Japan Has A Buddhist Monk Fighting For Gay Rights?

Nishimura Kodo / Image via Instagram @kodomakeup

Well, this is an amazing hero story for you. It turns out that a vocal advocate for Japan’s LGBTQ rights is a Buddhist monk. But when you think about it, the two lives fit hand-in-hand

According to the NHK World, this Buddhist monk is a rising face within the LGBTQ conversation in Japan. His name is Nishimura Kodo, and he spends his time representing his faith, speaking out about issues like equality, and styling makeup.


Life wasn’t always exciting and fun for Nishimura. While he grew up loving dresses and Disney princesses, he remembers how his love for fashion led to pushback in his school life.

“I froze in shock. My heart was wrenched,” he recalled of the first moment when a high school classmate called him gay. “I had no idea how to behave in class from the next day. I didn’t have any friends.”


Nishimura then attended the Parsons School of Design in the United States where he was heartened to see so many people openly discussing and exploring their sexualities. Nishimura also spent time in the U.S. working as an assistant to a makeup artist. That led to a career as a professional makeup artist himself.

But religion eventually called Nishimura home. For the son of a Buddhist monk father and a mother with a priest’s license, religion was also a part of his world. That’s despite Nishimura first hating the idea.

“Monk had never been on my list of dream jobs. In fact, I hated the idea because I didn’t want to shave my head,” he told NHK World.

That said, Nishimura Kodo had a change of heart at age 24. He decided to trace his roots in order to understand them and change them for the better. Now, he lives a life as both a Buddhist monk and a makeup artist. Ever the multi-faceted person, Nishimura also gives lectures at universities and the United Nations office to raise awareness of LGBTQ issues. His online presence, with 60,000 Instagram followers, and a successful autobiography even led to an appearance on last year’s Queer Eye in Japan mini-series.


“Questioning my own identity has helped me understand the pain of many people,” Nishimura said. “The freedom to be oneself and mutual understanding are the key to a happy life. I want people all over the world to stay true to themselves, and to remember that everyone is equal.”

Speaking to the Thomas Reuters Foundation, Nishimura elaborated that he now feels happy to have come out and merged his many lives together.


“If you’re ashamed to show your difference, you can become vulnerable, but if you switch your attitude, your difference is your best weapon,” he explained.

But again, a Buddhist monk in support of LGBTQ rights isn’t so strange when you think about it. Buddhism has no qualms against homosexuality or gender identity. In fact, its teachings express the need for acceptance of all and the idea that everyone is saved equally. Plus, Japanese monks are allowed to pursue a career outside of religious duties. This has helped Nishimura to pave the way in support of his other passions and experiences in life.


“Being a monk people pay more attention to what I say,” he said. “Japanese monks are not known for wearing make-up or heels, but I want to use this platform to highlight the fact that you can be whoever you want regardless of your status or occupation.”

Perhaps Nishimura Kodo’s existence within Japan will do great good. Japan’s stance on LGBTQ life is complicated. While the country is somewhat conservative in its social views, Japan has one of the most LGBTQ-friendly laws within the Asian continent. After legalizing gay sex in 1880, the country has passed some LGBTQ protections. Same-Sex marriage is even legal in some providences and city sections, though not nationwide. As more LGBTQ celebrities and politicians, like Nishimura Kodo, emerge, perhaps Japan will become one of the next continents to fully back its LGBTQ citizens.

Source: NHK World, Thomas Reuters Foundation,