REPORT: Rainbow March in Sapporo

Makiko ISERI
Graduate Student, Hitotsubashi University

【The article below is the same as the article that appears in the 11th issue of the CGS Newsletter.】

The Rainbow March in Sapporo brought together Hokkaido locals and people from all over the country and beyond under a beautiful sunny sky. I went there because I had heard many good things about it and knew that the Tokyo Pride Parade had been postponed this year. And I'm glad I decided to go; the event was full of smiles and energy, and there was no excessive police or public intervention so the whole walk was fun and empowering.

What impressed me most was the sense that each and every individual was contributing to the march. We all had a rainbow-colored balloon that we kept to ourselves up until the very last when we let them fly at the same time from the center of Sapporo city. The climax, with the clear blue sky turning into the colors of the rainbow, provided a moment of solidarity such that both "hosts" and "guests" came together in collaboration as "marchers."
Another important aspect of the march was its political aspect. Since 2003, the mayor of Sapporo city has given a speech every year at the march. The prefectural governor of Hokkaido, the mayor of its sister city Munich, mayors of cities in Hokkaido, and various political parties have sent messages to be read at the gathering. There were also placards with various messages and illustrations that marchers could walk with if they wanted.
Should a pride parade be political or festive? This was a question raised at the Tokyo Pride meeting in which they discussed the issue of whether they should change the name of the event from Tokyo Lesbian & Gay Parade to Tokyo Pride Parade. I was at the meeting and sensed a clear tendency against the political, as if there had been no way the parade could be both political and festive. Most of the discussants seemed to see politics as an outward dynamic and festivity as an inward dynamic, claiming that the former focused on higher visibility and reaching out to the heteronormative society including public administration and citizens, while the latter emphasized enjoyment, empowerment and solidarity among marchers. In my opinion, this reflects a clear-cut (assumed) distinction between "society" and "marchers," which I think creates another large "closet" for the marchers to hide in.
Both before and after the march, I had a chance to talk to its founder, as well as its current and former committee members. They told me that there had always been a dynamic going back and forth between politics and festivity but they had tried very hard to figure out how to maintain the balance, or union, of the two. And what a success it was! One thing they keep in mind in order to facilitate this union is the celebration of life, in other words, the celebration of our presence nd existence; I'm happy that you are here. I'm happy for who you are. This celebration includes not only the marchers themselves but also their "friends on the sidelines." What facilitates the political in the Sapporo march, I believe, is this capacity to imagine a solidarity between "society" and "marchers," assuming the presence of potential marchers in "society," which never allows us "marchers" (us) to distance ourselves from "society" (them) and create a solely festive space only for us to enjoy ourselves.
When we speak of "success," we need to be careful about the diversity within the population that we are talking about. To whom was it a success? This is a question that needs to be always kept in mind. We did not have a lesbian float at the march this year due to an insufficient number of participants. Most of the committee members were gay men, and I sensed a degree of biphobia, misogyny, and indifference toward trans persons. These problems are everywhere and it is a shame that the Rainbow March in Sapporo was no exception. I am, however, hoping to see them overcome these problems in their own way just like they have successfully put together the political and the festive in their own unique way.