Penisism and the Eternal Hole:
(Homo)Eroticism and Existential Exploration in the Early Poetry of Takahashi Mutsuo

Jeffrey Angles

    ‘Literature of the Flesh’ [Nikutai bungaku] in the 1960s and early 1970s
  1. When the Pacific War came to an end in 1945, Japan entered into an entirely new era of uncertainty. Not only was the economy in shambles and the nation occupied for the first time in its long history, the Japanese found themselves in an ideological vacuum, having lost the nationalistic ideology and value system that had supported the Japanese empire.[1] During the height of Japan’s imperialist expansion, official organs of state and the popular press had been producing a constant stream of rhetoric about the organic, familial relationship between the citizenry and the emperor, who occupied a superior spot as head of the nation. With the public renunciation of the emperor’s divinity, however, this rhetoric about the ‘national body’ [kokutai] was no longer relevant, and the Japanese were left to reconsider their positions as individual subjects within their newly subjugated nation.
  2. As several cultural historians have noted, what rose to replace the ideology of the ‘national body’ in the postwar period was a preoccupation with the individual ‘physical body’ [nikutai]. Yoshikuni Igarashi has noted that when World War II ended, many Japanese, especially the city dwellers subjected to the frequent air raids of 1945, had little left in the world other than their own physical being, and so it was perhaps natural that the body should serve as a central cultural preoccupation; in fact, he points to many accounts of the foregrounding of the body in postwar discourse. Whereas the war meant the end of the ‘national body,’ it also meant the rediscovery (or perhaps even recovery) of the ‘physical body.’[2] To be sure, a visible culture of strip clubs and panpan girls developed in the ruins of the major cities of Japan. Prostitution had, of course, been highly visible in Japan’s major cities during the prewar period, but in the despair and economic destitution of the postwar cities, it once again flourished, taking on an increasingly public profile as destitute women used their bodies to make money and men turned to prostitutes to forget their personal crises for a few hours. Also, as soon as paper became once again available on the market, postwar entrepreneurs began to produce pornography, which marketed images and titillating descriptions of the body to large numbers of eager consumers whose appetites for erotica had been whetted by long years of wartime censorship.[3]
  3. The increasing visual and discursive presence of the physical body was not just limited to low-brow literature of these pulpy magazines. An entire generation of authors rose to literary prominence with the development of what has been called nikutai bungaku or ‘literature of the flesh.’ Many of these writers, such as Sakaguchi Angō (1906-1955) and Tamura Taijirō (1911-1983), had already made a name for themselves before the war, but in the postwar period, they wrote about eroticism and decadence in ways that supplanted national concerns with personal ones. By writing about erotic desire, this generation of authors was, on one hand, reflecting the rising postwar culture of eroticism, but on the other, they were also attempting to explore and even recuperate the sense of individual meaning lost with the end of the war. Whereas much nationalistic rhetoric during the war had advocated the sacrifices of the individual to the greater national good, postwar writers were free to indulge in long literary evocations of the individual desire. For many, especially those associated with the so-called burai-ha [libertine school], writing about the personal experience of carnality served as a means to celebrate the self in a way that did not subsume it to a greater national goal. As Douglas Slaymaker and other literary historians have argued, the individual body as depicted within the postwar ‘literature of the flesh’ represented one site of the formation of a postwar ideology of the self, which stood in strong contradistinction to the now discredited wartime ideology of the nation-state.[4 Not coincidentally, French existentialist literature, which combined an interest in physicality with an exploration of individual existence, played a large role in the cultural imagination of the postwar Japanese, and in fact, many literary and cultural critics turned to Jean-Paul Sartre as a great master of carnal literature.[5]
  4. By the late 1950s and 1960s, however, Japan had largely recovered from the economic and ideological desolation of immediate postwar period. In 1964, the summer Olympics took place in Yoyogi Park, located in central Tokyo. Through grand displays of pageantry, Japan used the Olympics to show the world that since the end of the war, it had refashioned itself into a peace-loving, democratic state complete with a new set of national goals and ideals. The nation’s economy was rapidly expanding, and the country’s newfound prosperity, demonstrated to the world through the games, promised to carry Japan’s citizenry to unparalleled prosperity and material comfort. The nation’s economic growth and ideological transformation, however, did not mean Japanese authors necessarily found themselves within a social system that quelled their individual or existential concerns. If anything, Japan’s transformative growth meant renewed interest in questions about the role of the individual and their place within society, and because eroticism represents a privileged intersection where issues of personal existence, individual meaning, and relations between self and other all come to the fore, many in the literary world continued to write about eroticism with unabated interest.
  5. Several factors contributed to the continued interest in erotic desire in literature. One factor was the desire to explore non-heteronormative forms of sexuality. Established writers such as Tanizaki Jun’ichirō (1886-1965) and Kawabata Yasunari (1899-1972), who had written about amorous and erotic desire in the prewar period, continued to write bold works exploring various forms of sexualities, including fetishes, age-graded eroticism, and lesbianism. Meanwhile, an emerging generation of young female writers, such as Setouchi Harumi (b. 1922), Kōno Taeko (b. 1926), Tomioka Taeko (b. 1935), and Kurahashi Yumiko (b. 1935) became famous during the 1960s for works depicting a full range of feminine desires, including the urges to experience sadism, masochism, and extramarital eroticism. The reasons why these writers wrote about these subjects differed widely from author to author, yet all were interested in depicting experiences that fell outside of stereotypical notions of ‘ordinary’ male-female relationships. A second factor was the popularity of Western writers like Jean-Paul Sartre, Georges Bataille, and Herbert Marcuse, especially amongst intellectual and leftist youth who considered their works essential reading. Also, explorations of the ever-evolving sexual underground of Tokyo provided inspiration for a number of writers, including many writers interested in same-sex eroticism. In short, the erotic explorations of selfhood that appeared so prominently in the literature of the late 1940s and 1950s did not come to a halt with the 1960s and early 1970s. Instead, they set the stage for a subsequent wave of writers who sometimes wrote about eroticism with a boldness that matched or, in some cases surpassed, that of their predecessors.
  6. *** One significant development in this second wave of ‘literature of the flesh’ is an increased eagerness to deal with male-male eroticism. Two key figures helping to develop a homoerotic ‘literature of the flesh,’ namely Inagaki Taruho (1900-1977) and Mishima Yukio (1925-1970), were already relatively well established in the literary world. Inagaki Taruho had first earned a name for himself during the 1920s by writing light-hearted, modernist stories, including many about love between schoolboys.[6] In the 1950s and 1960s, however, Taruho turned to writing longer, essayistic works about the metaphysical ramifications of the aesthetic appreciation of young men. For instance, three of his most important works from the period, A-kankaku to V-kankaku [The Anal Feeling and the Vaginal Feeling, 1954], Shōnen’ai no bigaku [The Aesthetics of the Love of Boys, 1966] and Prostata-rectum kikaigaku [A Study of Prostata-Rectum Mechanics, 1966] all attempt to identify the unique qualities of male-male eroticism, which Taruho saw as intimately linked to acute aesthetic sensibility.[7] Meanwhile, Mishima Yukio, a great admirer of Taruho’s work, also wrote a number of his own works about same-sex eroticism. One of his best known novels is the 1949 work Kamen no kokuhaku [Confessions of a Mask] about a young man who discovers his own erotic preoccupation with men, especially men who are experiencing the final throes of death.[8] After that, Mishima continued to write novels about the troubled relationship between homoerotic attraction and self-identity. The 1951 novel Kinjiki [Forbidden Colours], about an emotionally detached young man who sleeps with both sexes, provides a study of the complicated relationship between physical beauty, erotic arousal, and emotional attraction.[9] Likewise, the popular 1963 novel Nikutai no gakkō [The School of the Flesh], about a wealthy widow’s affair with a hustler she finds in a gay bar, also deals with the imperfect match between erotic attraction, sexual identity, and emotional contentment.[10]
  7. Mishima’s novels Kinjiki and Nikutai no gakkō are amongst some of the earliest major pieces of mainstream literature to depict the world of the gay bar. During the Tokugawa Period, the red-light districts of Edo had been home to numerous establishments that catered to a male clientele seeking out sexual experiences with other men; however, because ideas about male-male sexuality underwent significant revision after the Meiji Restoration, the number of such establishments dwindled in the early twentieth century. As several historians have noted, a number of inns and drinking establishments continued to exist to serve the needs of men eager to meet sexual partners, but it was in the immediate aftermath of World War II that the number of these establishments once again began to multiply visibly.[11] Yakyoku [Nocturne], one of the first bars to appear in Shinjuku (a part of town that would eventually become home to many such establishments), opened its doors in approximately 1946. Although such places were at first known as danshoku kissaten [male homosexual coffee shops], the Japanese transliteration of the English word ‘gay bar’ [gei bā] soon caught on, and was already in use by when Mishima wrote Kinjiki.[12] Certainly, Kinjiki is not the first novel to depict the culture of male-male cruising. (Edogawa Ranpo (1894-1965), another frequent visitor to the gay bars that emerged in the postwar period, had written in his prewar novels about the mechanisms of male-male cruising, but he typically describes in it in public places, such as Asakusa Park.[13]) One of the things that makes Mishima’s novel noteworthy, however, is that it marked the first major novelistic treatment of the world of the postwar gay bar by an author of national stature.
  8. In the 1960s, a loose-knit network of artists and writers interested in homoeroticism began to crystallise around Mishima. Among Mishima’s protégés was Shibusawa Tatsuhiko (1928-1987), who although best known for his translations of the Marquis de Sade, also wrote a number of essays exploring various facets and forms of erotic desire, including same-sex eroticism.[14] Shibusawa, in turn, helped launch the career of the painter Kaneko Kuniyoshi (b. 1936), who is now well known for his enigmatic canvases of same-sex couples wearing fetishistic clothing and poised in suggestive positions.[15] Meanwhile, the home of Meredith Weatherby, the translator of Mishima’s Kamen no kokuhaku and the founder of the publisher Weatherhill, became a sort of make-shift salon frequented by Mishima and several other writers and authors. Among them was the photographer Yatō Tamotsu (1928-1973), the poet Aizawa Keizō (b. 1929), and the film critic Donald Richie (b. 1924).[16] Of these figures, Yatō and Aizawa in particular strove to reconfigure representations of masculinity and homoeroticism through their art. Inspired by Mishima’s brand of virile Japanese masculinity, Yatō set out to take homoerotic photographs of young men and bodybuilders that would help redefine the popular image of the Japanese male.[17] The ghost editor of several of Yatō’s volumes of photographs, Aizawa Keizō, was meanwhile busy producing his own anthologies of poetry that depict homoerotic longing in explicit, bold language.[18]
  9. Friends with all the members of this loose-knit network was the young, aspiring writer, Takahashi Mutsuo (b. 1937), who in subsequent decades would become one of the most prominent poets of
    Figure 1. Photo of Takahashi Mutsuo by Hosoe Eikoh, 1970.[19] postwar Japan. Takahashi began writing poetry on the southern island of Kyūshū, far from the mainstream of literary society. In 1959, a local publisher released his first anthology, Mino, watashi no oushi [My Bull, Mino], which he had written as a high school and college student. Although the collection touches on themes that would resurface in Takahashi's later work, it received little literary attention.[20] His national debut came a few years later, after graduating from the Fukuoka University of Education and moving to Tokyo.
    In 1964, the same year as the Tokyo Olympics, he published Bara no ki, nise no koibito-tachi [Rose Tree, Fake Lovers], an anthology that describes male-male erotic love in bold language. A laudatory review from the critic Etō Jun (1933-1999) appeared in the daily newspaper Asahi shinbun with Takahashi’s photograph—an unusual instance of a poet’s photograph included in the paper’s survey of literature. About the same time, Takahashi sent the collection to Mishima Yukio who promptly contacted him and offered to use his name to help promote Takahashi’s work. The two shared an intimate relationship, which developed into a close friendship that lasted until Mishima’s suicide in 1970.
  10. In subsequent years, Takahashi published several more books of poetry about male-male eroticism, including Nemuri to okashi to rakka to [Sleeping, Sinning, Falling, 1965], Kegaretaru mono wa sara
    ni kegaretaru koto o nase [Thee Dirty Ones, Thou Shalt Do Dirtier Things, 1966], and the book-length poem Homeuta [Ode, 1971]. About the same time, he started experimenting with prose. In 1970, he published Jū-ni no enkei [Twelve Perspectives], a collection of essays about his early life and psychosexual development, and the novella Sei naru misaki [The Sacred Promontory], about his own erotic awakening and the development of his homoerotic feelings. In 1972, he wrote Seisho densetsu [A Legend of a Holy Place], a surrealistic novella inspired by his own experiences during a forty-day trip to New York City during the previous year, and in 1974, he released Zen no henreki [Zen’s Pilgrimage of Virtue], a homoerotic and often extremely humorous reworking of a legend found in the Avatamsaka sūtra, a classic Buddhist text.[21] Like Mishima, who drew upon his observations of the sexual underground of gay bars to produce his novels Kinjiki and Nikutai no gakkō, Takahashi describes in these works the world of gay bars, bathhouses, and cruising spots that he had been busily exploring since his arrival in Tokyo several years before.
    Figure 2. The cover of the collection Sei sankakkei [The Sacred Triangle] which contains the novella Seisho densetsu [A Legend of a Holy Place].[22]

