Nikita Mishra
Jan 11, 2024

Scripting equality in the Japanese script, one character at a time

INSPIRATION STATION: An exhibition in Tokyo challenges 1,600 years of gender bias and LGBTQ+ exclusion in the Japanese written language.

Scripting equality in the Japanese script, one character at a time

In a dynamic fusion of tradition and progress, Tokyo's Reload Gallery Shimokitazawa is hosting an exhibition, "Living Kanji: Modernizing Script for a Changing Japan."

This project, spearheaded by Tokyo creatives from Dentsu, is not just a reimagining of the native kanji script but a bold step towards fostering inclusivity in a nation where LGBTQ+ rights face a persistent uphill battle.

Japan, known for its historical tolerance, surprisingly holds the title of being the last G7 country to enact anti-discrimination laws safeguarding the LGBTQ+ community. Critics argue that the existing law lacks teeth, but it marks Japan's initial effort to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The exhibition pioneers the creation of LGBTQ+ specific kanji, challenging a staggering 1,600 years of gender bias ingrained in the Japanese written language. Hami, the creative mind behind the project, emphasizes that this endeavor isn't about replacing traditional kanji but igniting vital discussions on a more inclusive Japan.

According to the 2023 Global Gender Gap Report, Japan lags at 125th out of 146 countries in gender equality. This stark reality underscores the urgency for dialogues that push the government to align legislation with contemporary sensibilities.

Adam Gothelf, senior copywriter on the project, stresses the importance of challenging ancient biases, stating, "Words with historical biases about women can still negatively impact modern women." This sentiment reinforces the critical role of dialogue in dismantling archaic stereotypes.

Running from January 11 to 14, this exhibition invites everyone to contemplate a transformed Japan that embraces diversity. The artistic endeavor transcends the gallery walls, beckoning society to engage in conversations that pave the way for a more accepting and open Japan.


Hami (Miharu Matsunaga), creative director and art director
Chiara Mendolia, graphic designer
Adam Gothelf, copywriter

You've arrived at Inspiration Station, a weekly look at imaginative and artistic work from creators of all kinds across Asia-Pacific. Step off for a minute to recharge your creative batteries and find inspiration for that next big idea of yours further down the track.


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