10. Pink Dot Okinawa (Okinawa)
Held in Okinawa in July every year since its inception in 2013, Pink Dot Okinawa (ピンクドット沖縄) takes its name from the Pink Dot event originating in Singapore. The event takes place in the capital city of Naha, which has in recent years become a leader in LGBT-friendly policy.
The main events are held in Naha’s Tembusu Square and feature musical and dance performances, speeches, and, of course, beach parties. The main events are free, but people are encouraged to wear pink, a symbol of love, peace and inclusiveness.
9. Sapporo Rainbow March+ (Hokkaido)
Dating back to 1996, Sapporo currently holds the record for the longest consecutively run pride in Japan. Despite over 1,100 recorded participants in the parade in 2013, the pride took a hiatus and hung up the rainbow flags before they could organize a 2014 event.
Fortunately, the event will be back again in October 2017 with the new name Sapporo Rainbow March+ (さっぽろレインボーマーチ+). What’s more, the timing could not be better as Sapporo will become the first major city to recognize same-sex partnerships beginning June 2017!
8. NLGR+ (Aichi)
On the last weekend of May, Ikeda Park is transformed for the Nagoya Lesbian & Gay Revolution Plus (NLGR+) event. There's a strong focus on HIV awareness, and visitors are welcome to take the free, next-day-results STI screening on offer.
Located in the center of the gay district, events continue until Saturday evening and the early hours of Sunday morning. It all ends with a wonderful, kaleidoscopic balloon release on late Sunday afternoon. Starting in 2001, the weekend is the longest running of the two major annual pride events in Nagoya.
7. Nijipare (Aichi)
The other major pride event in Nagoya is the Nijiiro Domannaka Parade (虹色どまんなかパレード), or Nijipare for short. Established more recently in 2012, it's also located in Ikeda Park and has a similar atmosphere, however, it's organized separately and, unlike NLGR+, the main feature is the parade through the streets of Sakae.
Up until 2015, the event often coincided with Halloween weekend, and Nijipare was adorned with many costumed attendees. With enormous efforts in fundraising, the event expanded in 2016 and became part of a week-long collection of activities branded Nagoya Rainbow Week (NAGOYAレインボーウィーク). Nijipare was subsequently moved to September.
6. Yokohama Diversity Parade (Kanagawa)
Yokohama Diversity Parade (横浜ダイバーシティーパレード) made its first official appearance in October 2015. With a beautiful backdrop of Tokyo Bay, the parade is an enjoyable walk, with reportedly 300 people participating last year. Nevertheless, the most interesting and unique aspect of the Yokohama Diversity Parade is the after-party held on a nearby boat! The boat has music, performances, speeches and more, including charity t-shirts available to purchase.
5. Kyushu Rainbow Pride (Fukuoka)
The Kyushu Rainbow Pride (九州レインボープライド) event has taken place in Fukuoka City every year since 2014. In November, when the weather in Kyushu reaches a cooler and fairly comfortable level, Reisen Park in Fukuoka’s Hakata Ward gets a fabulous overhaul. Not only does this event showcase musical performances and interactive booths from a variety of organizations and businesses, it also features its namesake rainbow parade—it was the first ever on the southern island of Kyushu!
4. Aomori Rainbow Parade (Aomori)
第４回青森レインボーパレード、皆様からの大きな応援をいただき、101名の参加者と共に青森の街を歩くことができました。 pic.twitter.com/s0Vu5QB54c— 青森レインボーパレード2017 (@RainbowAomori) April 24, 2017
This small-scale parade, just as the cherry blossoms are blooming, is held around the same time as Tokyo Rainbow Pride. In 2017 it was held two weekends before, and was considered a huge success!
At its start in 2014, there were only three participants. Then, 24 participants in 2015, 45 participants in 2016, and a whopping 101 participants in 2017! The main event is the parade walk, but, much like other pride events, Aomori Rainbow Parade (青森レインボーパレード) also has an afterparty too. Although, because of the change of date, the number of attendees was expected to increase and those who wanted to attend the afterparty had to register beforehand.
3. Rainbow Parade Kumamoto (Kumamoto)
Still recovering from the devastating Kumamoto Earthquake in 2016, the first Rainbow Parade Kumamoto (レインボーパレードくまもと) became a symbol of recovery and progress for the LGBT+ community in the prefecture. The parade is held in November and aims to increase LGBT+ awareness and support. It stretches between Karashima and Shirakawa Parks and is routed through the main shopping arcades in downtown Kumamoto City. Future parade days hope to include musical performances and other events to increase awareness and visibility of the LGBT+ community. (Photo by George Leach)
2. Tohoku Rainbow Summer (Miyagi)
At the penultimate spot is the Tohoku Rainbow Summer (東北レインボーSUMMER) festival. Its inception began in 2014 when the executive committee became conscious of the various LGBT+ events occurring around Tohoku and wanted to collaborate with the organizers to make one large festival. Two years later, nearly 30 organizations were involved in the 2016 event which included performances, booths and more. Students from the local university are very involved in the festival too, having their own socials during the festival. Held inside the Sendaishi Shimin Katsudo Support Center (仙台市市民活動サポートセンター), the event provides both privacy and shade from the hot August heat.
1. Mie Rainbow Festa (Mie)
At number one is the Mie Rainbow Festa (みえレインボーフェスタ)! It was held for the first time at the Ise City Plaza, in September 2016. Outside, the streets were gleaming with rainbow flags, and the interior halls were decorated with rainbow articles and supportive LGBT+ messages from local elementary school children. A few politicians came to make speeches, a panel discussion was held and there were several local musical and dance performances.
Iga City in Mie is proud to be the first city to recognize same-sex partners in Japan, and so it's no surprise that the organizers of the Mie Rainbow Festa were behind that achievement too! (Photo by Rebekah Lan)
A few prides didn’t make the list, but they are definitely worth checking out:
• Kansai Rainbow Parade (関西レインボw－パレード)
• Rainbow Parade in Kokura (小倉でレインボーパレードするっちゃ！)
• Tokyo Rainbow Festival (東京レインボー祭り)