  11. The decade from 1964 to 1974, when Takahashi published many of these early homoerotic works, was a period of radical student protest and sexual liberation, but even so, Japan had only just started to see explicit depictions of male-male eroticism within mainstream literature. In the eyes of many readers, the explicit, almost pornographic depictions of homoeroticism in Takahashi’s early works were iconoclastic and daring, and so they attracted the attention of many, both inside and outside of Japan. The gay author Tate Shir ō, for instance, has called Takahashi ‘the Bodhisattva Mutsuo’ for his bold writing in Zen no henreki.[23] Winston Leyland, the head of Gay Sunshine Press, has gone as far as calling Takahashi’s Homeuta, ‘the single great gay poem of the 20th century.’[24] Allen Ginsberg was so interested in Takahashi’s writing that he personally lobbied Lawrence Ferlinghetti at City Lights Press to publish Sleeping Sinning Falling, the second volume of Takahashi’s work to appear in English translation. One reason they earned such a high reputation in the queer world of the time was that these works represent a site of resistance to the kind of homophobic practices that had, until then, relegated explicit representations of same-sex eroticism to the fringes of the literary establishment. Clearly, one of their purposes is to depict a world of homoeroticism that Takahashi felt had been insufficiently explored in the high-brow realm of ‘pure literature’ [jun bungaku].
  12. Takahashi’s writing shows an almost gleeful willingness to subvert the boundaries that have traditionally separated the high-brow writing of the literary academy and other, more plebeian writing, such as pornography. One way he does this is by describing erotic activity using the dense, highly wrought language typically found in poetry. Another way is to use his work to explore the kinds of existential and phenomenological themes seen in earlier ‘literature of the flesh.’ As the following sections will show, a major theme of Takahashi’s early writing is the incomplete and void nature of the self and the natural human inclination to reach for things outside the body. By engaging in sexuality, the characters in his work reach for some sort of wholeness denied them in ordinary existence. What makes Takahashi’s work so interesting, however, is not just the simple fact that he creates a ‘literature of the flesh’ that centres on homoeroticism, but the fact that by concentrating on homoerotic activity, he attempts to depict more than just the psychological dynamics involved in the sexual experiences of queer men. In homoeroticism, Takahashi finds an especially revealing case study that he believes to illustrate the dynamics of sexuality in general. In other words, homoeroticism in his work is not just a marginal form of sexuality; Takahashi moves it to a place where it is representative of sexuality as a whole. No doubt it is the presence of these philosophical concerns in the midst of such erotic work that prompted Shibusawa Tatsuhiko to write in 1966, ‘Takahashi appears like a lone elegant beast, an insolent animal dancing out onto the intellectually anaemic stage of modern Japanese poetry.’[25]

