Rakuten brought the energy at Tokyo Rainbow Pride Parade 2019—bringing out more than 100 employees, partners and friends to celebrate Japan’s largest annual LGBT event.

Clad in matching white t-shirts emblazoned with a rainbow-colored Rakuten logo, as well as plenty of rainbow-themed temporary tattoos, members of the Rakuten LGBT+ Network* and allies marched through Tokyo’s bustling Shibuya district, finishing up with a festival in famed Yoyogi Park.

The Tokyo Rainbow Pride Parade celebrated its 25th anniversary with the biggest celebration yet, joined by over 200 000 visitors.
The Tokyo Rainbow Pride Parade celebrated its 25th anniversary with the biggest celebration yet, joined by over 200,000 visitors.

Rakuten LGBT+ Network outreach at company booth

The Rakuten booth at Yoyogi park was hosted and staffed by members of Rakuten’s LGBT+ Network and allies. The network, established in 2017, is one of the first of its kind among homegrown companies in Japan and works across Rakuten departments to provide visibility on LGBT issues, advise on LGBT-inclusive policy and educate employees. Network members at the booth shared information about Rakuten’s efforts to empower the LGBT community, both internally and through the company’s services nationwide. The booth also gave Rakuten employees a chance to take questions from visitors and hear suggestions for how the company can better serve LGBT individuals.

“It was such a proud moment to represent the Rakuten Group during the Parade,” said co-organizer of the event and member of Rakuten’s Network Promotion Team Kota Hanzawa. “To see our members demonstrate Rakuten’s one team spirit to show that we respect and support diversity was amazing. I was also very happy to see so many people visiting our booth to share their opinions.”

“Which service do you think most needs more LGBT support?” asked network volunteers at the Rakuten booth.

“I hope seeing Rakuten’s participation at the parade and booth helped LGBT employees to feel more comfortable and safe in their working environment and encouraged non-identifying employees to learn more and improve their understanding,” added Rakuten LGBT+ Network Chair and fellow co-organizer Brendan Paull. “With large Japanese companies participating, it improves awareness in society in general, which is an important first step towards marriage equality and other rights for LGBT individuals.”

A history of LGBT empowerment

Rakuten’s efforts to empower and recognize Japan’s LGBT community extend beyond the employee network. Although Japan has not yet achieved marriage equality, Rakuten has been proactive in offering benefits to partners of the same sex, including honeymoon leave, condolence payments and a range of other standard benefits available to married couples. Rakuten has established a way for employees to register their same-sex partners directly with the company, so they can make use of the benefits provided.

Recent developments at the municipal level in Japan suggest some progress in recognition of same-sex partnerships. Since 2015, a number of municipalities around Japan have begun offering couples of the same sex special “partnership certificates,” that while symbolic, help increase awareness. Among the list of Tokyo cities to offer partnership certificates are Shibuya, site of the pride parade, and Setagaya, home of Rakuten’s Crimson House headquarters.

Rakuten’s Shopping Panda made it out to the parade as well.

This spirit of LGBT empowerment extends to several of the company’s services as well, from sharing a Rakuten Card family credit card with a partner of the same sex to nominating them as a beneficiary for a Rakuten Insurance life insurance policy. For the LGBT+ Network, consulting with services on how to be more inclusive is an important mission.

Looking ahead

With the 40-member network continuing to grow, the group’s leadership has big plans for the future. These include in-house training for managers and new graduates, an info desk in the company’s headquarters, a booth at family day and more.

While this work will surely take time, Paull and network members are optimistic about their power to create change; They’ll be bringing the same passion and energy demonstrated on parade weekend to these important initiatives.

Rakuten LGBT+ Network members and allies show their pride during Tokyo Rainbow Pride Parade 2019.

* While “LGBT+” was selected for the network’s name, it is inclusive of sexual orientations and gender identities.