Pre-Meiji Japan[ edit ] A variety of obscure literary references to same-sex love exist in ancient sources, but many of these are so subtle as to be unreliable; another consideration is that declarations of affection for friends of the same sex were common.
Nevertheless, references do exist, and they become more numerous in the Heian period , roughly int the 11th century. For example, in The Tale of Genji , written in the early 11th century, men are frequently moved by the beauty of youths.
In one scene the hero is rejected by a lady and instead sleeps with her young brother: Genji, for his part, or so one is informed, found the boy more attractive than his chilly sister". Some of these contain references to Emperors involved in homosexual relationships with "handsome boys retained for sexual purposes".
Note the exposed bare feet of the boy indicating the sexual demeanor while the brocade Kesa robe indicates the wealthy status of cleric. Nanshoku relationships inside monasteries were typically pederastic: Both parties were encouraged to treat the relationship seriously and conduct the affair honorably, and the nenja might be required to write a formal vow of fidelity.
Outside of the monasteries, monks were considered to have a particular predilection for male prostitutes, which was the subject of much ribald humor. During the Tokugawa period, some of the Shinto gods, especially Hachiman , Myoshin, Shinmei and Tenjin , "came to be seen as guardian deities of nanshoku" male—male love.
Tokugawa-era writer Ihara Saikaku joked that since there are no women for the first three generations in the genealogy of the gods found in the Nihon Shoki , the gods must have enjoyed homosexual relationships—which Saikaku argued was the real origin of nanshoku. Note the Wareshinobu hairstyle of the young man, indicating a male trainee maiko. Possibly the first nanshoku erotic print, as well as an early example of a hand-colored ukiyo-e print in the shunga erotic style.
From religious circles, same-sex love spread to the warrior samurai class. In addition, both parties were expected to be loyal unto death, and to assist the other both in feudal duties and in honor-driven obligations such as duels and vendettas.
Although sex between the couple was expected to end when the boy came of age, the relationship would, ideally, develop into a lifelong bond of friendship. Kabuki and Male Prostitution[ edit ] Male prostitutes kagema , who were often passed off as apprentice kabuki actors and catered to a mixed male and female clientele, did a healthy trade into the midth century despite increasing restrictions. Many such prostitutes, as well as many young kabuki actors, were indentured servants sold as children to the brothel or theater, typically on a ten-year contract.
Relations between merchants and boys hired as shop staff or housekeepers were common enough, at least in the popular imagination, to be the subject of erotic stories and popular jokes. Young kabuki actors often worked as prostitutes off-stage, and were celebrated in much the same way as modern media stars are today, being much sought after by wealthy patrons, who would vie with each other to purchase the Kabuki actors favors.
Nishikawa Sukenobu , ca. Art of same-sex love[ edit ] These activities were the subject of countless literary works, most of which have yet to be translated.
However, English translations are available for Ihara Saikaku who created a bisexual main character in The Life of An Amorous Man , Jippensha Ikku who created an initial gay relationship in the post-publication "Preface" to Shank's Mare et seq , and Ueda Akinari who had a homosexual Buddhist monk in Tales of Moonlight and Rain Likewise, many of greatest artists of the period, such as Hokusai and Hiroshige , prided themselves in documenting such loves in their prints, known as ukiyo-e "pictures of the floating world", and where they had an erotic tone, shunga "pictures of spring.
Men who were purely homosexual might be called "woman-haters" onna-girai ; this term, however, carried the connotation of aggressive distaste of women in all social contexts, rather than simply a preference for male sexual partners. However, there was a growing animosity towards same-sex practices. Despite the animosity, nanshoku continued, specifically the samurai version of nanshoku, and it became the dominant expression of homosexuality during the Meiji period.
The reason being that this area was deeply steeped in the nanshoku samurai tradition of the Tokugawa period. Also, when the satsuma oligarchs supported the restoration of power to the emperor, they were put into positions of power, allowing nanshoku practices to be brought more into the spotlight during this time period.