    Homoerotic Desire and Takahashi’s Early Poetry
  13. As writer Georges Bataille has noted in his influential study Death and Sensuality, ‘Each being is distinct from all others. His birth [sic], his death, the events of his life may have an interest for others, but he alone is directly concerned in them. He is born alone. He dies alone. Between one thing and another, there is a gulf, a discontinuity.’[26] As a result of this disconnection, epistemological uncertainty is a natural, fundamental part of human existence, but most find it difficult to live in this state of uncertainty. Bataille remarks, ‘We find the state of affairs that binds us to our random and ephemeral individuality hard to bear. Along with our tormenting desire that this evanescent thing [known as life] should last, there stands our obsession with a primal continuity linking us with everything that is.’[27] It is this tormenting desire that drives people to pursue various experiences that seem to erase the boundary between self and other. One is jouissance, that disorienting experience of orgasmic pleasure that temporarily gives the illusion of dissolving the boundaries between self and other. Bataille notes, ‘Sexual activity is a critical moment in the isolation of the individual ... it weakens and calls into question the feeling of self.’[28]
  14. Takahashi echoes these themes in a number of his earliest poems, which describe the use of sexuality to attempt to overcome the difficulty of independent existence. For instance, the poem ‘Shinda shōnen’ [The Dead Boy] in Takahashi’s second anthology Bara no ki, nise no koibito-tachi is narrated by a boy who is experiencing the pain of the disconnected state of individuality.[29] In the process of developing an awareness of himself and the outside world, he has found himself in a dark, prison-like well that separates him from the remainder of the world. Outside, the seemingly limitless world seems to be full of light, unlike the dark space where he is trapped. In the final lines, he expresses his wish to incorporate within himself some of the light of the outside world. The boy’s budding sexuality, symbolised by the ‘green horn’ that grows from his groin toward the light of the outside world, seems to be one way for him to do so. The boy assumes that as his phallus grows, it will push its way through the barriers of the self and forge a connection with the world outside.
  15. Many early poems by Takahashi are narrated by a man prostrate before another man, who appears to be a complete, even perfect being. One explicit expression of this theme comes in the surreal poem ‘Sono hito’ [Him] also in Bara no ki, nise no koibito-tachi.[30] As the narrator of the poem stares toward the horizon, he sees a powerfully built man whose face is turned upward as if in the throes of passion. Although the narrator can tell that the man is locked away within an ‘invisible prison,’ the narrator longs to ‘kneel at the base of this man’s grandeur and intensity.’ Still, he is unsure how to make his way to him. In the final lines, the man begins to increase in size, dwarfing the small and insignificant narrator. In this seemingly straightforward poem, Takahashi is actually making a statement on the complex functions of desire. Desire may carry one toward an ideal, but the object of that desire tends to remain elusive. If, however, a physical being corresponding to his ideal does happen to appear, then it does so only as a surface—as a larger-than-life person whose interiority is locked away by an ‘invisible prison’ hiding the inner self from view. In other words, within desire is an invisible barrier between desiring subject and desired object. Although the subject may believe he is seeing the object of his desire clearly, that object is experienced as a façade—an outward projection that hides its own interiority. To put it in the terms of Sartrean existentialism, the protagonists of the poem has only a knowledge of the être-pour-autrui [‘Being-for-Others’], the dimension of the other’s self that exists only within the minds of the protagonist. He cannot reach a knowledge of the other’s être-pour-soi [‘Being-in-Itself’], the non-conscious being of the other lodged within the body. The inner workings of the other remain fundamentally unknowable.
  16. Equally important is the notion that desire involves an imbalance between the desiring subject and desired object. Because desire represents a longing for some sort of fulfilment, the desiring subject by definition experiences lack, and the object that appears to fulfil that lack appears increasingly important to the desiring subject. The more the subject yearns to find the object of his desire, the larger and more powerful that object grows within the imagination. When taken to extremes, the object of desire can grow to grandiose proportions, as in the conclusion of ‘Sono hito.’ Given this situation, it is easy for the desiring subject to forget that the desired object is also an incomplete being, who also experiences a sense of disconnection and want. Desire encourages the subject to see the object of his desire as a complete, full being that will allow the subject to achieve union with whatever he feels he is lacking.
  17. In the afterward of Bara no ki, nise no koibito-tachi, Takahashi describes one more element he believes to be fundamental to homoerotic desire, namely the powerful yearning for beauty, goodness, and youth.[31] To describe this idea, Takahashi describes a psychological complex called the ‘Worship of the Young God’ [yōshin shinkō], which he believes to lie at the root of male-male attraction. He states,

      In response to the various situations of the person involved, homosexuality takes on various forms; however, at the base of homosexuality is an identification between the subject and the partner. At the central point of assimilation, there is always reluctance to part from helpless, pretty existence (youth).[32]

  18. Like Socrates and Diotima’s notion in the Symposium that a yearning for beauty lies at the root of all erotic attraction, Takahashi suggests male-male desire revolves around a longing for the beauty of youth that will vicariously allow the subject to hold onto his own early life. Because of the reluctance to part from youth and beauty, handsome youths are the subject of adoration—the ‘young gods’ to be idolised. In sexual terms, the ‘Worship of the Young God’ may manifest itself as a sexual preference for adolescents [shōnen’ai], but still, Takahashi suggests the complex is not just limited to such manifestations.

      I believe the single-minded ‘Worship of the Young God’ is hidden at the bottom of many wounded souls—those of the gatherers at secret clubs, the customers of gay bars, the men with faces wiped away by the gloom of this-and-that public restroom and such-and-such movie theatre, as well as the men with miserable bodies standing in the dark spaces between the double doors of Turkish baths.[33]

  19. Takahashi identifies one manifestation of the ‘Worship of the Young God’ that he calls the ‘Christopher Pattern’ [Kurisutoferu-gata] after the legend of St. Christopher. According to Christian legend, Christopher had travelled far and wide in search of a strong master before eventually learning Christ was the strongest possible lord he could serve. Upon learning this, Christopher became a ferryman in the hope he could serve the Son of God through his work on the river. Eventually, Christ appears to him, and Christopher, by now an old man, gives his full devotion to the boy.[34] Takahashi sees St. Christopher as an archetypal expression of the homoerotic yearning for a beautiful young man whom he treats as an almost divine being. Of course, this pattern of same-sex attraction does not account for many other types of male-male attraction, such as the attraction of certain boys to older men or the narcissistic attraction of certain men to younger admirers. Still, Takahashi’s notion that the worship of youthful beauty represents a fundamental pattern of homoerotic desire does help explain the frequency with which young, masculine men appear in anthologies, from the early collection Bara no ki, nise no koibito-tachi through the 1975 anthology Watakushi [Self-Portraits]. Likewise, the description of the inequality of desiring subject and desired love object as a form of ‘worship’ is a formulation that appears often in the early part of Takahashi’s oeuvre.

    Penisism and the Eternal Hole: Homeuta [Ode]
  20. The inequality between desiring subject and desired object appears in many early poems, including Bara no ki’ [The Rose Tree] and ‘Bara no koibito’ [The Rose Lover], but nowhere is it more explicit

    Figure 3. Winged phallus with epigraph from Homeuta.[35]
    than in the monumental poem Homeuta, where Takahashi makes his most thorough exploration of the relationship between self and other in the sexual act.[36] This work, written between 1966 and 1970 and then published in book form in 1971, follows a man who engages in anonymous fellatio in a bathhouse, a pornographic movie theatre, and public restrooms as he searches for a connection with the object of his desire, which he describes in loving, even religious terms. In fact, Homeuta begins with the English-language epigraph ‘In the name of man, member, and the holy fluid, Amen.’[37] From the very beginning, it is clear the man who gives his penis and semen to the protagonist is the object of his devotion. This man, identified in bold-faced type with only the vague terms of address ‘Anata’ [You] or ‘Otoko’ [The Man], is described as more than a human being. He is treated as a god, and the act of giving him oral sex is for the fellator a means of communion. When the protagonist of the work masturbates himself to climax toward the end of the poem, he experiences an ecstatic connection to all that is light and good, but just as an orgasm passes in a blinding moment, this connection cannot be maintained.

  21. When he published the original 1971 edition of the poem, Homeuta, Takahashi appended a long afterword that provides a hermeneutic with which he hoped his work to be interpreted, and so this appendix is especially deserving of attention in examining the poem. In it, Takahashi emphasises the symbolic importance of the image of the glory-hole, which appears throughout the work: ‘The glory-hole is a hole, a void, which to paraphrase Lao Tzu represents ‘that which is useful for what is there (= substance) by not being there.’[38] By nature, the glory-hole is emptiness. This emptiness in turn mirrors the lack of substance the person waiting by the glory-hole feels. By accepting a penis into his mouth, the fellator becomes an invisible hole to the person on the other side, thus becoming a hole in both a literal and figurative sense. Takahashi then takes this idea one step further by explaining, ‘the most void part of the void human being is perhaps neither the vagina nor the rectum, but the oral cavity.’[39] Though he never explicitly explains this assertion, he may be writing this because the mouth does not experience the same orgasmic pleasure as the genital orifices, and the act of oral sex results in only an indirect erotic stimulation for the fellator. On a more symbolic level, Takahashi has explained,

      I take the emptiness of the oral cavity as the symbol of the imperfection of human existence. And I take the phallus, which is the object that the oral cavity hopes to hold to complement its emptiness with, as the symbol of the absolute other, which is perfect. So the essence of homosexuality, and of humanity, must for all its worth be on the side of non-pleasure, of the oral cavity.[40]

