"The exquisite humanity in this book transcends all geographical and cultural difference to show us what is universal in ourselves, and germane to place. A triumph of insight and heart."
Hilton Als, 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winner and staff writer for The New Yorker
The LGBTQ community in Japan has faced its challenges. Even as some religious and warrior orders have a long and recognized tradition of same-sex love, to be considered different, to be "the nail that sticks out," makes coming out difficult. Despite the conservative strain within Japanese society that encourages the LGBTQ community to remain unseen, a welcome change is happening on the ground. A number of queer cultural figures are opening up new horizons, and a growing majority of Japanese people believe that homosexuality should be an integral and open part of society.
The latest in a series of beautiful, affordable photobooks that look at LGBTQ communities around the world, Edges of the Rainbow ( The New Press, May 2017 ) is a photographic celebration of the queer community in Japan. Through over 150 color and black-and-white photographs, and accompanying texts, acclaimed photographer Michel Delsol and journalist Haruku Shinozakihave brought together a fascinating group of individuals to create an unforgettable and uplifting look at a proud and resilient community on the margins of Japanese society.
In Edges of the Rainbow we are introduced to a gay Episcopal priest; a lesbian couple who talk about their life choices at universities and on radio and TV, a trans woman pop idol and civil rights activist, an intersex author, a gay all-male music group that addresses LGBTQ culture through their electro act, among other inspiring and motivated people who are all living their lives openly and truthfully.
Chiga is the owner and manager of Gold Finger, an all-woman bar in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo. She wanted a place where lesbians could find friendship and love where they could be themselves. Right: Chiga plays with two robotic dolls, displayed in the streets, on her way to her bar.
Yoshiki is a gay Episcopal priest. Every Sunday, he conducts a prayer and worship service for the LGBTQ community in a "church" in Ni-Chome, the LGBTQ district of Tokyo. Right: Yoshiki guides university students on a gender and sexuality historical landmark tour of Tokyo.
Ai Haruna is a pop idol and well respected civil rights activist. Haruna is a trans woman also known in Japanese as a "newhalf." She is one of the hosts of the prime-time show about fighting prejudice, Barrier Free, on Japan's national public broadcating network, NHK. Right: she is surrounded by fans in Harajuku, a street popular with teenagers in Tokyo.
Mark McLelland, professor of gender and sexuality studies at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia, contributes an enlightening introduction to the long and complex history of diverse sexual expression in Japan. He writes about the first "gay boom" in the postwar 1950s that was reflected in the male-themed novels of Mishima Yukio and a new style of homosexual identity, the "gay boy" and meeting place "the gay bar." In the 1990s, the mainstream media embraced a second "gay boom" in Japan resulting in numerous magazine articles, television documentaries, books, and movies, and the spread of LGBTQ organizations across the country.
McLelland concludes: "the great strength of [Edges of the Rainbow] is that it allows us into the lives of real LGBTQ people in Japan, if only briefly. It presents us with their own images and stories based on their own words and worldviews. Let's put aside what we think we already know about Japan and open ourselves to this diversity and the message of tolerance and hope that it delivers."
Tatsuki, who is intersex, was born in a hospital in Nara in central Japan, where the doctors designated him neither male nor female but "other." He is happily married to a woman named Eishin who is pictured ( center left ) kissing her husband while he prepares dinner in their kitchen.
Mandy is the owner of a cabaret club in Roppongi in central Tokyo. The club is famous for its all-male Broadway dance revues and drag shows. "Find yourself and do what you want to do. A man is a creature who always works and makes money ... so do what you enjoy."
The book has been well received in the Japanese LGBTQ community. Gon Matsunaka, the producer of Out in Japan writes that"Edges of the Rainbow shows us this simple fact: that gender diversity is an ordinary part of this world. The people so intimately and beautifully reflected here are living their lives as who they really are. Their pride makes us all proud."
Previous titles in this on-going series include: Delhi: Communities of Belonging by Sunil Gupta and Charan Singh; Five Bells: Being LGBT in Australia by award-winning Australian photographer Jenny Papalexandris, and Pride and Joy: Taking the Streets of New York City by celebrated practitioner Jurek Wajdowicz.
Edges of the Rainbow was designed by Emerson, Wajdowicz Studios ( EWS ). The photographs presented in this book were made possible by a commission from Jon Stryker: philanthropist, architect, and photography devotee. This book was made possible in part by a grant from the Arcus Foundation.
Michel Delsol was born in Paris and works in New York City. He has received the Judges Award from the Society of Publication Designers, as well as awards from Px3, Prix de la Photographie Paris, and the International Black & White Spider Awards. He is co-author, with Haruku Shinozaki, of Edges of the Rainbow ( The New Press ).
Born in Japan and raised in Tokyo, Haruku Shinozaki is a journalist who lives in New York. She is co-author, with Michel Delsol, of Edges of the Rainbow ( The New Press ).
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Available May 2017
8 x 10, 192 pages
Price: $21.95 US
Also available as an e-book.