Reclaiming Spaces for Sexual Minorities in Tokyo, an Asexual Manga Artist's Journey

It was about a year ago that manga artist Murakami came to realize that they are asexual. This year, they decided to create a forum for asexual people like themselves to connect called the "ARU Ace Space," short for "ARU asexual space" which ran from March through May. They spoke with us about their experiences as a sexual minority and how their feelings have changed since they came out to themselves.
Murakami is a manga artist living in Tokyo. Before they realized they were asexual, they used to go to lesbian bars when they wanted someone to talk to.

Troubled by Feelings Left Misunderstood

I first identified as asexual and quoiromantic about a year ago. "Asexual" refers to a type of sexuality where you don't feel sexual attraction toward others, while "quoiromantic" is a romantic orientation where you can't distinguish between romantic feelings and friendship. I fall under the "+" of the LGBTQ+ sexual minority spectrum.

Before I came out to myself, I thought that dating was something that everybody just does, and if I had to choose whether to date or not, I thought it'd be better to try it. I've had relationships before, but I couldn't convey how I felt in the way I would have liked. That caused a lot of misunderstandings, which sometimes led to a break up.

I'd tell my partner that I loved them like family or a childhood friend (people I've spent years with), which for me means I liked them a lot. But they'd take it as me saying they weren't the person I loved the most, or that I didn't like them in the way that they liked me. And when I'd tell them I didn't want to have sex, sometimes they'd respond and say, "So you really don't love me." I couldn't understand why I wasn't able to get my feelings across.

Since coming out to myself, I've attended a couple of social gatherings and events for asexual people. A lot of the time it's a fixed format led by a facilitator in which attendees each take turns speaking. I felt it would be nice if there were spaces where people could drop in more freely, but when I looked for such spaces, I realized there weren't any. I thought to myself, "Well, in that case, I'll just have to make one," and that's how I decided to start the ARU Ace Space.

Murakami says that coming out to themselves as asexual has made them feel that they can take any path they want in life now, and that there is a lot of joy to be had ahead.

A Space Where Minorities are the Majority

I ran ARU every Friday from March through May of this year in a rental space in Tokyo's Nakameguro district. It was a ticketed event that I only ever advertised on Twitter, but word must have spread that there was a place for asexual people to get together, because tickets started selling out in minutes after a couple of weeks.

Attendees ranged from teens to people in their 50s, and I was shocked to see they weren't just from Tokyo. People came all the way from Aichi Prefecture, the Kansai region, and even the island of Kyushu. Over the three months, 125 people came in total and got to have fun chatting with each other, feeling at ease knowing that asexual people weren't the minority but the majority at ARU—a pretty strange notion. I learned that different people have different feelings about their sexuality. Some are like me and felt a sense of relief after coming to terms with it; others said that it made them feel that getting married and having kids is going to be even more difficult.

I've heard that in the West, asexuality is as recognized as the rest of the LGBT spectrum. I hope that sexual minorities will slowly come to be recognized in Japan too, and that we'll be able to create asexual community spaces in Tokyo and across the country. I don't think that spaces where sexual minorities can talk freely would cause any big societal change or impact the majority in any negative way. But I want people to know that having these spaces makes some people feel at ease and makes their lives easier to live.

ARU was a bar and café-style concept meant to be a place people could get excited about dressing up a bit for and head out to after work. Photo courtesy of Murakami.


Manga artist. Tokyo resident. Has been contributing work to manga magazines since junior high school. Worked for an event company after graduating college before becoming a full-time manga artist. Discovered the term "asexual" and the concept of asexuality about two years ago online, and came to identify as such after trying to find a partner to marry.
Interview and composition by Onodera Fukumi
Photos by Tonomura Seiji
Translation by Amitt