  22. Oral sex becomes a form of communion with that which is perfect. Likewise, the act of consciously accepting something perfect into oneself through the mouth mimics humanity’s wish to accept the outer world into one’s own life. Takahashi also reminds us that in the Christian church, another institution which seeks to connect the individual with the infinite, the ‘sacred body of Christ, enters from the mouth, and the food for flesh, i.e., bread, water, and fish, also enters from the mouth.’[41] Takahashi, in other words, describes the act of fellatio as a sort of a communion in which the fellator accepts the ‘penis as the substance that fills the void innate to man [sic]– as the substitute of God.’[42]
  23. Takahashi has used the word ‘penisism’ to describe the idea of adopting the role of insertee in order to fulfil one’s own sense of existential lack. In other words, penisism involves the use of sexuality to achieve a state of wholeness and connection absent in everyday existence. Though Takahashi once
    Figure 4. Cover of Poems of a Penisist, the first volume of translations of Takahashi's poetry to appear in English.[43]
    stated, 'my view of art, my view of life is condensed in the word "penisist",' he did not invent the term, but instead heard it from a young man at a gay bar in Shibuya.[44] A young acquaintance who had read Takahashi's collection Bara no ki, nise no koibito-tachi suddenly asked him, 'Mr. Takahashi, are you a penisist?' Though the question was in Japanese, the final, critical word was in English. Takahashi said he did not know how to respond at first, but upon reflection, he began to like the word. He translated the term into Japanese as dankon sūhaisha, literally ‘one who worships the man-root,’ and soon afterward, he published a draft of the poem now known as Homeuta with the title ‘Dankon sūhaisha no keijijōgaku’ [‘The Metaphysics of a Penisist’] in the journal Nanboku [ North and South]. When the poem was published in book form in 1971, Takahashi changed it to its present title. Later in 1975 when Satō Hiroaki published the first anthology of translations of Takahashi’s poems, he adopted the original title of Homeuta to produce the title of the anthology, Poems of a Penisist. Takahashi has written that he found the inscription on the cover of the book of translations, ‘Mutsuo Takahashi: Poems of a Penisist,’ a bit surprising at first, but when he thought about the word as an existential term representing the fundamentally incomplete state of all people regardless of their gender—homo penisistus—he became quite fond of the term.[45]

  24. The protagonist waiting beside the glory-hole in Homeuta is a penisist—an incomplete man living in a prison of the body, separated from his surroundings by the limits of the flesh. He experiences the outside world as lack, everything beyond the prison of the body as something alien and cut off from himself. Since he is limited and cannot know the infinite directly, he must rely on some concrete manifestation of the external world in limited form. In order to express this idea, Takahashi employs a great deal of imagery from Christianity, namely the idea of an infinite God manifest within a single body, that of the Christ child, to appear to the world. In Christian theology, humankind is limited and cannot engage in communion with the infinite. As a result, humankind cannot know the infinite, supreme deity firsthand. Instead, humanity worships and communes with Christ, who serves as a physical manifestation of the limitless. In Homeuta, it is the penis which serves as the manifestation of the external world, the 'Christ' coming to lead the incomplete individual to a state of communion with the greater forces outside the self. Takahashi has, in other words, adopted the idea of divine manifestation from Christianity and reapplied it to the object of the protagonist’s devotion, namely the anonymous penis. The protagonist invites the divine phallus of ‘Anata’ into his mouth in order to rise and counteract the squalor of the dirty public restrooms and bathhouses where he searches for his lord. The imbalance between the profanity of the fellator and the almost divine nature of the man who is fellated implies there will always be an inequality between partners in the sexual act. The fellator is inevitably lower than the other partner, yet in Homeuta, Takahashi takes the inequity to extremes, concluding in his afterword that the protagonist turns ‘himself into zero.’[46] In doing so, his protagonist comes to stand for the eternally desiring emptiness Takahashi sees as present within all people. The desire that attempts to reconnect him with the outside world is a product of primordial absence.
  25. When the narrating protagonist encounters ‘Anata’ in the first pages of Homeuta, he appears as a gigantic man out of all proportion to ordinary humanity. As the protagonist fellates him during their first encounter, the face of ‘Anata’ becomes hard and tense, blood vessels rise from his forehead, and ‘Only the waves of pain that slither up from his dim underbelly / Move like the breathing earth.’[47] At the moment of his orgasm, the man becomes the manifestation of everything, of God, and the whole of creation, but a moment later, ants begin swarming over his penis. Just as ants come in swarms to infest an abandoned corpse, these ants swarm over the now dead shell of the divine rod. Within a moment, they transform into ‘abominable female weepers, hair coated with ash’ whose ‘obscene grief pierces heaven’ as they mourn the following deity.[48] With this surreal scene, the sacred ‘Anata’ disappears, leaving the fellator alone in his world ‘like vomit, like an afterbirth’ without any sign of the divine other. He is alone, crying, ‘Where on earth are you going? / Please do not go / Please stay.’[49]
  26. The majority of the poem consists of the protagonist’s vivid recollections and fantasies of his vanished lover—of his toes, groin, glans, penis, public hair, scrotum, testicles, foreskin, smegma, and semen. The poem bombards the reader with image after image; for instance, the following is part of a long passage describing the head of ‘Anata’s’ penis.

      A mango, papaya, durian with a pungent odour
      A banana gives off fragrance as one peels it
      The coconut one holds with both hands in cool shade and pleasantly lets drink one’s sweat
      The tight, bumpy head of a native drinking from a coconut
      Novel fruits brought over salt-fragrant oceans ...
      In the morning field, a dew-drenched, muddy melon
      A watermelon, its red inside peering out of the crack made when it dropped on the road
      A butchered infant’s head, its wet brains peering out [50]

  27. Propelled by desire, the protagonist’s imagination swings further and further outward, creating this complex and fantastic string of signifiers. Many of the images Takahashi uses in these sections are not overtly sexual, but by using them within an explicitly erotic context, he casts an erotic spell over these quotidian images.
  28. ‘Anata’ does not appear until near the end of the work, and until then, the protagonist is left alone to recall the reality of the vanished man. After dozens of pages describing the protagonist’s memories of ‘Anata,’ the two do meet again, and the protagonist masturbates himself to climax. As the protagonist approaches orgasm, the lines grow increasingly terse and direct. The orgasm comes with the following words.

      Dandelions parachute
      Pollen that flies up in the wind
      Golden kerria roses that scatter in the wind
      Kerria King’s generous treat
      Cakes scattered, bags scattered to the crowd
      Scattering large coins, small coins
      Scatter, scattering away
      Rolling up like a foetus
      Headfirst, headlong
      Heavy, lonesome, fall! [51]

  29. Each of the elements in the passage—the paratrooping dandelion seeds, the flecks of pollen, the flowers, and the alms tossed into the air by a generous king—hang briefly in the air but eventually fall back to earth. On one hand, the plurality of the falling items—dandelion seeds, coins, cakes, etc.—resembles the drops of the protagonist’s semen gushing forth in ejaculation, yet on the other, their trajectories parallel the protagonist’s own collapse into the everyday world after his orgasm.
  30. At the very end of the work, the protagonist comes to a startling conclusion about the nature of ‘Anata.’ As he imagines ‘Anata’ sitting on a toilet before him, he states,

      You, who are at the venerable centre of it all
      While seated on the toilet
      Form the median point of the cross-shaped mysterious toilet floor
      And the cross shape cut off with you, thinking
      Goes under, creaking heavily
      Into the dark earth, into the invisible red inside
      You, who go under, who are power and are wisdom
      You, who are gentleness, heaviness, and pureness
      You, who are at the blazing centre of all – who are you?
      You, who are god of my gods, are NOWHERE
      You on the cross-like toilet floor
      Whom I have made up in my painful faith, are NO ONE
      Ah! [52]

