Japanese culture has had a long history of being opposed to LGTBQ, and while things have much improved over the last decade or so, Japan still lags behind other developed nations, particularly in relation to their laws. As a result, there are nowhere near as many gay Japanese stars in the spotlight. At least not yet. However, there are some people that have been brave enough to come out, and we can’t wait to tell you about them.
On this page, we want to look at 10 successful gay Japanese stars. These stars come from a variety of different types of entertainment. You have actors/actresses, comedians, and even a writer. As Japan continues to improve on the ‘acceptance’ front, we can only imagine that many much, much bigger stars will start to come out. Who knows, this list could look completely different a decade or so from now.
Matsuko Deluxe is a cross-dressing gay man. Oddly, not much is known about the man behind Matsuko Deluxe. He has tried to keep out of the public eye. Instead, we just have Matsuko Deluxe, an entertainer that dabbles in a wealth of content, although she is perhaps best known for appearing on TV, and perhaps writing the odd controversial article that pushes gay rights in Japan.
Before he became Matsuko Deluxe, the person behind the persona was, supposedly, a prominent name in journalism. They worked as a staff writer on various gay-focused magazines, before a book about them catapulted their persona into the public’s imagination.
Matsuko Deluxe is very well known for her wit, and you’ll often find her on various comedy panel shows, talk shows, and other late-night events. Outside of that, she is a talented writer where she (often controversially) talks about gay rights in Japan, and various politicians have often been the focus of her ire.
It isn’t just gay rights that she is pushing either. Matsuko Deluxe was one of the first plus-sized cross-dressers in Japan, and this seemed to push a whole new industry that she has continued to be a leader in. This has resulted in her being the face of many advertising campaigns in the country, and probably one of the most well-known gay rights supporters in the country.
One of the first cross-dressers to gain any sort of prominence in Japan was Akihiro Maruyama, more often known as Akihiro Miwa. At 88 years old, he is long out of the drag queen game, but he managed to enter the industry at a time where this sort of thing was frowned upon. So, you can think of him almost as a sort of trailblazer. He took the heat for doing something most people were opposed to at the time, allowing him to create a world in Japan where people that came later on would be subject to far, far less aggression from the wider public.
Born in 1935, Akihiro Miwa was 10 years old when Nagasaki, where he lived at the time, was bombed during World War II. Unlike thousands of others, Akihiro was able to escape the devastation, and his experiences there have guided his politics. He regularly condemns conservative politicians who may lead Japan back to the point they were in during World War II (which, among other things, would not have been very friendly to gay rights)
Outside of his political writings, Akihiro Miwa is a famed cabaret singer, television/movie actor, and journalist. If you enjoy your anime, then you may even be pleased to know that he has
loaned his voices to Pokemon movies, and the international hit, Princess Mononoke.
For many in Japan, Yūji Mitsuya may be the voice of their childhoods. While he has dabbled in several different acting ventures in his life, he is perhaps best known for voicing Timon in the Japanese dub of The Lion King, and Marty McFly in the Japanese dub of the Back to the Future trilogy. However, it wasn’t until 2017 that he came out as gay (which shows how recently attitudes in Japan have started to change)
Most people in Japan won’t know him by his face (sadly), outside of a few TV interviews. However, you can almost guarantee that he is about to record lines for a live-action dub, some anime, or the odd video game (he is a big recording artist for the Kingdom Hearts series, for instance).
Outside of his voice-acting roles, he does do a spot of acting. However, most of Yūji Mitsuya’s work is behind the scenes where he runs recording studios, sound editing, etc. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been as active recently. In 2022, he announced that he would be spending time away to fight prostate cancer.
Ayaka Ichinose is one of the more prominent names in gay culture in Japan right now. She is actually married to Akane Sugimori, who we will discuss in the next section!
Ayaka Ichinose is one of the most successful Japanese gravure idols, and she has graced the pages of many magazines, where people look at her tremendously svelte figure. When she came out as a lesbian in 2009, it took many people by surprise.
As we said, Ayaka Ichinose is ‘married’ to Akana Sugimori, but she isn’t legally married. She planned a big, lush ceremony that graced the media in Japan. Although, Japan refuses to recognize same-sex partnerships in the country (in any form), and the idea of her wedding was to try and push Japan into introducing same-sex partnerships although, unfortunately, this has yet to happen.
That being said, it is clear that Ayaka Ichinose had a big impact on Japanese culture. Her ‘wedding’ started a lot of discussions, and the hope is that if these discussions keep ramping on, gay marriage could be legal in Japan in the incredibly near future. In fact, based on what we have seen so far, we wouldn’t be surprised if it happened in the next decade or so.
