Colorful, tropical Okinawa just got even more rainbow-friendly.

Naha – the capital city of Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture – recently announced that it will be officially recognizing same-sex couples with “partnership certificates” starting July 8. Naha is the fifth Japanese municipality to issue same-sex partnership certificates, following Takarazuka in Hyogo Prefecture last month.

While same-sex partner certificates are not the same as legal marriage in Japan, it is still a step in the right direction. It is an official recognition of the couple’s relationship, which could help in situations like purchasing housing, hospital visitation rights, purchasing family plans at businesses, and more.

Mikiko Shiroma, the current mayor of Naha, said that: “This is a symbol of our city accepting LGBT people as members of our society.”

While there haven’t been any official reasons given behind Naha’s decision, culturally Okinawa is very distinct from mainland Japan. It was a different country, the Ryukyu Kingdom, until 1879 when it was annexed by Japan, then occupied by America after WWII until given back to Japan in 1972. Okinawa has a long history of adapting to and accepting other cultures, and this could just be the next step in that history.

Here’s what Japanese netizens tweeted about in response to the news:

▼ “Hope this spreads to all over Japan.”

▼ “Same-sex partnerships are now recognized in Naha. That’s amazing. ‘Everyone is different, and everyone is good.’ Okinawa and Naha are such warm places.”

▼ “What a surprise! Naha has started a system to recognize same-sex couples almost the same as marriage!”

▼ “So ‘partnerships’ are available in Naha? It’s like they’re recognizing gay marriage.”

While most of us would like to see same-sex marriage become official in Japan, this is still a good start. Japanese bureaucracy is infamously slow, but if the domino effect continues across the country, and the movement gains momentum, then perhaps we’ll see even more change in the near future.

Source: Ryukyu Shimpo via GENXY
Featured/top image: Twitter/@genxy_net