  31. The poem ends with this sigh of anguished recognition that the protagonist’s god does not exist, and the messiah who appeared before him on the cross-like shape of the floor, has disappeared into the imagined fires of hell. The man who the protagonist believed to be ‘Anata,’ the figure at the centre of everything, turns out to be a mere man who, like himself, falls after the bliss of orgasm. The protagonist’s ‘god of gods’ does not exist anywhere, only within the world of the protagonist’s desire.
  32. Bataille has pointed out the irony that eroticism should rely upon a physical bounded entity, such as the phallus, to achieve unity between the individual and the surrounding world. He writes, ‘eroticism which is a fusion, which shifts interest away from and beyond the person and his limit, is nevertheless expressed by an object. We are faced with the paradox of an object which implies the abolition of the limits of all objects, of an erotic object.’[53] This paradoxical reliance upon a physical object outside of the self to achieve unity with the outside world is the reason the erotic experience described in Homeuta is doomed to fail. The internal structure of the object remains inaccessible to the subject, despite the subject’s attempts to engage in communion with it. Homeuta suggests that although desire fosters the illusion that one might be able to bridge the fundamental discontinuity between desiring subject and desired other, the connection is at most illusory and fleeting. As long as the body remains bounded by the flesh, there is no one, no spirit, no object which can eternally fill the hole left within the psyche as a result of individuation. It is merely the workings of desire attempting to reconnect the individual to the outside world that lead to the view that ‘Anata’ represented some greater, almost divine being. ‘Anata’ and his phallus are nothing but opaque entities hiding an interiority that must remain ever hidden from view, and in the end, the protagonist finds himself unable to communicate with him. He is alone with his existential hole, separated from the external world.
  33. Takahashi’s text could be seen as offering an insightful comment on the kinds of processes described by Lacanian commentaries on subject formation. According to Lacan, the entry of the subject into the realm of the symbolic—the moment when one’s inchoate, formless drives are organised behind a single image of the self—marks the beginning of the subject’s awareness that he or she is separated from all outside the body by the barrier of the flesh. It is at that same point the subject begins to experience those fantasies of wholeness associated with the register of the Imaginary. Adult sexuality, motivated by drives that promise the subject some sort of communion with the object of desire outside the body, functions in intimate relation to these fantasies. Takahashi’s penisism, and especially the concept of the individual as a nothingness or hole, might be compared to the Lacanian notion of the subject formulated as lack. In Lacanian psychoanalysis, the signifier ‘I’ always contains loss and absence. Symbolisation—marked by the subject's entrance into the realm of language—coincides with the age at which the individual begins to construct an image of him- or herself, thus organising disconnected, visceral drives and experiences behind the façade of a unified subject. It is at approximately the same age that one becomes aware of oneself as an individual that one starts to employ language to access the world as a subject. However, language is always predicated on lack, some knowledge that what one is speaking of is not present, and so when the subject employs the word 'I,' the totality being described is always dispossessed, alienated, and inauthentic. Because one superimposes the external image of an entire complete being onto a series of disconnected, inchoate drives, feelings, and experiences, there is a dissonance between the signifier ‘I’ and the signified experience of the individual. The subject is, in effect, a product of the signifiers which represent it, signifiers which despite their cleanliness, do not point to a clear or even unified signified. Therefore, the internal thing one is trying to represent as an ‘I’ is never entirely at home with the symbolic ‘I’ one employs to represent it. The image of the self is reversed and outside, ever different and alienating. Takahashi’s ‘I’ in Homeuta is also characterised as much by what he is not than what he is. He is not complete, not attached to the outside world, and as such, not able to fill the fullness the pronoun ‘I’ would seem to represent. The delusion he can come into a full being through the compliment of some external object is a fantasy belonging to the register of the Imaginary, the field of fantasies and images that try to erase the movement out of the infantile world of mother and child. The very entry into the symbolic order in which the subject discovers his or her own individuality appears for the protagonist to become the traumatic event that serves as the source of the desire to reconnect to the outside world through sexuality.
  34. Homeuta was, at the time of its publication at the beginning of the 1970s, a particularly bold work for several reasons. First and most obviously, it uses unusually explicit terms to describe a world of homoerotic activity that had received little attention in the mainstream literary world until that point, namely the anonymous sexuality of public restrooms and bathhouses. (No doubt, this world of sexuality would have struck many people at the time as sordid or unseemly.) Homeuta completes the task started in Takahashi’s earlier anthologies of poetry—a project of introducing graphic representations of male-male eroticism into poetic discourse. In fact, the character 頌, which Takahashi uses to write Homeuta, refers to a kind of ritual court poetry included in the Chinese classic Shījīng [The Book of Songs]. The decision to use the name of long-established poetic form for the title of his text indicates that the poem represents a new, modern, homoerotic take upon this kind of poetry.
  35. Within the text itself, Takahashi forges a new poetic language that purposefully throws into the question the already fuzzy line between pornographic language and literary discourse. Clearly, Takahashi has not shied from depictions of the erotic, but, as shown in the extracts above, he does not portray sex in a fashion typical of most pornographic writing. Instead, Takahashi has used his distinctly literary touch to string together vast quantities of highly imaginative metaphors filled with rich vocabulary and evocative images. These metaphors carry the reader’s imagination around the body parts and physical acts they describe, but even in the midst of these elaborate metaphorical forays, the text never allows the reader to forget what it is describing. Just in case the reader should be caught up in the rolling strings of language, the eighty-some pages of the 1971 version of the text are peppered with Da Vinci-like drawings of handsome male bodies and bold-font subtitles in colloquial English—‘Tea House,’ ‘Balls,’ ‘Get Your Rocks Off’ and so on—which remind readers of the point of departure for these flights of fancy. These colloquial expressions stand in stark contrast to other, more overtly literary elements of the text. In other works, the work purposefully straddles both extremes of 'pornography' and 'literature'—a position that calls into question the problematic notion
    Figure 5. Illustration from the first Japanese edition of Homeuta.[54]
    that there is even a significant difference between the two. Like Georges Bataille, Susan Sontag and other writers in the 1960s who suggested that erotica is not especially distinct from ‘high literature,’ Takahashi recognises that the difference between pornography and literature is quantitative and not qualitative. It is merely the degree to which the author dwells on erotic subject matter that determines how the reading public tends to view a work. In fact, Takahashi has written that specifically dwelling on same-sex eroticism can cast a poetic spell over a literary work. In an open letter written to fellow author Tate Shirō and published in the popular gay magazine Barazoku [Tribe of Roses] in 1994, Takahashi makes the following comment about gay fiction.

      Generally speaking, if heterosexual writing deals with sexuality in an overly explicit fashion, sexuality loses its mystically evocative power, but sometimes homosexual writing succeeds in exerting a poetic spell through depicting sexuality in the most pornographic language possible. Isn’t it true the homosexual novel can achieve this poetic spell only through depictions using hyper-pornographic language? That is my belief.[55]

    Although Takahashi was thinking of recent gay fiction when writing this passage, the idea that graphic depictions of homoerotic activity can give rise to a poetic spell is born out by his own experiments in Homeuta.
  36. Another reason Homeuta was so radical was its use of religious rhetoric to describe homoerotic activity. Although characters in more pedestrian pornography often show an almost religious devotion to their activities, Takahashi takes this to an extreme, casting erotic desire for the messiah-like 'Anata' as a form of religious devotion—an equation conservative Christian readers would no doubt find alarming. As Takahashi suggests in the afterword, both sexuality and religiosity share a common goal; both lead the individual on similar existential quests seeking to assuage individual discontinuity by reconnecting one with the infinite, outside world.
  37. Perhaps more radical than the fact that Takahashi is describing male-male eroticism in literary and religious terms, however, is the fact he uses the dynamics he finds there as a paradigm for the dynamics present all forms of sexuality. In the afterword, Takahashi rejects the notion that the protagonist of Homeuta should be belittled for the form his sexual desire takes. In fact, he argues that dismissing the protagonist merely as a ‘homosexual’ will lead the reader to the false conclusion same-sex desire involves dynamics different from other forms of sexuality.

      In the correct sense of the word, homosexual points to a self-preservation of purity through the copulation of two homogenous entities. And yet, basically, copulation is not homogenous, and therefore, self-preservation of purity through it is impossible. Copulation requires a relation akin to that of the ‘bolt and nut,’ and when both participants in copulation are bolt-like beings, one of them would have to become nut-like.[56]

  38. In other words, all sexuality involves simultaneous penetration and receptivity. Even homosexuality must become heterogeneous sexuality, or otherwise intercourse could not occur. In a sense then, the experience Takahashi describes is not necessarily confined to gay men. It goes without saying the painful feeling of incompleteness and the desire to achieve a sense of wholeness through eroticism can be seen in other forms of sexuality as well. Clearly, Takahashi is interested in portraying themes of the human condition that are not just confined to the experiences of men who search for other men in sordid, underground locations. In short, Takahashi has performed a radical political act not only by describing male-male erotic desire, but by insisting that this form of desire, which is so often treated as marginal, actually manifests dynamics present within all forms of sexuality. He has shifted male-male eroticism from a place at the fringes of society to a position where is it representative of erotic desire as a whole.
  39. Although Takahashi is eager to depict the world of anonymous sexuality and to examine the psychological implications of the seemingly unlimited world of desire it contains, there are hints that Takahashi does not embrace that world without some criticism. In a passage towards the middle of Homeuta, the narrator breaks from his narrative and describes the influence of this world. The narrator describes a person descending ‘hell’s languidly descending slope’ and entering a bathhouse, where he finds men described as ‘garbage bags of prurience and muck’ that ‘drip withering, smelling juice.’[57] The narrator likens them to ‘insidious pretas,’ beasts which inhabit the Buddhist hell of hungry ghosts and can never satisfy their insatiable hunger and thirst.[58] These desperately hungry men can give pleasure, but the price is high.