We aren’t quite sure what Akane Sugimori was doing with her life before she met Ayaka Ichinose. There doesn’t seem to be that much information about Akane Sugimori out there. However, that hasn’t stopped her from becoming one of the most successful gay Japanese stars.
She has been successful due to her association with Akane Sugimori and her desire to push the entirety of gay acceptance forward in Japan, and you’ll regularly find her writing articles and chatting on talk shows.
If she does get her dream of Japan becoming a much more accepting place for gay culture (starting with equal rights for same-sex couples), then fantastic! It would make her one of the most successful gay Japanese stars ever since she would have changed something that is deeply rooted in Japanese culture and has been for centuries.
While she was born in the United States, Kiko Mizuhara has lived almost her entire life in Japan, and she is one of the top celebrities in the country. She is a model, actress, singer, and now a fashion designer. She has recently come out as bi-sexual, and she has stated that she regularly dates women. Although, she doesn’t currently appear to be in a relationship with anybody.
Barely a major fashion show in Japan goes on without Kiki Mizuhara walking the runway at some point. She can also be found dominating the various fashion and lifestyle magazines published both in Japan and overseas. Not surprising, really. She has been voted one of the most beautiful women in Japan.
If you are a fan of Japanese movies, then you will likely have caught Kiko Mizuhara’s acting debut in the critically acclaimed Norwegian Wood. She has gone on to star in countless other Japanese movies, and she has recently started to expand a little bit into American movies (where she is no doubt set to be a massive hit).
Of course, this is a multi-talented woman. When she isn’t dabbling in all the entertaining that she is doing, you’ll find her designing fashion. Some of the ranges that she has produced have been massively successful, and her hope is that later on she can do this full-time and give people the start in their modeling career that she managed to get all those years ago.
Akira the Hustler
While he was born to Japanese parents, Akira the Hustler lived the first few years of his life in Germany. Later on, he moved to Japan.
Akira the Hustler first came to prominence when he was studying at university. While he wasn’t a big name then, he was at the forefront of many campaigns designed to reduce the stigma of HIV/AIDs sufferers. You would have seen his name listed a lot back then.
After graduating, he moved around Japan to become a prominent call boy/escort. While he no longer does this, his journey then shaped the way his career went in the future. The first time he moved into entertainment was when he worked with ex-escorts to form a performance group that regularly discussed the world of escorts.
In the entertainment world, he does a little bit of everything. Since he studied art at college, a lot of his focus is on oil painting and sculptures. You’ll also find him writing a lot, and engaging in performance arts (where he writes about his experiences as an escort and LGTBQ campaigner).
We are writing this article in August 2023, and it was just a couple of days before we started writing that prominent singer-songwriter, Shinjiro Atae, came out as gay. It has already started to cause positive ripples throughout Japanese culture, and we are interested to see how this will continue to go.
Early on in his career, Shinjiro Atae was known for being a member of the pop band AAA before he started his own solo career later on. In that time, he has provided the voices for numerous video games (and even had his likeness starring in some dating sims). He may not be one of the biggest names on this list, but we can imagine that he is going to become one of the top advocates very soon.
Unfortunately, Ken Maeda passed away at a young age. However, when he was active as an entertainer, he was a top comedian in Japan where he performed both solo and as part of the comedy troupe, Tribune.
He was well known for doing impressions not only of Japanese stars, but prominent international stars too. If you’re ever looking to have a smile put on your face, then head on over to YouTube and watch a few of his videos. We’re sure you’ll love them.
Moga Mogami is a popular model in Japan, although she is more commonly known as a member of the band Dempagumi.inc, which has had a little bit of success outside of Japan. She came out as bisexual in 2017, and a lot of the work that she has done since then has heavily focused on that.
In recent years, she has broken away from her band a little bit to take on modeling contracts, voice acting, and has even starred in a few minor Japanese live-action movies. Since she is still pretty young, who knows where her career will take her next?
As you can see, there are lots of successful gay Japanese stars, and we have barely started to scratch the surface. As we said at the start, Japan doesn’t quite have the number of ‘out’ stars that other major developed nations have due to the more conservative nature of the country. However, this is something that we are likely to see change massively over the coming years. If we do see that massive shift in Japanese culture, then you’ll need to remember all the names that we have listed on this page. These are the gay stars that have paved the way for everybody else in the industry, and these names will go down in history.