Category: Media & Culture / March 6, 2013 1:56 PM EST
Koyuki Higashi and her partner Hiroko became the first couple to hold a same-sex wedding at Japan's Magical Kingdom on Friday (March 1).
Hiroko, who withheld her last name to protect her parents from people who may disapprove of her being a lesbian, and Koyuki Higashi, a former actress, both wore flowing white wedding gowns and were flanked by the iconic Mickey and Minnie Mouse characters at Tokyo Disneyland, in photos they uploaded to social media on Monday (March 4).
The photo caption reads that both Mickey and Minnie were signatories to their wedding certificate.
The Tokyo Disneyland resort which hosted the ceremony would not allow media to film or photograph the event, saying it was company policy regardless of who was involved.
The couple said at the reception party later in the day in Tokyo that they were happy to celebrate their wedding at the famous theme park.
"We even got on to a gondola and had so many passers-by around us shouting congratulations," Higashi recalled.
"We are so incredibly happy," she added, before walking in to a cheering crowd of 200-300 guests waiting for them in the ballroom of a hotel.
But while certain states in the United States, France, the United Kingdom and other countries have either legalised or are close to legalising same-sex marriage, such legislation remains elusive in Japan.
Same-sex partnerships are not legally recognized in Japan and being openly gay remains taboo for many, even though there are no laws either banning or protecting homosexual partnerships.
Gay couples are not afforded hospital visitation rights, tax breaks, insurance or even protection from being discriminated against in housing and employment opportunities.
"Though we live together there are still many things that work against us in our daily lives so I do hope Japan will change for the better on this," Hiroko said.
Emmy Suzuki Harris, Japan Campaign Director of Change.Org, calls herself a straight ally of the LGBT movement. She says the problem is deeply rooted in Japanese culture.
"There are sort of deep rooted cultural reasons why it's hard for anybody to be different in Japan. The entire education system forces people to be a certain way. And it's like, if the nail sticks out, the hammer comes down. I think LGBT people here face that on a whole different level. And when it comes to sexuality there is just a lot of taboos around it. That being said, things are changing a lot. Today's like a big step forward for the movement here as well," she said.
One of the two only openly gay politicians in Japan, Taiga Ishikawa, told Reuters he believed the couple's wedding would open people's eyes to the issue in the country.
"When people in Japan see these two very happy women together and realise that in Japan there are no legal guarantees to their partnership, or when they see that society can't legally celebrate their union, I think then we shall finally see change in Japanese society," he said.
Hiroko and Higashi said they hoped their wedding would be a symbolic step that would help society move ahead in recognising same-sex rights in the future.
(Video Source: REUTERS)