Tokyo issues Japan's first same-sex partner certificates

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
What Other Countries Have Legalized Same-Sex Marriage?


Two Tokyo districts issued Japan's first certificates officially recognizing same-sex partnerships on Thursday, a major step forward for gay couples in a nation where being openly gay remains largely taboo.

The move may seem insignificant compared to the United States, which has made gay marriage legal in all 50 states, but just approving the measures earlier this year set off an unprecedented discussion on equality and has paved the way for other Japanese cities to consider similar steps.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community has been all but invisible in Japan, and legally binding civil unions remain a distant dream.

Hiroko Masuhara and Koyuki Higashi arrived at city hall in the trendy Shibuya district early in the morning to collect the certificate that will allow them to rent an apartment, visit each other in hospital and gain a variety of other benefits as a couple.

See photos of the couple receiving their certificate:

8 PHOTOS
Tokyo issues Japan's first same-sex partner certificates
See Gallery
Tokyo issues Japan's first same-sex partner certificates
TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 05: Japanese couple Koyuki Higashi (L) and Hiroko Masuhara (R) celebrate as hold up their same-sex marriage certificate in front of Shibuya's Hachiko statue on November 5, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan. Shibuya Ward in the Tokyo became the first local government in Japan to issue the official certificates recognizing same-sex partnerships. (Photo by Christopher Jue/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 05: Hiroko Masuhara (L) and Koyuki Higashi (R) upon their arrival at Shibuya Station after receiving their same sex partnership certificate on November 5, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan. Shibuya Ward in the Tokyo became the first local government in Japan to issue the official certificates recognizing same-sex partnerships. (Photo by Christopher Jue/Getty Images)
Japanese lesbian couple Hiroko Masuhara (C) and Koyuki Higashi (R) are congratulated by Ken Hasebe (L), head of the Shibuya ward after they received a certification paper of 'partnership' at the Shibuya ward office in Tokyo on November 5, 2015. While the certificates are not legally binding, the district hoped they would encourage hospitals and landlords to ensure same-sex couples receive similar treatment to married people. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 05: Japanese couple Koyuki Higashi (L) and Hiroko Masuhara (R) celebrate as hold up their same-sex marriage certificate in front of Shibuya's Hachiko statue on November 5, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan. Shibuya Ward in the Tokyo became the first local government in Japan to issue the official certificates recognizing same-sex partnerships. (Photo by Christopher Jue/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 05: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Japanese couple Koyuki Higashi (R) and Hiroko Masuhara (L) celebrate as hold up their same-sex marriage certificate at Shibuya Ward Office on November 5, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan. Shibuya Ward in the Tokyo became the first local government in Japan to issue the official certificates recognizing same-sex partnerships. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
Japanese lesbian couple Hiroko Masuhara (L) and Koyuki Higashi smile as they receive a certification paper of 'partnership' at the Shibuya ward office in Tokyo on November 5, 2015. While the certificates are not be legally binding, the district hoped they would encourage hospitals and landlords to ensure same-sex couples receive similar treatment to married people. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)
Japanese gay couple Hiroko Masuhara (R) and Koyuki Higashi display a certification paper of 'partnership' issued by the Shibuya ward office after they received it in Tokyo on November 5, 2015. While the certificates are not be legally binding, the district hoped they would encourage hospitals and landlords to ensure same-sex couples receive similar treatment to married people. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

"I am exhilarated that the city I am living has recognized my partner as my family," a smiling Masuhara told reporters.

Shibuya and Setagaya, considered the wealthiest of Tokyo's 23 wards, began issuing the certificates on Thursday. While the papers do not provide any legal recognition of same-sex unions, all agreed that it was an important beginning.

"I hope that this will be a step forward not only for Tokyo but for the whole of Japan to become a more comfortable place to live in, because there are LGBTs nationwide," said Higashi, although she said she still hadn't abandoned a dream of one day getting legally married.

Shibuya mayor Ken Hasebe, who ran for office on a pro-LGBT rights campaign, congratulated the couple. "It took a long time to get here," he said.

The central government, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has said it needs to be "very careful" when considering whether or not to make changes in the constitution allowing same-sex marriage, and some older Japanese remain wary.

"Humanity will deteriorate with fewer children being born... If we want to leave offspring, couples have to be the opposite sex," said Tetsuyuki Akiyoshi, an elderly man at a Shibuya street corner.

But younger Japanese are generally in favor of LGBT rights and Japan's new education minister, Hiroshi Hase, surprised the LGBT community last month by vowing in an interview to promote LGBT rights ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

More from AOL.com:
Thousands of crocodiles go hungry at Honduras farm
The beauty pageant that's open only to transgender women
The most important modeling agency in NYC isn't what you think

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners