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TOKYO — The wedding was a fairy-tale affair, with flowing dresses and a three-tiered cake set in the most coveted of Japanese venues: the Tokyo Disney Resort.
Koyuki Higashi and her partner of one and a half years tied the knot in front of 30 well-wishers on Friday, but much more of the country was in on the celebration, the first same-sex wedding at the theme park here. Ms. Higashi, a stage actress turned gay rights activist, and her partner, Hiroko, who has not revealed her full name, posted frequent social media updates of their wedding plans and from their Christian-style ceremony, with a romantic gondola ride.
“My partner Hiroko and I just held a gay wedding at the Tokyo Disney Resort. Even Mickey and Minnie are here to celebrate with us!” Ms. Higashi, 28, wrote in a Twitter post that also had a picture of the newlyweds posing with the big-eared Disney characters and a flower-festooned cake. Her entry was reposted more than 6,000 times, drawing largely positive responses.
“Congratulations,” replied Masaki Koh, a Japanese gay porn star. “Your wonderful wedding will bring inspiration and hope to many people who still hesitate to take the first step. I was also encouraged that Tokyo Disney Resort was so understanding.”
But on the Naver Matome site, which collects and curates social media entries, a user who identified himself as Nizo Hakoda remarked: “I don’t particularly mind homosexuality and same-sex marriage, but watching the news made me wonder why they had to hold their ceremony at a crowded place like Disney. It’s fine for the people who accept it, but there are others who don’t.”
The Walt Disney Company had long allowed same-sex celebrations in a limited way on its grounds, like in banquet halls. But in 2007, it began allowing same-sex couples to buy high-end wedding packages, which can include elaborate ceremonies, Disney characters and public displays at its theme parks and on its cruises.
Despite that change in policy, Ms. Higashi found that no same-sex wedding had ever occurred at Tokyo Disney Resort. She reported on her blog and on Twitter that she had inquired about weddings at Tokyo Disney Sea, a part of the Disney Resort. But when it became apparent to the organizers that her partner was female, Ms. Higashi reported, she was asked if one of them could wear a tuxedo — so that other visitors to the park would not feel uncomfortable.
Her posts set off the first stir on Japanese social media sites.
A week later, the organizers at Milial Resort Hotels, a subsidiary of the company that runs Tokyo Disney, got back to Ms. Higashi with good news: both brides were welcome to wear wedding dresses (or both tuxedos, for that matter). “Mickey Mouse supports gay marriage!” Web headlines declared. Milial Resort Hotels issued an apology. “Initially, there was an incomplete understanding on the part of our staff over the requirement for dresses,” said Jun Abe, a Milial spokeswoman. “If we caused them sadness and discomfort, we are sorry.” Of course, their dream wedding did leave something to be desired for the couple: legal standing.
Japan does not recognize same-sex marriages, though there is little in the way of religious opposition from Buddhism, imported from China, or Japan’s native Shinto religion. Japanese historical texts contain references to same-sex relationships.
Some local governments, including Tokyo, ban discrimination at work based on sexual identity, but even so, in this group-conscious, relatively conformist society, most gay residents remain in the closet. Gay public figures tend to be in TV entertainment, where gay men win laughs as flamboyant queens.
Ms. Higashi came out less than three years ago after a short-lived stage career, while Hiroko says she cannot use her full name widely because some family members are not fully comfortable with her sexuality. Hiroko said, however, that she was emboldened by the response the couple had received from friends, family and social media, and that she hoped that her wedding helped create a public discussion.
“This could prompt Japan to question why it so often ignores or discriminates against minorities,” Hiroko said. “Mostly we just want people to know that gay people exist for real, and we would like to throw weddings like everyone else.”
Article: 4th March 2013 www.nytimes.com