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Japanese Pop Star Comes Out As Gay To Fans During Event: 'I Don't Want People To Struggle Like Me'

Shinjiro Atae announced his sexuality to 2,000 fans at a special event, and later shared a heartfelt post on Instagram about his coming out.

Shinjiro Atae
Christopher Polk/Variety via Getty Images

Japanese pop idol Shinjiro Atae came out as gay in front of 2,00 fans at an event at the Line Cube Shibuya in Tokyo.

The high-profile singer's bold announcement was rare and significant, especially considering Japan's conservative views on LGBTQ+ issues.

Japan is the only country of the G7 nations that has not legalized same-sex unions.

Taiwan remains the only Asian nation or territory that legally recognizes same-sex marriages.

The 34-year-old singer/songwriter and actor revealed his sexual identity on Wednesday night, telling audience members:

"I respect you and believe you deserve to hear this directly from me."

He continued, per The New York Times:

“For years, I struggled to accept a part of myself."
"But now, after all I have been through, I finally have the courage to open up to you about something."
"I am a gay man."

Atae added:

"I don't want people to struggle like me."

Following Wednesday's announcement, he penned a heartfelt letter to his followers on Instagram.

"To all my fans, today was a very special day for me. For years, I struggled to accept a part of myself," he wrote.

"But now, after all I have been through, I finally have the courage to open up to you about something. I am a gay man."
"It has taken me a long time to be able to say I am gay. I could not even say it to myself."
"However, I’ve come to realize it is better, both for me, and for the people I care about, including my fans, to live life authentically than to live a life never accepting who I truly am."
"I hope people who are struggling with the same feeling will find courage and know they are not alone."

Twitter users applauded the singer for his bravery and for becoming an inspiring role model in a country that is still behind in LGBTQ+ acceptance.

Atae explained why it was so important for him to come out in front of fans.

"I held this event today because I wanted to tell as many of you as possible directly."
"For those unable to attend I will be posting my full speech on my website tomorrow so you can hear the news in my own words. The link is in my bio (English subtitles available)."

He continued:

"When I think of my work in the entertainment industry and the many things for which I am grateful, it is my relationship with my fans that first comes to mind."
"I thank you guys from the bottom of my heart for standing beside me over the years."
"I’d also like to thank my family, friends, staff members and my fellow AAA members for providing me their full support throughout this process."

The number of Japanese municipalities allowing same-sex couples to enter partnership agreements has surged from 26 to 300 since Japan's last pre-pandemic Pride parade in 2019.

Although the partnership agreements grant same-sex couples 18 years or older the same privileges that were previously exclusive to married heterosexual couples–like living in public housing together–there are still some restrictions.

Same-sex partners cannot legally inherit each other's assets and same-sex couples are denied parental rights to each other's children. Additionally, hospital visitation rights are not always guaranteed.

In spite of Japan's social attitudes and established cultural framework forcing many LGBTQ+ people to stay under the radar for fear of discrimination from family and work colleagues, a majority of the public has gradually shown increased support for LGBTQ+ equality.

According to a 2022 survey, 65% of the Japanese public supported same-sex marriages–up from 41% in 2015.

Atae made his music debut as part of the co-ed Japanese pop group AAA in 2005 before embarking on his solo career in 2016.

Former AAA bandmate Misako Uno voiced her support for her friend.

Atae's coming out announcement coincided with the release of his new single "Into the Light"–which is now available for purchase and streaming.

A press release stated that proceeds from the single will be donated to Pride House Tokyo: Legacy–a consortium that will establish Japan's first permanent LGBTQ+ center–and ReBit, a nonprofit organization support group for LGBTQ+ youth based in Tokyo.