TOKYO - Gay rights campaigners in Japan hit out Thursday at Takeshi 'Beat' Kitano after the award-winning actor-director compared same-sex marriage with bestiality.
Kitano, whose yakuza gangster films are popular around the world, enraged activists with his comments on a popular current affairs show as guests were being asked for their opinions on Barack Obama's stance on gay marriage.
"Obama supports gay marriage. You would support a marriage to an animal eventually, then," Kitano said after being shown footage of people celebrating the US president's comments.
Homosexuality in Japan is widely accepted but not openly discussed.
Gays and lesbians do not usually encounter outright hostility, but there are few rights built into law for same-sex couples and there is little public debate on gay marriage.
Taiga Ishikawa, a gay activist and Tokyo assembly member who was among those shown celebrating in the programme on Saturday, said the remark was unbecoming for someone of Kitano's global stature.
"He is a world famous film director. It is disappointing that such an influential figure made that kind of negative comment," Ishikawa told AFP.
"As a movie director, he must be a person with a great sense of imagination. I wish he had been able to put himself in the position of gay and lesbian people in society."
Kitano, whose 1997 film Hana-bi won the Golden Lion at Venice, is a regular feature on Japanese television, hosting his own weekly show.
Last week Obama became the first sitting US president to openly back gay marriage, an issue that sharply divides America.
Earlier this week, Tokyo Disney Resort confirmed same-sex wedding ceremonies could be held at hotels inside the popular theme park.