On the night of July 26, AAA member Shinjiro Atae held a free live event at LINE CUBE SHIBUYA titled “Shinjiro Atae announcement.” With the other members of his group and his family present, Shinjiro announced that he is gay.
“I respect you and believe you deserve to hear this directly from me,” he said, reading from a letter he had written in advance. “For years, I struggled to accept a part of myself. 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.”
At first, there was total silence from the audience. Then, there were shrieks, applause, weeping, and shouts of “I love you!”
In 2020, AAA announced that they were going on hiatus at the end of year. Shinjiro announced a while later that he would do the same at the end of the following year. Since then, he has been working on his brand 446 DOUBLE FOUR SIX, while living in Los Angeles. It is there that he began to feel more comfortable with the idea of coming out.
In an interview with The New York Times, he said that while living in Los Angeles, he saw how freely gay couples could show affection in public and built an extensive support network there. “Everyone was so open. People would talk about their vulnerabilities. In Japan, people think it’s best not to talk about those things.”
He first started living in Los Angeles in 2016, when some of the members of AAA started solo activities. He attended entertainment business classes and studied English on his own there. He also visited neighborhoods popular with the LGBTQ community. While there he would run into Japanese tourists and expats, and feared someone might leak a photo of him at a gay club or out with a male date.
Over time, Shinjiro made friends he could trust with his secret. He then began to plan his public coming out. But first he would have to tell his family, starting with his mother. “It was the most nervous I have ever been in coming out,” he said.
“I was super surprised, and I had never imagined it,” said his mother Suzuko. Although she supported her son personally, she balked at the idea of him coming out to the world, fearing that he would face online attacks and discrimination. Now, she said, “I am 200 percent supportive.”
The news was often a surprise to his friends. Many friends were in the audience tonight. “The word ‘diversity’ started becoming more common, but how to take in that word is still a very difficult issue in Japan,” said his groupmate Misako Uno, in a backstage interview. “I want to be a good cushion,” she said in regards to Shinjiro coming out.
Last year, Shinjiro released his memoir, “Subete no Ikikata wa Seikai de Fu Seikai” (translated title: “Every Life Is Correct, But Incorrect”), as a way soft launching his public coming out. “I figured it was not a good idea to just suddenly say ‘I am gay’.” He said his decision to come out was not political, but that he wanted to normalize being gay.
He said that he knew coming out would likely draw criticism. “Whatever you do, there will be haters. I can only focus on the people I might be helping.”
In June of this year, Shinjiro’s contract with Avex Management expired and he decided to go independent. He is resuming activities and sees this, along with his coming out, as a new start for him.
As a solo artist, he wants to help people who are struggling like he did for many years. He has opened a section on official site for those struggling with their sexuality. He also has a new song, “Into The Light”, which deals with him coming to terms with his sexuality. Part of the proceeds from this song will go to a LGBTQ charity.
He also announced that he is currently filming a documentary about his life in Los Angeles. It is being produced by Peter Farrelly, of “Green Book” and “There’s Something About Mary” fame, and Fisher Stevens of “Short Circuit” fame.
He ended the event by debuting his new music video “Into The Light.”
Shinjiro’s full New York Times interview can be read here.