Kanako Otsuji has changed the face of Japanese politics. In 2003, at the tender age of 28, Otsuji became the candidate to win a seat on Osaka’s assembly. In that seat, the politician pushed for social change, successfully passing a law allowing gay couples to rent housing together. Then, in 2005, Otsuji came out as a lesbian, thus becoming the first openly gay politician in Japanese history. Though the public embraced her, Otsuji found some opposition among her political peers, including, according to the Guardian, one anti-queer “comrade” who asked her if she planned on becoming a man.
Despite this ignorance – and her aides’ advice to keep a lid on it – Otsuji hasn’t given up her political dreams and has just joined forces with the Democratic party to launch a campaign for Japan’s upper parliament. Not surprisingly, Otsuji’s efforts rest on highlighting Japan’s diverse nature, a stark departure from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s chimerical political conformity.
In a message on her website, Otsuji wrote:
I think there is a tendency to put forward one set of values and make it seem as though that is the only beautiful or right way. But the reality is becoming more diverse. Japanese society is not engaging with the wide range of people living in diverse ways, in terms of nationality, race, sex, age and disabilities.
Hopefully Otsuji’s countrymen will feel the same way.