On 1 March 2013, Koyuki Higashi and Hiroko became the first same-sex couple to hold a wedding in the Tokyo Disney Resort.
Higashi, 28, and her partner of one-and-a-half years tied the knot in front of 30 well-wishers last Friday. “My love Hiroko and I wore wedding dresses and had a mini-parade in DisneySea, a place I also love,” Higashi said on Twitter.
“I was really happy!” she said.
The couple first hit the headlines after the theme park initially told them there would be no problem with the ceremony provided they dressed “like a man and a woman”. A staff member said a same-sex wedding would create “repercussions” among visitors if both brides wore wedding dresses or both grooms donned tuxedoes.
A week later, the organizers at Milial Resort Hotels, a subsidiary of the company that runs Tokyo Disney, got back to Higashi with good news: both brides were welcome to wear wedding dresses (or both tuxedos, for that matter).
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.
“Whether there is a law or not, we are just who we are. Hiroko and I got married because we want to be together for the rest of our lives. It has nothing to do with whether this is a same-sex or opposite-sex wedding. We may not have a law that applies to us, but when someone congratulates us for getting married, I want to proudly say ‘thank you!’” Higashi wrote in her blog.
Japan does not recognize same-sex marriages, though there seems little in the way of religious opposition from Buddhism, imported from China, or Japan’s native Shinto religion. But in conformist Japan where differences are not encouraged, societal acceptance is still sorely lacking.
Higashi came out less than three years ago after a 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 hold weddings like everyone else.”
MY HEART. <3