public seminars to raise awareness and talked the ward officials into establishing the same-sex partnership system. There are many gay couples living in Nakano(some of them have been together for more than thirty years), but they chose Ms.Ooe and Ms.Ogawa as the first same- sex couple officially recognized by Nakano, taking into consideration their years of contribution to the community.

The certificates are not legally-binding, but you will be treated as family in hospital if you have it. Ms.Ooe and Ms.Ogawa were celebrated not only because they were the first same-sex couple officially recognized by Nakano, but also because they had contributed to the community for years. The ceremony surely did mean a lot to them.