The notorious and beloved Japanese business tycoon Kazuyo Katsuma, who has amassed a lively group of fans called Katsumers, just came out as gay by announcing her relationship with LGBTQ activist Hiroko Masuhara.
The 49-year old is a successful businesswoman, economic commentator, and best-selling author. Having worked for big corporate firms like McKinsey and JPMorgan, she parlayed her business triumphs into multiple how-to and lifestyle books. Her popular writings on work-life balance and self-management have sold over five million copies. In 2005, the Wall Street Journal named her one of “The 50 Women to Watch” after her online forum accumulated “legions of fans among Japanese working mothers.” Now, the Japanese feminist icon is opening up about her love life.
Katsuma told BuzzFeed Japan, “I kept the lid on my feelings of attraction to members of the same sex.” But once she met her girlfriend Hiroko, everything changed. “After I met Hiroko, the ice in my heart melted, although it took a few years. I hope this interview article will cheer up someone and trigger a change.”
Masuhara herself is a notable public figure in Japan, as she and a previous partner were the first to couple to receive a same-sex partnership certificate from the country in 2015. She and her ex, Koyuki Higashi, called it quits last year, though they still run an LGBTQ advocacy group together. Higashi congratulated the happy couple on social media, dubbing them Japan’s “first power lesbians.”
While same-sex marriage is still illegal in Japan, activists are hopeful, especially given this announcement from a very public-facing businesswoman. Fumino Sugiyama, co-chair of the Tokyo Rainbow Pride festival, said Katsuma’s coming out “would have a great impact on society as she is such an influential person in business circles.”
She asserted, “It must have required enormous courage for her to come out. Sometimes I personally hear about a well-known artist or Olympian coming out but they say they are worried about the impact.”
Moments like this can inspire change within homophobic governments—as we’ve witnessed on our own shores. Hopefully, Kazuyo Katsuma’s story will continue to change minds in Japan and influence others to come out too.