“Gaycation” recap (1.1): Japan

As Ellen spends more time with members of the LGBT community, she starts to realize that in Japan, it’s not about openly hating and discriminating against queer people there. It’s much more systematic and internalized, which in some ways, makes it even harder to break free from. Ellen meets with Japan’s first openly lesbian politician, Kanako Otsuji. She explains to Ellen that the feelings about the LGBT community go back to the fifties, where the nuclear family unit was of utmost importance. The country’s culture of shame also contributes to the lack of acceptance, Kanako adds. Coming out isn’t championed, it’s considered shameful. That certainly hasn’t stopped the Assemblywoman though from fighting for LGBT rights.

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There is a company in Japan that rents out family members and friends for events and occasions like weddings, funerals and even coming outs. Ellen and Ian join the company’s founder, Mr. IIshi, as he meets with a young man who wants to come out to his mother. The young man has the same worries that most of us do when coming out: that he will lose friends or become estranged from family. He asks Ellen about her experience of finally deciding to come out, and she shares her thoughts on not wanting to hide any longer and being able to love openly. “I just wanted to be happy, and I wasn’t happy,” she tells him.

Her words strengthen his resolve to come out to his mom, and soon she arrives. Ellen and Ian sit in the room while they talk. At first, his mother is overwhelmed and leaves, but she soon comes back with an open heart. Ellen is so taken by it all, she has to wipe away tears of relief and happiness.

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As the episode comes to a close, Ellen talks about the importance of coming out and how it can truly change attitudes, hearts and ultimately, the world. Lord knows, her coming out has inspired so many. And on a happy note, last spring, Tokyo’s Shibuya ward began recognizing same-sex unions. This is a big step and hopefully one of many more to come.

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So, should you check out Gaycation? Absolutely. Even if you aren’t an Ellen Page fan (and who isn’t? Come on!) the show will open your eyes to so much about the LGBT community outside of your own country and perspectives.

Gaycation is available now on Viceland.