Welcome to the LGBTQ+ fam, Shinjiro Atae!
The J-pop singer, who rose to fame as a member of Japanese five-piece group AAA, boldly came out in front of 2,000 people at a fan meet-and-greet in Tokyo on Wednesday.
“For years, I struggled to accept a part of myself,” he told the audience. “But now, after all I have been through, I finally have the courage to open up to you about something. I am a gay man.”
The announcement was accompanied by his new solo single, “Into the Light,” a soft and synth-driven bop about accepting one’s identity and leaving “a trail in the sky / like a shooting star.” He co-wrote the track with pop heavy hitters Wrabel and Afterhrs.
A portion of the proceeds from the song will go to Japanese LGBTQ+ youth support group ReBit, as well as Pride House Tokyo, Japan’s “first permanent LGBTQ center.”
In the inspiring video, the singer shouts his truth from the rooftops (literally!), before confronting his younger self, whose hand he grabs in comfort. The visual seems to echo the journey he went through in coming to terms with his sexuality.
“It has taken me a long time to be able to say I am gay,” he told fans. “However, I’ve come to realize it is better, both for me, and for the people I care about, including my fans, to live life authentically than to live a life never accepting who I truly am.”
The event (and new single) mark Atae’s return to the spotlight after taking a two-year hiatus from the entertainment industry to focus on himself.
Back in June, fans were delighted when he announced the July event in a post on Instagram, writing, “I have prepared a venue as there is something really important I would like to convey directly to all my fans.”
The announcement was especially bold, considering Japan is one of the most conservative countries and has refused to legalize same-sex marriage. In June of this year, they passed a bill “to promote understanding of the LGBT community,” however the loose legislation has been criticized for “[providing] no human rights guarantees,” according to CNN.
For that reason, it was a decision he did not make lightly.
“I thought if I was found out it would end my career, and so I couldn’t tell anyone,” Atae told The New York Times, explaining that after spending time in gay neighborhoods in Los Angeles, he felt ready to share this part of himself –– even though he knew there may be backlash.
“Whatever you do, there will be haters,” he said. “I can only focus on the people I might be helping.”
Read Shinjiro Atae’s full coming out speech below, and get to know this Japanese pop star with some sweet posts from his Instagram.