A few days ago, I visited, for the first time in my life, the LGBT district in Tokyo, located in Shinjuku. I visited a sex shop, and a couple of bars as part of the “Sexual Health Tour in Tokyo” that Masayoshi Yanagida prepared for me. Through him I met Marie Akatani, a very intelligent graduate student specializing in Gender Studies, and through Akatani I met other LGBT advocates. One of them was the first to tell me about AKTA, an LGBT Community Center in Tokyo. Extremely interested in the services that this Center provides, I decided to visit it one day after.
AKTA is coordinated by Junko Araki, one of the sweetest persons I have ever met. Junko has a very interesting story; apart from being an activist, she is also a drag queen performer called John J.
After my AKTA visit, in which she received me with great enthusiasm and kindness, we would meet again at the 12th Asia-Oceania Congress of Sexology in Matsue, where I had the chance to interview her.
AKTA was established in 2003 and among many things, it provides information to prevent STIs & HIV, and about LGBT life in Japan, opening from 4 pm to 10 pm. AKTA not only services gay population, but everyone who wants to come in, regardless of their sexuality. Each Friday, several AKTA volunteers (from teenagers to 50-year old adults) deliver condoms and pamphlets with sexual health information to 150 gay bars and clubs, a project that should be replicated in gay districts all around the world. This condom delivery activity also allows young LGBT people to meet LGBT adults, to communicate, exchange information and build an intergenerational network of support. According to Junko, this volunteer group has started to create an atmosphere in which they can talk about the importance of safe sex and good communication, delivering condoms that have very “fashionable” packages.
Two of the biggest problems faced by LGBT people in Japan is that they cannot marry and they can’t come out of the closet so easily, declared Junko, who began her career as an advocate having 29 years of age. Her interest in LGBT issues and sexual health started after she became conscious about the fluidity of her sexuality and she accepted her identity as a woman who cross-dresses.
As many other LGBT advocates, Junko desires a world in which everyone can live as they are. According to her, everyone has a little rotoball inside, which would start shining and illuminating the world if we could live with freedom… Thanks Junko!
Contact AKTA Japan!