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Japanese Literature  
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The Emergence of a Distinctly Japanese Gay Male Literature

A distinctly Japanese "gay male literature" has come into being in recent years, drawing more on the literary spirit of Takahashi than Mishima. Several widely read contemporary gay novels, such as Hiruma Hisao's English-titled works Yes, Yes, Yes (1989) and Happy Birthday (1990), resemble the work of modern Western gay writers: confident, proud, exploring what it means to be gay in a sometimes unfriendly world.

Perhaps the only hint that the narratives are by and about Japanese men is in the recurring pattern of relations between an older and younger man, following the tradition of nanshoku. Hiruma's Yes, Yes, Yes, for example, concludes with the protagonist, a gay male prostitute, falling in love with a heavy-set middle-aged patron with whom he finally finds happiness, not unlike the boy actors of the kabuki theater who appeared 300 years earlier in Saikaku's narratives.

Paul Gordon Schalow

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social sciences >> Overview:  Japan

Blending elements from indigenous traditions and recently imported Western discourses of sexual identity, Japan is home to one of the most diverse and dynamic queer cultures in Asia.

arts >> Overview:  Japanese Art

Japanese art, from the prehistoric period onward, features images that can be given queer readings as well as a wide range of representations that contemporary viewers would understand to be homosexual.

arts >> Overview:  Japanese Film

Offering visions of sexual transgression divorced from Western political correctness and assimilationist civil rights ideals, Japanese queer cinema is unique.

social sciences >> Overview:  Tokyo

Tokyo is home to a vast entertainment world that supports hundreds of venues for individuals with diverse sexual and gender identities and interests.

literature >> Ginsberg, Allen

The forthrightly gay Allen Ginsberg is probably the best-known American poet to emerge in the post-World War II period.

arts >> Kabuki

Kabuki, a classic Japanese theatrical form incorporating fantastical costumes, stylized gestures, music, and dance, originally showcased female and boy prostitutes, but now features all-male casts.

arts >> Manga

In Japan, manga--or comic books--are an important medium of cultural expression and frequently feature male and female homosexuality.

literature >> Mann, Thomas

One of Germany's greatest twentieth-century authors, Thomas Mann encoded his own homosexuality in his novels but thought that homosexuality led to the destruction of social institutions and the death of the individual homosexual.

literature >> Mishima, Yukio

In his quest for masculinity, Yukio Mishima mythologized himself both in his life and his writings, culminating in his ritual suicide.

literature >> Saikaku, Ihara

Saikaku's The Great Mirror of Male Love is a collection of short stories that depict male homosexual love as it was practiced in seventeenth-century Japan.

literature >> St. Sebastian

Although he has had various embodiments throughout history, Sebastian has long been known as the homosexual's saint.

literature >> Takahashi, Mutsuo

In his explicitly gay work, internationally recognized poet and playwright Mutsuo Takahashi celebrates homosexual desire.


Childs, Margaret H. "Chigo Monogatari: Love Stories or Buddhist Sermons?" Monumenta Nipponica 35.2 (Summer 1980): 127-151.

_____. Rethinking Sorrow: Revelatory Tales of Late Medieval Japan. Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Michigan, 1991.

Lunsing, Wim. "'Gay Boom' in Japan: Changing Views of Homosexuality?" Thamyris: Myth-making from Past to Present 4.2 (1997): 267-293.

Pflugfelder, Gregory. "Strange Fates: Sex, Gender, and Sexuality in Torikaebaya Monogatari." Monumenta Nipponica 47.3 (Autumn 1992): 347-368.

Schalow, Paul Gordon. "The Invention of a Literary Tradition of Male Love: Kitamura Kigin's Iwatsutsuji." Monumenta Nipponica 48.1 (Spring 1993): 1-31.

_____. "Male Love in Early Modern Japan: A Literary Depiction of the 'Youth.'" Hidden From History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past. Martin Duberman, Martha Vicinus, and George Chauncey, Jr., eds. New York: New American Library, 1989. 118-128.

Willig, Rosette F. The Changelings: A Classical Japanese Court Tale. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1983.


    Citation Information
    Author: Schalow, Paul Gordon  
    Entry Title: Japanese Literature  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated March 24, 2011  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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