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JAPAN - Aug 1, 2007

Kanako Otsuji, Japan’s first openly lesbian politician and one of the Democratic Party of Japan’s official candidates, lost the Upper House election with 38,229 votes on Sunday. If Otsuji had won, she would have been Japan's first openly gay elected politician at a national level.

The former Osaka Assembly Member criticized the government’s bungling of pension records and asserted the need to switch from Prime Minister Abe’s hawkish Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to the DPJ. She insisted the importance of bias-free education and the need to establish anti-discrimination laws including LGBT people and a civil partnership act.

Otsuji’s manifesto focused not only on sexual minorities but also on other minorities including women, children, people living with HIV, disabled people, foreigners living in Japan and buraku people.

Otsuji had campaigned specifically in urban areas like Tokyo and Saitama. Yomiuri Newspaper, one of the country’s major newspapers, wrote that the delayed party endorsement in May affected her campaign.

Asahi Newspaper, Mainichi Newspaper and Yomiuri Newspaper, Japan’s major newspapers all wrote stories on Otsuji’s candidacy. Nippon TV’s news program, NEWS ZERO also highlighted her as a noteworthy candidate. Major foreign news agencies including Reuters, AFP, AP, CNN and DPA had given attention to whether Japanese society would accept a lesbian politician and LGBT issues as a political matter.

A gay man who voted for Otsuji told GayJapanNews that the number of votes the candidate got was less than he’d expected. He said “But this is the reality of Japan’s LGBT community.”

“It is progress for Japan’s LGBT community that the DPJ endorsed Otsuji as an official candidate. However, the fact that LGBT voters couldn’t send Otsuji to the Diet as their representative will slow down the LGBT movement to promote visibility and equal rights,” said GayJapanNews’ Executive Director, Hiroshi Mochizuki.

Otsuji needed about 30,000 more votes with her name to win.

At the press conference in the early morning after the result was released, Otsuji thanked her supporters at her office in Shinjuku Nichome, Japan’s biggest gay district. She added “We made a change in Japan’s LGBT history. It is not the end, but the start.”

by Azusa Yamashita, GayJapanNews

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