On March 2nd 500 runners took to the streets of Tokyo for the first edition of the Rainbow Marathon to help raise money and support the Tokyo LGBTI community. Runners ran in either a 5k, 10k or Half Marathon event at Showa Kinen Park. The event was held to raise money for the Tokyo Pride House as well as bring awareness and representation of the LGBTI community in Tokyo. Ukyo Soma, a trans man who participated in the event shared with Gay Star News why the Rainbow Marathon was so important…

‘Japanese people know about LGBTQ people, but they believe that they don’t exist in spaces close to them because they don’t see or hear them,’ he said. ‘I think Tokyo Rainbow Marathon gave us an opportunity to show that we exist, to talk about our experiences, and to get to know each other in the community.’

 The race course was filled with rainbow flags with the start and finish line equally as rainbowed. The atmosphere was festive and filled with positive energy as Japanese and non-Japanese people of all ages, gender identities, and sexual orientations took to the course on a beautiful sunny day. The marathon was held to support the Tokyo Pride House which will open for the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo. It will serve as an information center, hub and place for LGBTI athletes and people at the Olympics and Paralympics to come together. Pride Houses were hosted at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, 2012 Summer Olympics in London, 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto and the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. A Pride House was attempted to be organized at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi but was prohibited from doing so under Russia’s LGBT propaganda laws.

Pride House Tokyo also shared a video featuring several prominent Japanese athletes expressing their support for the Rainbow Marathon, Pride House and LGBTI Community

The Rainbow Marathon strives to help end homophobia in sports. The race organizer, Ryoosuke Shind, who also ran in the relay, shared his experience in a blog post following the race that he believed in the “power of sports” to help connect people, LGBTI and straight alike to help people better understand each other. Hopefully, this will be the first step for a bright future with the Tokyo Rainbow Marathon and leading the way toward the better understanding and connection that Ryoosuke Shind believes in.

By Dirk Smith