Some of the Companies at Tokyo Rainbow Pride

Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2017

There was great corporate representation at Tokyo Rainbow Pride last weekend!

Google Not only have they been a presence in Tokyo for many years, but they’ve also supported more smaller pride parades in Japan (Osaka, for example) and events in far less gay-friendly countries like South Korea and Singapore. Seriously–in Singapore they didn’t even back down when the local government told foreign companies to stop. As usual, this year at Tokyo Rainbow Pride they had an extra-large booth staffed by dozens enthusiastic employees. Their #WhatIsLove campaign was a big hit. Rare among corporate sponsors, they also tried to make a grassroots-level contribution to the community by designing a YouTube workshop specifically for Tokyo Rainbow Pride participants.

IBM Japan Promoted on their official Facebook account. Thanks to the work of Atsushi Kawada they were one of the first US companies to publicly embrace LGBT1 rights in Japan more than a decade ago. Mr. Kawada often speaks publicly topics like coming out at work, and when he does his employer is prominently identified. As a direct result of publicly supporting LGBT right for nearly a decade, they have become one of the most sought-after companies for LGBT new graduates. This year they showed their strength in numbers, with dozens of employees marching behind a colorful IBM banner. One recent graduate proudly pointed out that his direct manager was also attending, and quickly launched into a pitch for IBM Watson.

Microsoft Japan? Stronger than ever! When my co-chair and I launched the Japan chapter of GLEAM in 2013 we thought it would be years before the company would be ready to join Tokyo Rainbow Pride. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Thanks to strong support and encouragement we were able to join Tokyo Rainbow Pride for the first time shortly after we launched, and every year since Microsoft Japan has had a more prominent presence. I’m proud of what we accomplished, but more than that I’m ecstatic to see the organization continue to flourish since I switched companies last year. Like IBM, Microsoft Japan has become a highly-sought-after destination for LGBT new graduates. These are young people who are out, proud, and have no intention of working for a company where they couldn’t be their whole selves.

Accenture? Well represented! They had both a booth and dozens of employees in matching t-shirts marching in the parade. They were also a Banner sponsor.

Yahoo! Japan? Booth? Check! Enthusiastic employees marching? Check! The history of Yahoo! Japan as a company and it’s enduring prominence in the Japanese market is a fascinating story for another time, but suffice to say they are much more well regarded here than they are in the US.

Oracle? Wait…Oracle?!? Yes, Oracle had a strong presence at Tokyo Rainbow Pride. Booth? Check! Enthusiastic employees marching? You got it!

Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2017

It wasn’t just big tech companies at Tokyo Rainbow Pride

This is hardly a complete list but all of these companies were well represented:

Goldman Sachs had bright pink t-shirts for all their employees–pink so that they could be used across Asia and specifically at Singapore’s Pink Dot event. (No word yet on whether they will continue their support, unfortunately.)

EY? Booth? Check! More than a hundred enthusiastic employees marching in colorful shirts? Of course! Beth Brooke-Marciniak, EY’s Global Vice Chair of Public Policy and one of Forbes “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” made waves when she came out in 2012, and she has spoken publicly about her experience on visits to Japan.

BuzzFeed Japan? They didn’t just have a booth–they changed their Twitter icon to a rainbow for the entire week and wrote numerous stories about the event and the LGBT community. Check out some of their photos from the festival area.

Spotify? They bought a massive billboard in front of Shibuya Station (>3.2 million commuters daily)for the event and were the official Music Sponsor.

AIG? Booth? Check! In the parade? Check! Bronze sponsorship? Check!

Prudential? Booth? Check!

Diesel? Giant booth, full-page ad, and Bronze sponsorship.

Johnson & Johnson? Full-page ad. Bronze sponsorship.

Lush? Turned all their shops windows into giant rainbows and spent asking visitors to their shops to post photos to Twitter and Instagram with the hashtags #WeBelieveInLove and #LoveIsLove. And of course a full-page ad and Charity sponsorship.

Alfa Romeo? Full-page ad and Silver sponsorship.

GAP? Full-page ad, Silver sponsorship, rainbows in their shop windows, and rainbow bags for everyone.

Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2017

Many of the biggest Japanese companies were at Tokyo Rainbow Pride

There were tons of influential Japanese brands joining the festival and parade. A few examples:

Nomura: This major Japanese investment bank didn’t just have a booth and a ton of people in the parade–they had employees take over one of their most prominent branches in Shibuya to wave giant rainbow flags as the parade passed by!

Dentsu: Japan’s No. 1 advertising agency had a booth at pride. They also publish regularly surveys about the size of the LGBT market in Japan.

Panasonic: A huge consumer brand in Japan with a huge booth and tons of marketing budget.

Shiseido: Took over no fewer than 6 booths to hawk cosmetic products and spray passers-by with sunscreen.

Sony: Banner sponsor.

Tokyu Dentetsu: The railway was a Banner sponsor.

Japan Tobacco: JT is massive, and the Japanese government retains a large ownership stake (there’s a fascinating history on Wikipedia). They were a Platinum Sponsor of Tokyo Rainbow Pride.

NTT Group: The massive telecommunications conglomerate (>240,000 employees) with partial government ownership was a Banner sponsor.

Mizuho: In Japan, every bank is assigned a number. It’s sort of like a routing code. Mizuho’s number is 1. Literally. This year they joined the LGBT Finance booth.

mixi, Inc: Originally Japan’s answer to Friendster, this social network has evolved into a major social game maker. They made a massive two-story puppy out of colorful flowers and were a Platinum sponsor.

Marui: This massive department store chain had huge rainbow banners for the event adorning multiple buildings in Shibuya. They were also a Gold sponsor, had a large booth selling shoes, and advertised in the free paper for the event..

Isetan: The other giant department store chain followed Marui’s lead with a smaller advertising push.

BEAMS: The major fashion brand had a website sponsorship and full-page ad.

Don Quixote: The totally crazy everything store was selling rainbow everything on site!

Shibuya City: Yes, this major city in Tokyo had several booths at the event to discuss their civil partnerships. The mayor of Shibuya has spoken about his support for LGBT rights, and was notably the keynote speaker for Work With Pride in 2015.

Shibuya City Tourism Association: Promoted the event with an interview with transgender activist and Tokyo Rainbow Pride representative Fumino Sugiyama.

Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2017

Why does it matter whether companies participate in Pride?

For better or for worse, we are living in a time when a small number of powerful companies enjoy an incredible influence in our lives. When they show their support for diversity and inclusion it has a huge impact on the lives of their employees, their customers, and society at large.

In the years I have lived in Japan I have seen major advances in LGBT rights, and many of the most significant steps forward have come from the corporate world. When it comes to LGBT rights, small acts of symbolism can have a major impact–if nothing else, by reminding LGBT people that yes, we support you.

Happy Pride!🏳️‍🌈

Updates

  1. 2017/5/10 Initial post published
  2. 2017/5/10 Fixed two typos
  3. 2017/5/10 Post received a rather negative reception on Hacker News.
  4. 2017/6/1 Updates for clarity
  5. 2017/10/10 Changed to a less clickbaity title and revised content to be a bit less agnsty. To be perfectly honest, I’m still a bit conflicted about this post–I’m glad that I was able to highlight the many companies that do participate in Tokyo Rainbow Pride and other LGBT events in Japan, but in retrospect the original tone missed the mark.
  6. 2018/1/9 Additional refinements

  1. I use the term ‘LGBT’ here because (a) it is the most common term in everyday use in Japan, and (b) I believe it fairly accurately reflects current acceptance of diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in Japan. I do, however, understand its limitations. [return]