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Sunday, 21 May 2017

When Ai Met Yu - Notes and Acknowledgements

Now that I've published all entries in my story When Ai Met Yu, I'd like to show readers the notes I made on various aspects of LGBT life in Japan, both in relation to real life and popular fiction on the subject.


On LGBT history in Japan: Unlike many other nations on Earth, Japan has no native religious taboo against same-sex relationships or transgender people, as its dominant Shinto faith is based around nature spirits and shamanism. Open gay relationships were an accepted part of Japanese samurai and Buddhist monastic society, and were similar to pederasty in Classical Greece. Women had less social freedom than men for a large part of Japanese history and consequently lesbian relationships were difficult if not impossible. Following the Meiji Restoration and the importation of Western ideas, prejudices against same-sex relationships and transgender people emerged. With the information age and the proliferation of BL and yuri – despite their frequently-skewed perspective on the realities of LGBT romance – general acceptance is appearing in the mainstream for LGBT communities.

On same-sex expression in Japan: Due to the nature of Japanese culture, the type of expression that might be expected from a Westerner is almost non-existent outside of popular media as such individualistic statements make that person seem out of place. Japan’s focus on community over individuals generally makes statements of sexual identity far rarer and more low-key than in accepting Western countries. Without that overt expression, there is a focus on people over aspects such as sexuality in most cases, so acceptance is more widespread except when there are social or corporate pressures. A major pressure to this day is the focus on continuing the family line, which leads to social discrimination against LGBT people from peers and loved ones alike.

On same-sex couples in Japan: As of 2017, several cities extend or are planning to extend same-sex partnerships many of the same rights as married couples, but there is nothing in law to enforce this. Same-sex marriage as understood in many Western countries is currently illegal in Japan, as Article 24 in Japan’s Constitution defines marriage as being between two people of the opposite sex. A common route adopted by same-sex couples is through the koseki, the governing body for family life in Japan, with a process similar to adoption taking place and one partner giving up their surname as a wife must do in Japanese heterosexual marriage. Informal marriages and instances of people living together also occur, and Japan has recognised marriage between a Japanese national and a foreigner in a country where same-sex marriage is legal. Popular support in Japan for equal marriage and partnership rights for LGBT people grows by the year, and several Japanese government officials have spoken publicly about pushing to legally recognise same-sex marriage.

On the pornographic manga owned by Airnori: As stated in Article 175 of Japan’s Penal Code, the sale and distribution of uncensored sexually explicit media is prohibited. Sexual elements are allowed only within very strict guidelines. The two most notable elements are that male genitalia should not be shown in detail – which still exists today – and that no pubic hair be shown – this part having been repealed during the 1990s. These resulted in various types of censorship ranging from lines and panels to pixelation depending on the medium. An active pornography market through specialist stores does exist in Japan, covering all media and being most widely recognised by Westerners through gei-comi or bara along with the BL and yuri genres. To avoid prosecution for infringing Article 175, Japanese pornography continues to incorporate elements of censorship in their work. Despite the production of illegal explicit pornography, the enforcement of Article 175 and prosecution of offenders is still rather spotty. While such media have brought LGBT people to a wider audience, they are acknowledged to present skewed or dramatic versions of real-life events, negatively affecting public perception of same-sex relationships.


My acknowledgements go to the YouTube couple Rachel & June, particularly their video "Being LGBT (Gay) in Japan【同性愛者(日本)】日英字幕", which partially inspired the whole project.

In addition, I would like to include an acknowledgement to the intriguing work of Takeshi Matsu, a bara artist whose work has less pure erotica and more emotional depth than many other bara writers (you must absolutely be over 18 to see anything but the briefest and safest glimpses of his work, trust me).

Also, my gratitude must go to multiple authors both Japanese and Western, in addition to the encouragement of fellow author and Japan lover Sarah Ash, when creating this project.

If these notes have given you any interest, then please check out this article, which contains links to all four parts of When Ai Met Yu, an LGBT romance set in contemporary Japan.

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