This week, we take a look at the history of gay and lesbian relationships in Japan. How has the social position of homosexuality changed over time in Japanese history? What evidence can we use to “read out” the history of a non-mainstream culture?


Pflugfelder, Gregory M. Cartographies of Desire: Male-male Sexuality in Japanese Discourse, 1600-1950

Leupp, Gary P. “The Floading World Is Wide…: Some Suggested Approaches to Researching Female Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan (1603-1868)”. Thamyris 5, No. 1 (1998)

Leupp, Gary P. Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan.

An excellent article on on homosexuality

Pew polling data source 


Note: I did not include much from the SUBSTANTIAL quantity of Tokugawa era depictions of homosexuality because most of it is erotic in nature, and that’s not really what I’m going for with this episode. It’s easy to find with a Google search if you want to see it.

“Male and Youth”, by Miyagawa Issho, 1750

Shunkoin, a temple in Kyoto, started offering itself as a same-sex wedding venue in 2014, despite the fact that same-sex marriage is yet to be legalized by the Kyoto city government. Image from Japan Today.

Masaki Sumitani, aka. Hard Gay, during his wrestling career.

A female-female couple depicted by Isoda Koryusai, c. 1700s.

Ren and Yae, a same sex couple (who hid their last names to avoid discrimination) get married in Setagaya Ward during Pride Week, 2015. Photo from NPR.