Japanese pop star Shinjiro Atae announced that he is gay on Wednesday – a bold move for such a public figure in Japan, a the country still does not recognize same-sex unions.
According to a press release sent to CNN, Atae hosted a fan event where he shared his news through a “moving speech,” and was met with rousing applause and support from the 2,000 attendees who were present.
“Today was a very special day for me,” Atae wrote in a post on his Instagram page on Wednesday after the event, adding that after years of struggling to accept this part of himself, “I finally have the courage to open up to you about something. I am a gay man.”
His post continued, “It has taken me a long time to be able to say I am gay. I could not even say it to myself. However, I’ve come to realize it is better, both for me, and for the people I care about, including my fans, to live life authentically than to live a life never accepting who I truly am.”
Atae accompanied his announcement with the release of a new single, “Into the Light,” the proceeds of which, in part, will be donated to Pride House Tokyo – Japan’s first permanent LGBTQ+ center – and LGBTQ+ youth organization ReBit.
Known today for his solo music, Atae was previously a member of the co-ed Japanese super-group AAA (Triple A) for over a decade. The group originally debuted in 2005 when Atae was just 14.
The news of Atae’s coming out comes at a tenuous time in Japan, as the country faces increasing pressure from other Group of Seven (G7) nations to allow same-sex marriage.
Japan is the only G7 nation that doesn’t recognize either same-sex civil unions or same-sex marriage, and despite passing a bill last month to promote understanding of the LGBTQ+ community, many critics say the legislation doesn’t provide any human rights guarantees and might ultimately encourage discrimination.
For his part, Atae hopes his announcement helps others, writing on Wednesday that he hopes “people who are struggling with the same feeling will find courage and know they are not alone.”