Japanese companies are increasingly showing support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender customers and employees amid growing recognition of LGBT rights across the country.
Parades, gatherings and other "pride" events aim to draw attention to the presence of LGBT people and the issues they face.
Japan Airlines Co. and Japan TransOcean Air Co., a JAL group carrier based in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, were among companies that sponsored the "Pink Dot Okinawa" event held in the prefectural capital in mid-July.
The fourth edition of the event included a concert and same-sex marriage ceremony. Participants were clad in pink to show support for LGBT rights.
Organizers said JAL and JTA are the first Japanese airlines to have sponsored a private LGBT event.
The carriers probably concluded that support for LGBTs will improve their corporate image, said Hideki Sunagawa, a leader in organizing the event. "Support from airlines which lay weight on their brand image makes us realize that the image of LGBTs is changing in a favorable way," Sunagawa said.
"As a carrier based in Okinawa which heavily relies on tourism, we would like to contribute to the creation of an area LGBTs can readily visit," a JTA official said.
The fifth Tokyo Rainbow Pride, held in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward in May, was sponsored by companies such as Lush Retail Ltd., a British cosmetics retailer, Netflix Inc., a U.S. company streaming films, and Cheerio Corp., a Japanese soft drink maker.
Lifenet Insurance Co., which joined the group of sponsors for the event this year, released a life insurance policy covering same-sex partners last year. The new product has been "well received by not only targeted people but also others," a spokesperson for the Tokyo-based insurer said, suggesting that companies respecting diversity are making favorable impressions on people.
Local governments are also increasingly supportive of LGBT people. In April last year, Tokyo's Shibuya Ward became the first place in Japan to recognize same-sex partnerships as equivalent to marriage, passing an ordinance for issuance of ward certificates to such couples. Other municipalities, including Iga, Mie Prefecture, Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, and Naha followed suit.
Starting this year, JAL covers officially certified same-sex couples in its service of sharing frequent-flyer miles among family members.
© Kyodo News International, Inc., source Newswire