iroha Pride Month Celebrates Aya Kamikawa: A Trailblazer for Trans Rights in Japan

Pride Month is a time to celebrate diversity, inclusivity, and the relentless pursuit of equality. As we reflect on the progress made and the work that still lies ahead, it is essential to highlight those who have courageously paved the way for LGBTQ+ rights. Among these trailblazers is Aya Kamikawa, a Japanese politician whose remarkable journey and achievements have significantly impacted the transgender community in Japan. As a brand committed to empowering individuals to embrace their true colors, iroha is proud to shine a light on her achievements and her story of resilience.


Who is Aya Kamikawa?
Breaking Barriers: The 2003 Election
Advocacy and Achievements
The Cultural Impact
Continuing the Fight
A Legacy of Courage and Change

Who is Aya Kamikawa?

Kamikawa with a horse

Aya Kamikawa, born on January 25, 1968, in Taitō Ward, Tokyo, is a name synonymous with courage, resilience, and groundbreaking progress in the fight for transgender rights. 

She attended Hosei University Second Senior High School, an all-boys school, and graduated from Hosei University in 1990 (website in Japanese) with a degree in Business Administration. Initially working in public relations while presenting as male, she faced significant stress related to gender dysphoria, leading her to resign in 1995 and begin hormone replacement therapy in 1998.

Breaking Barriers: The 2003 Election

Kamikawa campaigning

In 2003, at the age of 35, Aya Kamikawa made history by becoming the first openly transgender person elected to public office in Japan. She submitted her election application with a blank space for "sex," a bold move that drew substantial media attention. Running as an independent candidate, she won an assembly seat in the Setagaya Ward Assembly, Tokyo's most populous district. Her platform focused on improving rights for women, children, the elderly, the handicapped, and LGBTQ+ people.

Kamikawa's election was not just a personal triumph, but also a significant milestone for the LGBTQ+ community. Her win demonstrated that transgender individuals could hold public office and influence policy, challenging entrenched societal norms.

Advocacy and Achievements

Queer Japanese couple with rainbow flags

One of Aya Kamikawa's most notable achievements was her role in advocating for changes to Japan's gender marker laws. In Japan, a person’s birth gender is noted in the family registry certificate that every citizen must have and that is often needed for essential tasks, such as renting an apartment or receiving medical care. 

Following Kamikawa’s tireless lobbying, legislation was passed on gender marker changes just two and a half months after her election. This law allowed transgender individuals to legally change their gender marker, provided they met specific criteria, which are that they must have received a diagnosis of “gender identity disorder” and have undergone sexual reassignment surgery.

In 2005, Kamikawa was able to change her legal gender designation, a milestone in her personal journey and a victory for her advocacy efforts. She also played a key role in the establishment of Japan's first same-sex partnership registration, which began simultaneously in Setagaya and Shibuya Wards in November 2015. Additionally, she contributed to the passage of Japan's first anti-discrimination ordinance inclusive of LGBTQ+ individuals, ethnicity, and nationality in Setagaya.

Kamikawa's advocacy extends beyond gender issues. She has worked to improve support for single-parent families, standardize the installation of tactile paving for the visually impaired, and enhance multilingual support for foreign residents. Her comprehensive approach to social justice highlights her commitment to inclusivity and equality.

The Cultural Impact

Even outside the political realm, Aya Kamikawa has become a cultural icon and a source of inspiration for many in Japan and around the world. Her story has been covered extensively in the media, helping to raise awareness about transgender issues and challenge societal norms.

In a country where traditional gender roles have long been deeply ingrained, Kamikawa's presence in the public eye has been instrumental in fostering greater acceptance and understanding of transgender people. Her visibility and the positive representation of transgender individuals have contributed to shifting public attitudes and reducing stigma.

Continuing the Fight

Kamikawa holding her political pamphlet

Despite the progress made, Aya Kamikawa is acutely aware that the fight for full equality is far from over (website in Japanese). She continues to advocate for comprehensive anti-discrimination laws that protect all LGBTQ+ individuals. While Japan has seen some improvements in recent years, such as the introduction of partnership certificates for same-sex couples in some municipalities, there is still a lack of nationwide legal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Kamikawa also emphasizes the importance of education in promoting understanding and acceptance. She advocates for inclusive curriculums that teach students about LGBTQ+ issues and the importance of diversity. By fostering a more inclusive educational environment, Kamikawa believes that future generations will be better equipped to support and uphold the rights of all individuals, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

A Legacy of Courage and Change

Pride flag

Aya Kamikawa's legacy is one of courage, perseverance, and profound impact. Her journey from a groundbreaking political candidate to a steadfast advocate for transgender rights has left an indelible mark on Japanese society. She has shown that with determination and resilience, it is possible to challenge entrenched norms and effect meaningful change.

As we celebrate Pride Month, Aya Kamikawa's story serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of representation and advocacy. Her contributions highlight the need for continued efforts to ensure that all individuals, regardless of their gender identity, can live with dignity, respect, and equality.

"I decided not to pretend to be an ordinary male anymore, but try to be who I truly am. I changed my gender, the reason was because I knew that I was different and I could feel that between my body and heart there was no harmony. But it wasn't easy at all, it is thanks to my father who encouraged me by telling me to do whatever I think is right."

Aya Kamikawa


Aya Kamikawa's achievements resonate not only within Japan but across the globe. Her pioneering work and advocacy continue to inspire and empower countless individuals. As we honor her contributions this Pride Month, let us also recommit ourselves to the ongoing fight for LGBTQ+ rights and equality. Aya Kamikawa's journey reminds us that progress is possible, and every step forward brings us closer to a world where everyone can live authentically and freely.

By celebrating trailblazers like Aya Kamikawa, we acknowledge the strides made and reaffirm our commitment to a future where diversity is celebrated and equality is a reality for all.

Would You Like to Support the LGBTQ+ Community?

A rainbow falling onto a hand

Supporting the LGBTQ+ community goes beyond celebrating Pride Month. There are several ways you can make a difference:

  • Educate Yourself and Others: Learning about LGBTQ+ issues and sharing this knowledge helps foster understanding and acceptance.
  • Advocate for Inclusive Policies: Support policies that promote equality and protect the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals.
  • Volunteer: Offer your time to organizations that support LGBTQ+ causes.
  • Donate: Financial contributions can significantly impact advocacy efforts and support services for the LGBTQ+ community.

At iroha and TENGA, we are committed to supporting these efforts. We have introduced a donation option at checkout on our online store, allowing our customers to contribute to a charity that supports the LGBTQ+ community. Moreover, TENGA sells the TENGA EGG SHINY PRIDE EDITION and the new TENGA EGG SHINY II PRIDE EDITION, with all profits from these products donated to support sexual minority causes worldwide. This initiative reflects our dedication to fostering a more inclusive and supportive world.

Together, we can continue to champion equality and support the ongoing fight for LGBTQ+ rights. Thank you for joining us in celebrating Pride Month and recognizing the incredible contributions of leaders like Aya Kamikawa.

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