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Kanako Otsuji (尾辻 かな子 Otsuji Kanako?, born December 16, 1974 in Nara) is a Japanese LGBT rights activist and former member of the House of Councilors of the National Diet of Japan. She was also a member of the Osaka Prefectural Assembly (April 2003–April 2007). One of only seven women in the 110-member Osaka Assembly, Otsuji represented the Sakai-ku, Sakai City constituency. In May 2013, after her party member of the House resigned, Otsuji became the nation's first openly homosexual member of the Diet, but her term in office expired in July.
As a schoolgirl in Kobe, Otsuji was an Asian Junior karate champion, then later enrolled at Seoul University to study Korean and tae kwon do. She lost by TKO to Yoriko Okamoto in 1999. She had hoped to go to the Sydney Olympics in 2000 but was unsuccessful in making the national team. She returned to Japan and enrolled at Doshisha University in Kyoto, where she first became interested in politics.
Otsuji stood for election as an Independent in April 2003, at 28 becoming the youngest person ever elected to the Osaka Assembly. She later joined Rainbow and Greens, a new Japanese political coalition dedicated to developing an alternative society based on ecological politics, participatory political ideas and decentralisation.
In August 2005, Otsuji published an autobiography Coming Out: A Journey to Find My True Self (カミングアウト～自分らしさを見つける旅 Kamingu auto - Jibun rashisa o mitsukeru tabi?), and in doing so came out as Japan's first lesbian politician, the day before 2005 Tokyo Pride.
In 2005, Otsuji was instrumental in bringing about a legislative change that allows same-sex couples to rent housing from the Osaka Prefectural Housing Corporation, a privilege previously reserved for married couples. Since same-sex marriages are not recognised under Japanese law, gay couples in Osaka had previously found it impossible to rent public housing.
In June 2006, Otsuji visited the United States on a trip sponsored by the International Visitor Leadership Program of the US Department of State. During her visit she met representatives from the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Association of LGBT Community Centers, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Freedom to Marry and the Stonewall Democrats.
In June 2007, Otsuji held a public wedding ceremony in Nagoya with her partner Maki Kimura, although same-sex marriages are not legally recognised in Japan.
Otsuji did not stand for re-election in April 2007. Her first term in the Osaka Assembly expired on 29 April 2007, but in July 2007 she appeared on the official candidate list of the Democratic Party of Japan, becoming the first-ever openly homosexual serious contender for election to the National Diet. Otsuji received 38,230 votes, far short of securing the seat, so there were no openly homosexual elected officials in Japan until the election of Taiga Ishikawa, an assemblyman in Tokyo's Toshima ward, in 2011.
August 22, 2009 is the world premiere of director Naomi Hiltz's documentary film Kanako: Challenging The System at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. The film covers the last 17 days of the campaign, ending with election day.
- "First gay candidate runs in Japan". CNN Turner Broadcasting System. 20 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-19.[dead link]
- "Japanese gay woman loses bid for parliament seat". Reuters. 29 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-01.
- "Taiga Ishikawa, Openly Gay Japanese Politician, Wins Election In Tokyo". Huffington Post. 10 January 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-10.
- Japan Times — Lesbian politician Kanako Otsuji talks about gender issues in Japan
- Japan Media Review — Osaka Legislator 'Comes Out' in Autobiography
- TransNews Annex — Japan's first openly gay politician speaks up for nation's silent minorities — IHT/Asahi
- Bay Area Reporter — Japanese politician opens closet doors
- Out of the closet: Japan's transsexuals gain freedoms, but still face barriers
- — Article on Otsuji's wedding in Pink News
- - New Beginnings for Gay Movement: Kanako Otsuji at Fridae.com (Empowering Gay Asia)
- — Japanzine - The Lesbian Politician