For decades, Panasonic Corp. has shaped Japanese corporate tradition — be it morning exercise routines or lifetime employment. But other Asian businesses are unlikely to emulate its latest policy announcement: Recognizing same-sex partnerships.

Much of Asia lags the West on such issues. Panasonic's move is rare, although bold, and seems unlikely to herald a sea change.

In China, South Korea, the Philippines and much of the rest of Asia, "coming out of the closet" still has enormous consequences. Individuals and their family members can become targets of abuse and ostracism. It's an act requiring tremendous courage in Asian cultures that value conformity and traditional family structures.

Experts say it is only a matter of time before Asian nations adopt what has become the dominant trend in Europe and North America.