      Should, by mistake, a boy who knows nothing
      Wander in, swiftly
      Vines would slide out of these garbage bags
      And swaddle the boy’s flesh
      The vines would oh ever so lightly transport it
      To the pinnacle of delight, and at the pinnacle of blazing joy
      The boy’s face would collapse with ease to ugly age[59]

  40. The innocent boy, caught in the web of sexuality, has fallen in with the crowd and become another hungry ghost in their hell of insatiable lust. In a short moment, he has become an old man who then returns to the bathhouse again and again to fulfill his sexual hunger by ‘worshipping the young gods’ of beauty he might find there. Despite his critical stance regarding the denizens of the bathhouses, Takahashi ends with a note of sympathetic identification with them: ‘How, and where, have the tips of the lights / These travellers protected as they wandered in the land of love / Gone awry in storms of evil? / Saints, pity these people.’[60]

  41. Several of the novels that Takahashi produced around the same time show a similar ambivalence to the world of anonymous promiscuity of the bathhouses and other outlets for anonymous sex. For instance, the 1972 novella Seisho densetsu [A Legend of a Holy Place], which was inspired by Takahashi’s experiences during a forty-day long sojourn in New York City the previous year, describes the bathhouses, public restrooms, and other cruising spots he saw there. The text is careful not to describe these places as utopian spots of sexual satisfaction but as places ridden with crime, desperation, and sexual hopes so high they must necessarily end in disappointment. In a surreal final coda, the protagonist imagines fire and brimstone raining down upon the city as punishment for its almost biblical sexual excesses. The 1974 novel Zen no henreki [Zen's Pilgrimage of Virtue], Takahashi's longest piece of fiction to date, also deals with a young man in
    Figure 6. The cover of Zen no henreki [Zen's Pilgrimage of Virtue].[61]
    Tokyo who spends a time exploring the city’s sexual underground. For instance, he spends a month masturbating with men in the crowded trains of Tokyo, a month working in a gay bar, a month staying in a steamy bathhouse, and a month having sex with the members of a private army headed by a muscle-bound military man that strongly resembles Takahashi’s friend Mishima Yukio. Over the course of the novel, however, the protagonist slowly falls into a state of humiliation, impotence, and spiritual exhaustion, and only with his death in the final scenes is he able to achieve a mystical union with that great masculine power that he has been seeking all along. At the same time Takahashi was celebrating the world of anonymous promiscuity seen in the queer underground of New York and Tokyo, he was also conscious that this culture allowed and even promoted the superficial worship of ‘young gods,’ without ever attending to the deeper desire for existential confirmation that lay behind these actions.[62]

  42. During the 1980s and 1990s, Takahashi's literary fame continued to rise until he had become one of the most prominent poets of contemporary Japan. Takahashi's recent poetry deals with a wider variety of themes than his earlier work, but much of it shows the same combination of lyricism and intellectual content. A number of his anthologies have garnered literary prizes which have contributed to his fame. For instance, he has won the Rekitei Prize, the Yomiuri Literary Prize, the Takami Jun Prize, the Hanatsubaki Prize for Modern Poetry, and the Shika Bungakukan Prize. Takahashi has also been active in crossing the barriers of literary genre. He has written and Kyōgen plays (two traditional forms of Japanese theatre), reworked ancient Greek dramas and epic poetry, written countless works of literary criticism, and even penned an opera libretto set to music by the composer Miyoshi Akira. Meanwhile, Takahashi shows every sign of becoming a media celebrity. Recently, he appeared as the host of an NHK television show about Italian Renaissance art. His sketches have appeared in exhibitions in the fashionable gallery district of the Ginza, and photographs of his unique home and garden have appeared in a number of mainstream Japanese magazines, including the popular monthly Taiyō [The Sun].
  43. Although male homoeroticism and the relationship between the individual and the outside world do continue to resurface as themes in his later work, they appear somewhat less prominently.
    Figure 7. Takahashi in his front garden in 2001. Photo by Suzuki Yasuko.
    Two of the major exceptions are the erotic novel Mitsuryōsha [The Hunter] and essay-like Tankyūsha [The Searcher]. The first work, published anonymously in 1988, examines a man’s incestuous relationship with his son—a relationship that ultimately fails when his son grows up.[63] The latter work, a belletrist essay published in 1994, deals explicitly with the void nature of the individual and the psychological processes involved in sexual desire.[64] These works show the thematic elements of Takahashi’s earlier works do carry through his later work. Although he explores an increasingly wide variety of other themes as well, the idea of existential exploration by means of eroticism remains one operative element within his oeuvre.


    I thank Takahashi Mutsuo for his willingness over the years to answer my questions. I also thank him for giving me permission to translate the quotes in this article and the poems that appear separately in this issue of Intersections. Finally, I express my gratitude to Drew Banbury, William J. Tyler, Richard Torrance, James Darsey, Tom Piontek, and Mark McLelland for conversations that have helped shape my readings of Takahashi’s work.

    In my text, the names of Japanese authors always appear in traditional Japanese order; however, in some of the translations cited in the citations above and the notes below, publishers have reversed the names of the author to conform to the Western custom of putting surnames last. In citing an English text, I have always preserved the order in which the publishers have printed the Japanese names.

    Unless otherwise noted, all translations are by the author of this article.

    [1] Although there is much research on the sense of despair after the end of World War II and the complicated ideological responses to it, two recent works of special interest are John W. Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II, NY: Norton, 1999 and Yoshikuni Igarashi, Bodies of Memory, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.

    [2] Igarashi, Bodies of Memory, pp. 53-55.

    [3] See Dower, Embracing Defeat, pp. 148-52 and Mark McLelland, Queer Japan from the Pacific War to the Internet Age, Boulder: Rowan and Littlefield, 2005, pp. 66-72.

    [4] See Douglas N. Slaymaker, The Body in Postwar Japanese Fiction, London and New York: Routledge, 2004, pp. 8-11; Dower, Embracing Defeat, p. 157; Igarashi, Bodies of Memory, p. 56.

    [5] Douglas N. Slaymaker, ‘Sartre’s Fiction in Postwar Japan,’ in Confluences: Postwar Japan and France, Michigan monograph series in Japanese studies 42, Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies, 2002, pp. 86-105.

    [6] Among Taruho’s early, prewar stories about the love of schoolboys are ‘R-chan to S no hanashi’ [The Story of R-chan and S] and ‘Hana-megane’ [Pince-Nez Glasses], both published in 1924. See Inagaki Taruho, ‘R-chan to S no hanashi,’ Inagaki Taruho zenshū, vol. 1, Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō, 2000, pp. 135-61 and Inagaki Taruho, ‘Hana megane,’ Inagaki Taruho zenshū, vol. 1, pp. 169-77. Both stories are forthcoming in translation: Inagaki Taruho, ‘The Story of R-chan and S,’ trans. Jeffrey Angles, in Modanizumu in Japanese Fiction: An Anthology of Modernist Prose from Japan, 1914-1938, ed. William J. Tyler, Forthcoming; Inagaki Taruho, ‘Pince-Nez Glasses,’ trans. Jeffrey Angles, in Harrington Gay Men’s Fiction Quarterly, Forthcoming.

    [7] Inagaki Taruho, A-kankaku to V-kankaku, Inagaki Taruho zenshū, vol. 4, Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō, 2001, pp. 255-98; Inagaki Taruho, Shōnen’ai no bigaku, Inagaki Taruho zenshū, vol. 4, pp. 3-254; Inagaki Taruho, Prostata-rectum kikaigaku, Inagaki Taruho zenshū, vol. 4, pp. 323-78.

