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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.


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Outside of the monasteries, monks were considered to have a particular predilection for male prostitutes, which was the subject of much ribald humor. There is no evidence so far of religious opposition to homosexuality within Japan in non-Buddhist traditions. 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.

From religious circles, same-sex love spread to the warrior samurai class.

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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. 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.

These activities were the subject of countless literary works, most of which have yet to be translated.

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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. They did, sometimes, consider themselves a linked group, or community, brought together by a common interest.

No other early society shows this phenomenon quite so clearly as seventeenth century Japan. This separated his depiction of male love from any that had come before. For some, these states were described as fluid categories chosen based on personal philosophy, and, for some, these states of being were described as a trait they simply had for whatever reason , but had not actively chosen. I was very grateful for them. Though i wanted to respond, i was unable to. Those days are gone now.

I can only rejoice that we have met again. This is also seen in the many stories where a wakashu will long for the love of a man, long for the love of a man who loves them truly and is not simply interested in using them for sex, and wakashu who offer themselves to men they find visually appealing. More references to the societal knowledge that some men sexually enjoyed being penetrated are in masturbation guides from the time, which explain how a man who enjoys penetration can most effectively anally masturbate.

Go ahead, shove it all the way in. However, there is also evidence that some sought out these professions for the opportunity to play the sociosexual role they most enjoyed without impunity. There is also much evidence of young men who engaged in this behavior out of duty, rather than love, or lust.

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He was not interested in the idea of having a male lover and so, though only seventeen and in the flower of youth, has foolishly cut off his forelocks. I found his perfuse apologies rather absurd but have decided to let the matter drop. Last night everyone came over and we spent the whole night laughing about it Saikaku and other authors of stories of Nanshoku purposefully included representations of this variety of lived experience, as he references in the explanation of the title of The Great Mirror of Male Love.

Traditional expressions of male to male sexual and romantic activity were between a man who had gone through with his coming of age ceremony, and a male youth who had not. In Two Olds Cherry Trees , the protagonists are two men who have been in love since they were youths. Having lived together all these years, they truly deserved to be emulated as models of the way of love for all who loves boys. It is received with amusement by party- goers, but not ostracization.

If skill is what the audience is looking for, there should be no problem in having a 70 year old perform as a youth in long sleeved robes. So long as he can continue to find patrons willing to spend the night with him, he can then enter the new year without pawning his belongings. Mentions of men who openly enjoy both being the penetrating and penetrated partner are not found in these works, but are found in earlier Heian personal diaries, like in the diary of Fujiwara Yoringa, who writes on wanting to perform both the penetrative, and the receptive, sexual role. This is also referenced in a Muromachi era poem by the Shingon priest Socho This may indicate that the mores surrounding appropriate homosexual conduct for men had changed rapidly in the course of one-to-two centuries.

As Japan progressed into the Meiji era, same-sex practices continued, taking on new forms. However, there was a growing animosity towards same-sex practices.

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Despite the animosity, nanshoku continued, specifically the samurai version of nanshoku , and it became the dominant expression of homosexuality during the Meiji period. Nanshoku practices became associated with the Satsuma region of Japan. 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 its code, the laws were repealed when a French legalist, G. Boissonade, advised adopting a similar legal code to France's. 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.

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Eventually Japan began to shift away from its tolerance of homosexuality, moving towards a more hostile stance known as nanshoku. 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. Sexology , a growing pseudo-science in Japan at the time, was also highly critical of homosexuality. 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.

Despite the recent trends that suggest a new level of tolerance, as well as open scenes in more cosmopolitan cities such as Tokyo and Osaka , Japanese gay men and lesbian women often conceal their sexuality; with many even marrying persons of the opposite sex. Japan has no laws against homosexual activity and has some legal protections for gay individuals.

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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. Some political figures, however, are beginning to speak publicly about they themselves being gay.

Kanako Otsuji , an assemblywoman from Osaka , came out as a lesbian in While same-sex marriage is not legalized at the national level, the Shibuya District in Tokyo passed a same-sex partnership certificate bill in to "issue certificates to same-sex couples that recognize them as partners equivalent to those married under the law. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Evewoman.

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