Japanese pop star Shijiro Atae made a heartfelt revelation at a fan event in Tokyo, bravely sharing that he identifies as gay. The audience responded with overwhelming support, cheering and applauding his announcement.
For 15 years, Atae was a prominent member of the highly popular group AAA until it went on hiatus in 2020. Now based in Los Angeles, he is pursuing a solo career in the United States.
His decision to come out comes at a time when there is a growing awareness and backing for LGBTQ+ rights in Japan. The country’s government has been historically conservative, and many lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have opposed granting equal rights to the LGBTQ+ community. Despite efforts by activists to push for an anti-discrimination law, a weaker alternative was passed in June, which focuses on raising awareness but lacks legal protections.
Opening up about his sexuality was not an easy journey for Atae. He admitted to fearing potential rejection from society and the risk of jeopardizing his career if he acknowledged his sexual orientation. However, he found the strength to overcome these challenges and decided to be honest with both himself and his fans.
Atae’s announcement received widespread support from LGBTQ+ activists and allies. Many viewed his coming out as a significant step forward for the LGBTQ+ community in Japan. Sosuke Matsuoka, an LGBTQ+ activist who attended the event, expressed how deeply moved he was by Atae’s words. He believed that hearing such a message when he was younger and struggling with his own sexuality would have given him hope.
Atae shared his early confusion and feelings of isolation when he began to realize his sexuality during his teenage years. Despite being a pop idol with numerous fans, he contemplated living overseas to escape the challenges he faced. However, during a trip abroad, witnessing same-sex couples openly expressing affection without judgment brought him comfort and a sense of belonging. This experience helped him understand that LGBTQ+ individuals deserve to live happily and authentically.
Now, Atae sees himself as an artist with a clear message: to offer support to all those who may be struggling with their identity. He introduced his new single, “Into the Light,” and announced that the proceeds from the song would be donated to LGBTQ+ organizations.
By speaking out about his identity, Shijiro Atae hopes to inspire courage and acceptance in others who may be grappling with similar feelings. His brave act is seen as a positive step towards fostering greater understanding and compassion for the LGBTQ+ community in Japan and beyond.