    [8] Mishima Yukio, Kamen no kokuhaku, Yukio Mishima zenshū, vol. 1, Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 2001; Yukio Mishima, Confessions of a Mask, trans. Meredith Weatherby, New York: New Directions, 1958. Other earlier works by Mishima, such as ‘Tabako’ [Cigarette] first published in 1946, contain strong hints of the homoerotic appeal of strong, masculine boys. See Mishima Yukio, ‘Tabako,’ in Yukio Mishima zenshū’, vol. 16, Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 2002, pp. 343-59; Yukio Mishima, ‘Cigarette,’ in Acts of Worship: Seven Stories, trans. John Bester, New York: Kodansha International, 1989, pp. 109-24.

    [9] Mishima Yukio, Kinjiki, Yukio Mishima zenshū, vol. 3, Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 2001, pp. 7-574; Yukio Mishima, Forbidden Colors, trans. Alfred H. Marks, New York: Knopf, 1968.

    [10] Mishima Yukio, Nikutai no gakkō, Yukio Mishima zenshū, vol. 9, Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 2001, pp. 387-618.

    [11] Gregory M. Pflugfelder, Cartographies of Desire: Male-Male Sexuality in Japanese Discourse, 1600-1950, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1999, pp. 330-31; Furukawa Makoto, ‘The Changing Nature of Sexuality: The Three Codes Framing Homosexuality in Modern Japan,’ trans. Angus Lockyer, US-Japan Women’s Journal: English Supplement 7, 1994, pp. 98-127, p. 107.

    [12] McLelland, Queer Japan from the Pacific War to the Internet Age, p. 78.

    [13] See Jeffrey Angles, Writing the Love of Boys: Representations of Male-Male Desire in the Literature of Murayama Kaita and Edogawa Ranpo, Ph.D. dissertation, The Ohio State University (2003) URL:, site accessed 20 Apr 2005, pp. 191-95.

    [14] For instance, see Shibusawa Tatsuhiko, Erosu-teki ningen, Tokyo: Chūō Bunko, 1984.

    [15] A selection of Kaneko’s paintings is available in Kaneko Kuniyoshi, Oil Paintings, Tokyo: Media Fakutorī, 1990 and on his website: Kaneko Kuniyoshi, Kaneko Kuniyoshi 1998-2002 (2002), URL:, site accessed 20 April 2005.

    [16] Donald Richie describes the Weatherby home and some of the prominent visitors in Donald Richie, The Japan Journals, 1947-2004, Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2004, p. 318.

    [17] For Yatō’s photography, see Tamotsu Yato, Young Samurai: Bodybuilders of Japan, New York: Grove Press, 1967; Tamotsu Yato, Naked Festival: A Photo-Essay, New York: Walker/Weatherhill, 1969; Tamotsu Yato, Otoko: Photo-Studies of the Young Japanese Male, Los Angeles: Rho-Delta, 1972. On Yatō’s life and work, see Donald Richie, ‘Naked Festival: The Art of Yatō Tamotsu,’ in Kyoto Journal, vol. 44 (2000):35-70 and Richard Hawkins, ‘Tamotsu Yato’ (July 2001) URL:, site accessed 20 April 2005.

    [18] Among Aizawa’s anthologies from this time are Koe no mori / kōri no abara [The Forest of Voices / A Rib of Ice, 1963] and Niku no hasami [The Scissors of the Flesh, 1966]. These and several other early anthologies by Aizawa have been reprinted in Aizawa Keizō, Ochi yo shōnen, Tokyo: Shinya Gyōshosha, 1974. For translations of some the poems from these collections, see Aizawa Keizō, ‘We, with Our Skin of Bronze; This Night of Cold Bile Imbues; The Day of Parting Will Finally Arrive,’ trans. Jeffrey Angles, International Poetry Review, vol. 27, no. 1, (Spring 2001):16-19; Aizawa Keizō, ‘The Scissors of the Flesh; I Stand in the Midst of Time; Once Again in the Field,’ trans. Jeffrey Angles, pacific REVIEW (2002):3-5; Aizawa Keizō, ‘Pour Words of the Flesh,’ trans. Jeffrey Angles, Event, vol. 32, no. 2 (Oct 2003):7; Aizawa Keizō, ‘In a Forest; Upon a Ridge,’ trans. Jeffrey Angles, QP: queerpoetry, vol. 3 (April 2004), URL:, site accessed 20 April 2005; Aizawa Keizō, ‘At First, Our Unconvertability’ and ‘Young Men Are Spears Piercing Death,’ trans. Jeffrey Angles, English Studies Forum, URLs: and Aizawayoungmen.htm, sites accessed 20 April 2005.

    [19] Source: Mutsuo Takahashi, Poems of a Penisist, trans. Hiroaki Sato, Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1975, back cover. Photo reproduced with permission of the photographer.

    [20] Takahashi has since described his first anthology as mere juvenilia that does not represent part of his mature work. Takahashi Mutsuo, ‘Furikaette: Jisaku jichū,’ Voice Garden: Koe no niwa, Zushi: Star Valley Library, 1996, pp. 66-67, p. 64.

    [21] For a list of Takahashi’s early work, see the bibliography below the endnotes.

    [22] Source: Takahashi Mutsuo, Sei sankakkei, Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1972.

    [23] Tate Shirō, ‘Haifuku, Takahashi Mutsuo-sama: Dōseiai no kyūkyoku no sugata wa yūjō ka mo shiremasen ne,’ Barazoku, vol. 254 (1994.3) p. 63.

    [24] Quoted in Stephen D. Miller (ed.), Partings at Dawn: An Anthology of Japanese Gay Literature, San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1996, back cover.

    [25] Shibusawa Tatsuhiko, ‘Batsu,’ in Kegaretaru mono wa sara ni kegaretaru koto o nase by Takahashi Mutsuo, Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1966, pp. 76-77, p. 77.

    [26] Georges Bataille, Death and Sensuality: A Study of Eroticism and the Taboo, New York: Walker & Co., 1962, p. 12. In a 1978 essay, Takahashi reveals a familiarity with the writings of Bataille. See Takahashi Mutsuo, ‘Erosu no unmei: Kodai Girishia no ai no keijijōgaku,’ in Koi no hinto, Tokyo: Ozawa Shoten, 1989, pp. 176-86.

    [27] Bataille, Death and Sensuality, p. 15.

    [28] Bataille, Death and Sensuality, p. 100.

    [29] Takahashi Mutsuo, Takahashi Mutsuo shishū, Gendaishi bunko 19, Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1969, p. 30.

    [30] Takahashi, Takahashi Mutsuo shishū, pp. 17-18.

    [31] Reprinted as Takahashi Mutsuo, ‘Barutazāru,’in Shijin no chi, Tokyo: Ozawa Shoten, 1977, pp. 33-36.

    [32] Takahashi, ‘Barutazāru,’ p. 35.

    [33] Takahashi, ‘Barutazāru,’ p. 36.

    [34] Herbert Thurston and Donald Attwater (eds.), Butler’s Lives of the Saints: Complete Edition, vol. 3, New York: P.J. Kennedy & Sons, 1956, pp. 184-87.

    [35] Source: Takahashi Mutsuo, Homeuta, Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1971, n.p.

    [36] The first two poems are available in Takahashi, Takahashi Mutsuo shishū, pp. 16-17; Mutsuo Takahashi, Poems of a Penisist, trans. Hiroaki Sato, Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1975, pp. 8-9; reprinted in Miller, Partings at Dawn, pp. 220-23.

    [37] Takahashi Mutsuo, Homeuta, Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1971, n.p. An English translation of the 1971 version can be found in Takahashi, Poems of a Penisist, pp. 47-108. In 1980, Takahashi published a revised version of Homeuta, in which he significantly expanded the final scenes. The revised version may be found in Takahashi Mutsuo, Zoku Takahashi Mutsuo shishū, Gendaishi bunko 135, Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1995, pp. 22-54, and is available in English translation in Mutsuo Takahashi, A Bunch of Keys: Selected Poems, trans. Hiroaki Sato, Trumansburg: Crossing Press, 1984, pp. 28-76; reprinted in Miller, Partings at Dawn, pp. 225-56.

    [38] Miller, Partings at Dawn, p. 253. The original text of the afterword that forms the basis of the English translation is available in Takahashi, Homeuta, Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1971, n.p. Unfortunately, the afterword has not been reprinted with the Japanese-language reprintings of the poem in the Gendaishi bunko series. The exact reason for this omission is unclear, but Takahashi is not the only contemporary author in Shinchōsha’s extensive series to have suffered such elisions. Many, if not most, of the volumes in the series consist only of poetry reproduced without the explanatory prefaces and afterwords that the poets wrote to place their work in context. Considering that the Gendaishi bunko series represents one of the most important and widely distributed vehicles for the appreciation and study of contemporary poetry, this editorial decision is a regrettable one.

