Same-sex marriages are not yet legally recognised in Japan, but that hasn’t stopped some LGBTQ couples from going ahead with their own wedding ceremonies. In light of the current push for change, one Buddhist temple in Saitama is officiating more LGBTQ marriages as a way of promoting equal rights in Japan.
Legally, same-sex couples can only be registered as a civil partnership in some parts of Japan, but Saimyouji Temple welcomes anyone who would like to tie the knot through a traditional Buddhist ceremony. The fee for the ceremony is ¥200,000 per couple and includes a professional photo shoot for the happy couple to commemorate their special day.
After the first bell is rung and the couple and guests have entered the main hall, the ceremony commences with the officiating monk praying to the Amida Nyorai Buddha statue for the couple’s new life together. Following this, the couple receives holy water and Buddhist beads from the monk before they exchange vows in front of the statue. The ceremony is completed with a final bow to the statue and an offering of incense.
Saimyouji Temple has stood in Saitama for over 750 years. The temple attributes the long-lasting support it has received over generations to Buddhism’s flexibility and easy acceptance of differences. Because the religion has always revolved around promoting equality, the temple also strongly identifies as a safe and accepting place for LGBTQ individuals.
When he is not performing ceremonies, the temple’s head monk Myokan Senda also works as an activist, promoting equality for LGBTQ minorities. On top of holding frequent seminars raising LGBTQ awareness, the temple also participated in Saitama’s recent Rainbow Pride event on March 6, during which it handed out wagashi sweets that match the colours of the rainbow flag.
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