Satsuma also made up the majority of the newly created Japanese navy, thus associating the navy with nanshoku practices. Though during this time, Japan briefly adopted anti-sodomy laws in an attempt to modernize their legal code. But the laws were repealed when a French legalist, G. Boissonade, advised Japan on adopting a similar legal code to France.
Despite this, nanshoku flourished during the time of the Sino and Russo-Japanese wars. This was due to the association of the warrior code of the samurai with nationalism. This led to close association of the bushido samurai code, nationalism, and homosexuality. After the Russo-Japanese war however, the practice of nanshoku began to die down, and it began to receive pushback.
The Keikan code revived the notion of making sodomy illegal. This had the effect of criticizing an act of homosexuality without actually criticizing nanshoku itself, which at the time was associated with the samurai code and masculinity. The Keikan code came to be more apparent with the rise of groups of delinquent students that would engage in so called "chigo" battles.
These groups would go around assaulting other students and incorporate them into their group, often engaging in homosexual activity. Originating from western thought, Sexology was then transferred to Japan by way of Meiji scholars, who were seeking to create a more Western Japan. Sexologists claimed that males engaging in a homosexual relationship would adopt feminine characteristics and would assume the psychic persona of a woman.
Sexologists claimed that homosexual would degenerate into androgyny in that the very body would come to resemble that of a woman, with regard to such features such as voice timbre, growth of body hair, hair and skin texture, muscular and skeletal structure, distribution of fatty tissues, body odor and breast development.
LGBT rights in Japan Japan has no laws against homosexual activity and has some legal protections for gay individuals. In addition, there are some legal protections for transgender individuals. Consensual sex between adults of the same sex is legal, but some prefectures set the age of consent for same-sex sexual activity higher than for opposite-sex sexual activity.
While civil rights laws do not extend to protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation, some governments have enacted such laws. The government of Tokyo has passed laws that ban discrimination in employment based on sexual identity. The major political parties express little public support for LGBT rights.
Despite recommendations from the Council for Human Rights Promotion, the National Diet has yet to take action on including sexual orientation in the country's civil rights code. Kanako Otsuji , an assemblywoman from Osaka , came out as a lesbian in Hard Gay HG , a comedian, shot to fame after he began to appear in public wearing a leather harness, hot pants, and cap.
His outfit, name, and trademark pelvis thrusting and squeals earned him the adoration of fans and the scorn of many in the Japanese gay community. Ai Haruna and Ayana Tsubaki , two high-profile transgender celebrities, have gained popularity and have been making the rounds on some very popular Japanese variety shows. Media[ edit ] The gay magazine Adonis ja of the membership system was published in There is a gay magazine that was first published in the s. While yaoi comics often assign one partner as a "uke", or feminized receiver, gei-comi generally depict both partners as masculine and in an equal relationship.
Another common term for this genre is bara, stemming from the name of the first publication of this genre to gain popularity in Japan, Barazoku. Yaoi works are massive in number with much of the media created by women usually for female audiences. In the west, it has quickly caught on as one of the most sought-after forms of pornography. There is certainly no disparity between yaoi as a pornographic theme, vs Yuri.
Lesbian-romance themed anime and manga is known as yuri which means "lily". It is used to describe female-female relationships in material and is typically marketed towards straight people, homosexuals in general, or lesbians despite significant stylistic and thematic differences between works aimed at the different audiences.
There are a variety of yuri titles or titles that integrate yuri content aimed at women, such as Revolutionary Girl Utena , Oniisama e Comic Yuri Hime is a long-time running manga magazine in Japan that focuses solely on yuri stories, which gained merges from its other subsidiary comics and currently runs as the only Yuri Hime named magazine.
Other magazines and anthologies of Yuri that have emerged throughout the early 21st century are Mebae, Hirari, and Tsubomi the latter two ceased publication before