    [39] Miller, Partings at Dawn, p. 254. For the original Japanese, see Takahashi, Homeuta, n.p.

    [40] Keizo Aizawa and Mutsuo Takahashi, ‘Keizo Aizawa Interviews Mutsuo Takahashi,’ trans. Hiroaki Sato, in Gay Sunshine Interviews, vol. 2, ed. Winston Leyland, San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1982, pp. 243-58, p. 246; reprinted in Miller, Partings at Dawn, pp. 191-206, p. 193. The original Japanese edition of this interview originally appeared as Takahashi Mutsuo, ‘Kōkō, Kotoba, Unmei…,’ in Kyōen, vol. 2, (Aug. 1976):53-66.

    [41] Miller, Partings at Dawn, p. 254. For the original Japanese, see Takahashi, Homeuta, n.p.

    [42] Miller, Partings at Dawn, p. 193. For the original Japanese, see Takahashi Mutsuo, ‘Kōkō, Kotoba, Unmei ...,’ p. 54.

    [43] Source: Mutsuo Takahashi, Poems of a Penisist, trans. Hiroaki Sato, Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1975, front cover.

    [44] Miller, Partings at Dawn, p. 192. For the original Japanese, see Takahashi Mutsuo, ‘Kōkō, Kotoba, Unmei…,’ pp. 53-54.

    [45] Takahashi Mutsuo, Tomodachi no tsukurikata, Tokyo: Magajin Hausu, 1993, p. 378.

    [46] Miller, Partings at Dawn, p. 257. For the original Japanese, see Takahashi, Homeuta, n.p.

    [47] Miller, Partings at Dawn, pp. 225-26. For the original Japanese, see Takahashi, Zoku Takahashi Mutsuo shishū, p. 23. Since the Zoku Takahashi Mutsuo shishū version of the text is currently the most widely available Japanese edition of the text, subsequent references to the body of the text will be to this edition. (This edition, however, does not include the epigraph, subtitles, or afterword that originally appeared with the poem.)

    [48] Miller, Partings at Dawn, p. 226. For the original Japanese, see Takahashi, Zoku Takahashi Mutsuo shishū, p. 23.

    [49] Miller, Partings at Dawn, p. 226. For the original Japanese, see Takahashi, Zoku Takahashi Mutsuo shishū, p. 24.

    [50] Miller, Partings at Dawn, pp. 233-34. For the original Japanese, see Takahashi, Zoku Takahashi Mutsuo shishū, p. 32.

    [51] Miller, Partings at Dawn, p. 247. For the original Japanese, see Takahashi, Zoku Takahashi Mutsuo shishū, p. 49. The section in which the protagonist masturbates himself to climax is the section Takahashi most thoroughly revised before republishing the work in 1980. In particular, Takahashi has woven together a long string of images indicating the rise and fall as the narrator comes to climax. The result is a heightened sense of drama in the poem and a clearer set-up for the post-orgasmic disappointment described in the subsequent scene.

    [52] Miller, Partings at Dawn, p. 250. For the original Japanese, see Takahashi, Zoku Takahashi Mutsuo shishū, p. 53.

    [53] Bataille, Death and Sensuality, p. 130. Emphasis is in the original.

    [54] Source: Takahashi Mutsuo, Homeuta Source: Mutsuo Takahashi, Poems of a Penisist, trans. Hiroaki Sato.

    [55] Takahashi Mutsuo, ‘Dōseiai bungei ni okeru "koibito ga saru toki no shifuku’ ni tsuite",' in Barazoku, vol. 253 (1994.2):45. Although Takahashi was thinking of recent gay fiction when writing this passage, the idea that graphic depictions of homoerotic activity can give rise to a poetic spell is born out by his own experiments in Homeuta.

    [56] Miller, Partings at Dawn, pp. 255-56. For the original Japanese, see Takahashi, Homeuta, n.p.

    [57] Miller, Partings at Dawn, p. 236. For the original Japanese, see Takahashi, Zoku Takahashi Mutsuo shishū, p. 36.

    [58] Miller, Partings at Dawn, p. 236. For the original Japanese, see Takahashi, Zoku Takahashi Mutsuo shishū, p. 36.

    [59] Miller, Partings at Dawn, p. 236. For the original Japanese, see Takahashi, Zoku Takahashi Mutsuo shishū, p. 36.

    [60] Miller, Partings at Dawn, p. 237. For the original Japanese, see Takahashi, Zoku Takahashi Mutsuo shishū, p. 36-37.

    [61] Source: Takahashi Mutsuo, Zen no henreki, Tokyo: Shinch ōsha, 1974.

    [62] In The Stonewall Experiment, Ian Young points out a similar unease amongst many queer Western critics of the 1970s who realised that the culture of promiscuity seen in the bathhouses grew out of a deeper existential angst that anonymous sexual encounters could only assuage temporarily. Ian Young, The Stonewall Experiment: A Gay Psychohistory, London: Cassell, 1995, pp. 156-59.

    [63] Mitsuryōsha, Tokyo: Kawade Shobō Shinsha, 1988; Takahashi Mutsuo, ‘The Hunter,’ trans. Stephen Karpa, Partings at Dawn: An Anthology of Japanese Gay Fiction, ed. Stephen D. Miller, San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1996, pp. 257-95.

    [64] Takahashi Mutsuo, ‘Tankyūsha,’ Shinchō, vol. 91, no. 11 (Nov 1994):114-25; available in a translation by Stephen Miller in Miller, Partings at Dawn, pp. 207-19.

    Bibliography of Takahashi’s Early Works

    Collected Works

    Takahashi Mutsuo, Takahashi Mutsuo shishū, Gendaishi bunko 19, Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1969.
    ---- Shinsen Takahashi Mutsu shishū, Gendaishi bunko 120, Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1980.
    ---- Zoku Takahashi Mutsuo shishū, Gendaishi bunko 135, Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1995.
    ---- Voice-Garden: Koe no Niwa, music by Takahashi Yūji, Zushi: Star Valley Library, 1996.

    Early Anthologies of Poetry

    Takahashi Mutsuo, Mino, Watashi no oushi, Hakata: Sabaku Shijin Shūdan, 1959.
    ---- Bara no ki, nise no koibito-tachi, Tokyo: Gendaishi Kōbō, 1964.
    ---- Nemuri to okashi to rakka to, Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1965.
    ---- Kegaretaru mono wa sara ni kegaretaru koto o nase, Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1966.
    ---- Homeuta, Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1971.
    ---- Koyomi no ō, Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1972.
    ---- Dōshi I, Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1974.
    ---- Watakushi, Tokyo: Shoshi Ringoya, 1976.
    ---- Kyojin no densetsu, Tokyo: Shochi Yamada, 1978.
    ---- Dōshi II, Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1979.
    ---- Sasurai to iu na no chi nite, Tokyo: Shoshi Yamada, 1979.


    Takahashi Mutsuo, Jū-ni no enkei, Tokyo: Chūō Kōonsha, 1970.
    ---- Sei sankakkei, Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1972.
    ---- Zen no henreki, Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1974.

    English Translations of Early Work

    Mutsuo Takahashi, Poems of a Penisist, trans. Hiroaki Sato, Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1975.
    ---- A Bunch of Keys: Selected Poems, trans. Hiroaki Sato, Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press, 1984.
    ---- Sleeping, Sinning, Falling, trans. Hiroaki Sato, San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1992.
    Takahashi Mutsuo, ‘The Searcher; The Rose Lover; The Rose Tree; The Sleeping Wrestler; Myself Departing; Myself with a Motorcycle; Myself with a Glory Hole; Ode; The Hunter,’ trans. Stephen D. Miller, Hiroaki Sato, and Steven Karpa, Partings at Dawn: An Anthology of Japanese Gay Literature, ed. Stephen D. Miller, San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1996, pp. 207-95.
    ---- ‘Zen’s Pilgrimage: Introduction,’ trans. Jeffrey Angles, Harrington Gay Men’s Fiction Quarterly, vol. 2, no. 3 (2000): 53-76.
    ---- ‘Zen’s Pilgrimage: Conclusion,’ trans. Jeffrey Angles, Queer Dharma: Voices of Gay Buddhists, vol. 2, ed. Winston Leyland, San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1999, pp. 198-222.


This paper was originally published in Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context, with the assistance of Murdoch University.

This page has been optimised for 800x600
and is best viewed in either Netscape 2 or above, or Explorer 2 or above.
From February 2008, this paper has been republished in Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific from the following URL:

HTML last modified: 18 March 2008 1410 by Carolyn Brewer.

© Copyright