MITO -- The prefectural government of Ibaraki, north of Tokyo, is considering the introduction of a "partnership system" to recognize the unions of couples belonging to sexual minorities this April.
This would be the first time such unions would be recognized on a prefectural level in Japan, as only Tokyo's Setagaya Ward, Sapporo on the northernmost island of Hokkaido and other municipal governments have thus far set up the certifications.
Currently, same-sex couples are not legally entitled to hear explanations from doctors if something happens to their partner, as they are not recognized as family members. They also cannot live together in public housing that requires residents to be relatives of the lease holder. Even when taking out a joint loan to buy their own homes, these couples can be turned away by banks.
These are only a few examples of barriers for such couples, but now with the prefectural government issuing official recognition of their relationships, it opens up the possibility of improvement in these areas.
According to an individual with knowledge of the move, those who can apply for the partnership system are current Ibaraki Prefecture residents, or those aged 20 or older who have plans to move there.
By submitting a document with the applicants' names and address, the prefectural government will then issue a certificate with an official public seal. The prefectural government is planning to seek the cooperation of related organizations and groups soon.
(Japanese original by Sakae Kato, Mito Bureau)