An Invitation to “Rainbow TOHOKU”

Tohoku is a region that is said to be the ‘hometown’ of the hearts of the Japanese people, as well as a place ‘where the primal scenery of Japan resides.’ Featuring World Heritage sites such as the Shirakami-Sanchi mountains, the magnificent unspoiled nature of the Tohoku region ceaselessly evolves with the passing of the seasons, enchanting all who see it. With respect to onsens Tohoku is blessed with both quantity and quality, with rustic ‘hidden’ onsens tucked away in the mountains, a feature that cannot be found in Japan’s other regions. The area is also known for its plentiful local cuisine made from the bounty of the seas and mountains, dazzling and impressive traditional festivals, and historical buildings/cultural assets like the World Heritage Site of Hiraizumi. More than anything else, Tohoku’s charm lies within the experience of meeting its simple yet warm residents. Despite all this, the Great East Japan Earthquake struck Tohoku in March of 2011. A tsunami surged through the Pacific coastal region, taking the lives of over 15,000 people and leaving unprecedented destruction in its wake. Wishing to lift the hearts of the people of Tohoku up from the depths of despair and hasten the area’s reconstruction by even 1 day, countless people within Japan rallied around the motto of ‘Kizuna’ (meaning ‘bonds between people’ in Japanese), aiding Tohoku with reconstruction efforts and providing economic aid. (Tohoku also received aid from kind souls around the world, such as Lady Gaga and many others. We would like to express our deepest appreciation for all their efforts.) In the months and years since then the road and railway infrastructure restoration & maintenance has made great progress. But, as Japan pours its efforts into tourism and preparation for the Olympics, at present the Tohoku region receives the fewest overseas visitors. To have overseas visitors learn about the charms of Tohoku, visit Tohoku, and savor the goodness of the Tohoku region, the Reconstruction Agency has accepted a proposal from the advertising agency Shintsu and the consulting firm OUT JAPAN, embarking upon the first administration-led LGBTQ inbound tourism venture. This project is filled with deep meaning for Junichi Goto of LGBTQ-aligned OUT JAPAN — he was born in Tohoku, had his family’s house washed away in the tsunami, lived life as a refugee, and lost countless friends and acquaintances. He wishes for overseas LGBTQ individuals to learn of the Tohoku where he was born and raised, and the wonders of his beloved birthplace. Due to his desire for people to visit Tohoku and to welcome LGBTQ individuals from overseas, he believes that not only Tohoku’s tourism industry but also the regional communities must become LGBTQ-friendly. He also believes that there would be nothing more joyous in this world than his efforts leading towards Tohoku being an easier place to live for his LGBTQ friends. The symbol of Rainbow TOHOKU is a rainbow-colored firebird. This firebird is a phoenix that has resided within the imagination of the Tohoku region since ancient times, serving as a symbol of rebirth. As our project is just getting started there may be many imperfections. Despite this, we intend to work our hardest to paint the 6 prefectures of Tohoku with a 6-colored rainbow to the utmost of our ability, persevering all the while like the immortal phoenix. Our hope is to inspire as many LGBTQ individuals and allies as possible to choose the “Rainbow TOHOKU” that we have poured our hearts and souls into as a travel destination, so that they may return home with an unforgettable experience that will last a lifetime in their hearts.