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'Tokyo Rainbow Pride' parade 2020 going online to support people isolated by pandemic

"Tokyo Rainbow Pride" representative co-director Fumino Sugiyama is seen in the foreground of this photo taken during "Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2019" in the capital's Shibuya Ward, on April 28, 2019. (Mainichi/Naoaki Hasegawa)

TOKYO -- Throughout Japan, pride parades celebrating sexual diversity have been faced with cancellation or postponement due to the coronavirus outbreak, but "Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2020," Japan's biggest pride event, will be held as an 'online parade,' according to an announcement by its organizers on April 14.

The Tokyo parade's facilitators had initially decided to cancel, but later settled on aiming to hold the event in a new form. Although a novel endeavor, the organizers are enthusiastic about hosting the event "precisely because it's happening at this time."

In recent decades, LGBTQ communities around the world have celebrated their sexual identities and raised awareness of sexual minority issues through parades under the name "pride." Participants walk the streets together in bright colors of their choosing. According to organizers, "Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2019" saw some 10,000 participants for the parade alone, and overall about 200,000 people when spectators who watched the parade from the sidelines are counted.

Although this year's parade in the capital was scheduled to be held from April 25 to May 6, organizers announced its cancellation on March 19 to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Parades in other regions of Japan have also been canceled, including the central Japan "Nagoya Rainbow Pride" scheduled for May 16, and "Sendai Pride Japan" in the northeast prefecture of Miyagi. The "Iwate Rainbow March," in the neighboring prefecture of the same name has been pushed back from its intended date of May 9.

Amid this overall trend towards cancellation or postponement, organizers at "Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2020" outlined on April 14 that their parade would become an online event. On April 26 between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., the period when the outdoor parade was supposed to go ahead, participants will be able to post pictures and messages on Twitter and Instagram using "TRP2020" and "pride at home" hashtags. The entries will be shown on the organizer's website. Additionally, in place of an event scheduled to take place in Yoyogi Park on April 25 and 26, panels and discussions will be instead be livestreamed on the same days.

Fumino Sugiyama, 38, representative co-director of "Tokyo Rainbow Pride," the nonprofit in charge of the parade, told the Mainichi Shimbun that they had wanted to hold parades and events, however small they may be, once the coronavirus pandemic was contained.

But, as the situation worsened, they decided that an online event would be the best way to continue their past activities. Sugiyama commented, "When society as a whole is struggling economically, those in weak positions, including sexual minorities, are the ones who will face the negative consequences. We hope that the online event can, by spreading the message that they are not alone, be a source of hope for those that cannot feel safe at home and those that tend to become isolated."

(Japanese original by Miyuki Fujisawa, Integrated Digital News Center)

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