P.K. Sanjun thinks back to his first full-time job, and the boss who told him everything.

The acronym LGBT is cropping up more and more in the news lately, especially in Japan where recent breakthroughs in kids’ TV programming and protests against representative Mio Sugita’s anti-LGBT comments have been making headlines. People are increasingly realizing how likely it is that they work with, are related to, or watch people in the LGBT demographic onscreen every day.

Our Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun is acquainted with many people that Japan terms as “sexual minorities”. The increase in media attention has gotten him to think about the first gay person he ever met, a company supervisor at the job he worked 15 years ago. After deliberating on it, he decided to share the story with the readers of SoraNews24.

It all started 15 years ago, when P.K. was a fresh-faced office worker aged just 25 years old. He was in the employ of a small security consultations company about three minutes’ walk away from Tokyo station. Looking back, P.K. found the company to be a little suspicious, but at least he got to work under a great guy: Mr. Nakata (not his real name).

▼ Tokyo: a city of many companies, many workers, many sexualities

The company had about three branches under one boss’ supervision, and when P.K. joined it had about 10 employees. The median age of those employees was roughly 50 years old, however, and so the sprightly and youthful P.K. stuck out like a sore thumb. As you might expect, this made for a grueling work environment. No one wants to be the youngest guy at work, but especially not in Japan where seniority is counts for so much in the workplace.

The president of the company when P.K. joined was equal parts genius and madman. His bellowing voice could lecture for hours after hours, and while he wasn’t a bad person he ended up causing the inexperienced P.K. an unbearable amount of stress due to his overbearing personality. “Now I think on it,” P.K. commented, “that place was really like a black company back then,” he says, using the term in Japan that describes companies that have little or no value for their employees’ well-being.

But then, about six months after P.K. joined, a fresh new boss appeared!

▼ We didn’t have any photographs, so SoraNews24 illustrator Shoko Inaba rendered him in handsome anime guy form.

Decorated with numerous achievements in the field of security consultation, Nakata was an accomplished gent with an impressive resume, while being just four years older than P.K. He’d attended college in Osaka, and always used a bit of Kansai dialect when he spoke; his personality was light and friendly, and he had a great sense of humor. He was handsome, too! P.K. thanked the stars for blessing him with such a refreshing boss.

Perhaps due to their closeness in age, Mr. Nakata took incredibly good care of P.K., and while he let him know in no uncertain terms where he was on the corporate food chain (the bottom, with all the other rookie employees) he would defend P.K. against criticism and cheer him up as much as he might reprimand him or chide him for mistakes.

” If Paku (P.K.) makes a mistake it means I also made a mistake. Don’t rush to criticize him. It’s barely been half a year since he started working. Don’t you think he’s coping brilliantly? I ask you, what have you managed in half a year? Please try to compliment his achievements as well, if you must be critical.”

What a cool guy! But he didn’t just defend P.K. unthinkingly. In fact, he was a master of scolding in short, strict bursts, like “You were in the wrong there, you know? Watch it.” It was just the sort of kind structure that a young man working in his first job needed to become an upstanding member of society.

▼ Nakata, viewed through the eyes of a young P.K.

Of course, due to their closeness in age they often found themselves teamed up when socializing at work events. The office would go for drinks or three or four times a week, and Nakata told a wide-eyed P.K. all manner of sincere and interesting stories. These stories weren’t just limited to the workplace, either! He would often mix in details from his private life.

And then one day, at one of their ordinary outings to a local bar, P.K. was just heading back from ordering a drink when Nakata dropped a bombshell.

“Hey, Paku. Can I ask you something?”

“Huh? Sure. Why do you look so serious?”

“The truth is… I am actually a homosexual.”

“What, really?”


“Damn… I actually have a bunch of long-standing questions about the gay community. Is it okay if I ask them to you?”

“Wh- Well, yes, that’s no problem, but aren’t you surprised? You aren’t disgusted?”

“Oh, no way. I was surprised to hear it out of the blue like that, but it’s not like it makes me uncomfortable or anything like that. Man, maybe that’s why you’re a little unusual compared to other people…”

“How so?”

“You speak in Kansai dialect even though you aren’t a native and just went to college there. Oh, but also, you have this kind of internal tension that sometimes shows through… You have a bright personality, but occasionally there’s this bleak expression on your face like you’re under a very specific kind of pressure. I just thought it wasn’t like other people I’ve worked with.”

“You’re a pretty perceptive guy.”

Surprised as P.K. was, it rapidly gave way to curiosity. Once Nakata had come out to him, it only took P.K. seconds to accept him, but it took much longer for Nakata to answer all of his burning questions about homosexuality.

“What’s the difference between gei, homo, and okama? Which word should I use?

All of these words are used in Japan to address homosexuality, though okama can also carry a nuance of cross-dressing.

“You can call me whatever you like, but there are people who have preferences for what word they use. All those words just mean men who like men, so I don’t think there’s anything wrong with any of those terms.”

“I see, I see! Let’s see… I heard there are a lot of gay people in the entertainment industry, is that true?”

“Yeah, there are a lot. Just last week while I was in Ni-chome I saw △ ☆ ● × ※ ▼ ◎ ※ ★ △ ☆ ● × ※ ▼ ◎ ※ ★ [REDACTED]”

“Seriously, him? Though now that you mention it, I can kind of see it…”

Though P.K. ended up quitting from that company, he remained in contact with Nakata, who even helped him line up a new job after he left! Ever since the conversation where Nakata came out to him, P.K. has noticed a serious improvement in his own abilities to discern whether other men are gay or not.

▼ P.K. employing his gaydar in the office

P.K. has also made many more gay friends since learning about Nakata, with the main point of commonality being that they were all kind, caring people. P.K. never once felt uncomfortable around them. One of these friends helped shed some light on why gay people in particular are so good at recognizing the needs of others:

“A lot of us have to hide essential facts of who we are, so we’re always paying an intense amount of attention to the people around us. So being very kind and considerate to others is a good way to guarantee against cruel allegations. Put yourselves in our shoes: it’s freeing to be yourself, but sometimes it’s hard to tell in what ways!”

This view may be from just one person, but gay and lesbian individuals do tend to spend a lot of time observing other people. And it’s no surprise that hiding your true self 24/7 would wear on your body and soul. Nakata’s tired expression made a lot more sense to P.K. with that context.

The world does seem like it is gradually beginning to grow more accepting of LGBT people, even the famously conservative Japan. However, there are still people eager to express their disgust. P.K. in particular appreciates how people’s attitudes can differ, but he left with this plea:

“No matter how you feel about LGBT people, I implore you to at least avoid harmful remarks. You aren’t the only person living in this world, you know. Humanity is made up of lots of different kinds of people, all striving to live together.”

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