Yoichi Hayase

Yoichi HayaseOccupation:
President, True Travel K.K.

Time in Japan:
All my life

Where are you from?
Born and bred in Tokyo.

What do you do?
I run the first and only gay travel agency in Japan, True Travel.

Tell us more about it.
The word "true" comes from the expression "be true to yourself." I wanted gay people to at least be true to themselves when they go on vacation without worrying about their neighbors or co-workers. We started the company in November and business has been up and down. Our first tour that we organized was the Mardi Gras tour in Sydney. It' the largest gay event in the world and we had many people who went. I'm sure that there are many gay Japanese who wanted to go but didn't know how to get the tickets due to the language barrier or other obstacles. We feel that these people can benefit from the services we provide. Our first tour just finished and it was a success.

What made you start this business?
I've always been interested in doing business for the gay and lesbian audience. In the US or Australia, there are gay travel agencies, banks, hospitals, etc., and I knew that business targeted towards this audience would catch on in Japan.

Was it difficult at first?
We thought that it would be harder. The major obstacle we came across was hiring someone to help the business out. I tried to advertise in The Japan Times, but they would not run an ad with the word "gay." I then started to do my own PR by calling the media. There was only one very mainstream magazine that turned us down, claiming that they couldn't do an article on us because there was no space or section for such things.

What other tours or events do you do and what are you planning for the future?
We are organizing a tour for Gay Day at Disney World and Disneyland, where about 500,000 gay people from all over the world go to those theme parks during the same week. The New York and San Francisco parade tours are also very popular. As for individual travel, we have a large list of gay hotels and accommodations. We can take care of small details such as asking for a double bed instead of a twin. One interesting package that we put together is a gay wedding, where you can have a ceremony in Hawaii, on the beach or in a church.

Do you think that a wedding like this would be possible in Japan?
I don't think so. The Japanese do not deny that there are gay people in Japan but will not encourage gay people to come out. It's not like people are throwing stones at us, they're just indifferent.

How do you think the gay community in Japan is changing?
I don't think I'm in the position to speak about the whole gay community but I can certainly talk about the travel business. JTB, the world's biggest travel agency, actually organized one gay tour about five years ago to see the New York gay parade. But a Japanese weekly publication wrote an article saying that this tour was a disgraceful and hideous thing to do. After that, JTB didn't ever want to get involved again. They hadn't anticipated such a violent action from the media. Five years later, we popped into the market, contacted the media, and many publications did write us up and there haven't been that many outbursts.

How about domestic travel?
We have been receiving a lot of inquiries, especially from overseas, but now we are looking for gay-friendly accommodations and ryokan. We need these partners to put together a tour, so I hope we can find good people to work with.

What's the one thing a person should see or experience in Japan before leaving forever?

Spend one day as a typical Japanese salaryman-get on a crowded train with a cheap suit, get bullied by OLs and throw up on the last train-so that you won't have any regrets about leaving Japan forever.

What's your advice for a successful life in Japan?
Always remember why you left your home country in the first place.

Contact Yoichi at or 03-3563-1166, or see

Yoichi Hayase spoke to Maki Nibayashi.

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