“It’s too LGBT,” said my Japanese corporate client. “We can’t use this campaign.”
“But it's an LGBTQ-designed fashion and arts exhibition,” I replied.
“We don’t want the LB...GTQ to come forward,” the client said.
In my head I’m going, WTF? This event will just be like every other event if we do what you say, and then there would be no point in doing it at all. This is not what we agreed on. They are fucking scared and won’t admit it. This is why the Japanese fashion industry has become stale. This is why I can’t fucking date Japanese cis men.
Instead of saying any of those things, I had lost my words; blood drawn from my face but boiling in my stomach. I had outed the beautiful cast of contributors who had so generously shared their creativity and beauty by being part of this project—and for what? To be told by strangers to take a step back into the closet? I was outraged, and embarrassed for my clients. They had no idea what fools they were.
Born in 1991 in Tokyo, I moved to New York before 9/11 and spent my most emotional years here. I have loved and hated both cities and compared the two time after time. Its history of segregation and hate on one side, and inspirational activism and drive for inclusivity on the other, have made America and defined its challenges today. Japan on the other hand, is an island country with a history of keeping to tradition and developing technologies that highlight those traditions more. This creates a beautiful mixed aesthetic and people, but the initial charm dissipates once you discover how few are willing to accept or allow real change.
My project concluded with a semi-climax, where everyone involved ended up happy but dissatisfied. Japan is not ready to accept real inclusivism today.
“It’s not your job to change Japan,” a friend once told me. Her comment gave me relief at the time because evolving Japan for the better was starting to feel like an insurmountable life goal. But I would be happier on my deathbed knowing I contributed to my home, the country I’m from, with real change that spreads happiness. Knowing that, I could kiss Earth farewell and go on my other journeys. This is why I still tell myself change is coming.
Urara Muramatsu is a first generation Japanese American & Contributing editor at FAR-NEAR
Illustration by Camily Tsai