Clandestine Wandering
in the World of Women

an interview with freelance journalist, 'Y'

translated by James Welker
and reproduced with permission from 'Onna to onna ni iru kadomachi—hisomeyaka na hōkō,' in Gekkō [Luna] No. 8 (October 1985):14-18.
The world of Manji

Interviewer: Would it be alright to begin by asking about your background?

Y-san: Sure. I was born in Tokyo in 1957.[1] I'm a Libra and my blood type is O. At the age of six, my family moved to Osaka, and up through to when I was twenty, we moved about twenty times.

Interviewer: And that's why you have a bit of a Kansai accent?[2]

Y-san: Yeah, that's why. From an early age I liked writing, so I wanted to get into journalism, which is why I moved up to Tokyo, but my boss told me that, since my job involves meeting people, I'd better lose the Kansai dialect and speak standard Japanese. But I am a contrary kind of person so I absolutely would not change my accent—I was going to speak in Kansai dialect forever—but before I knew it, my accent became mixed with the Tokyo dialect, and now it's really strange.

Interviewer: You were recently kind enough to introduce me to N-san, and she told me about your accent. She told me Y-san still tries to pick up women with her Kansai accent (laughs)—that at bars you're likely to say something like, 'Hey there, I reckon y'all are mighty fine.' (Laughs.)

Y-san: No—I don't do that sort of thing. It's just that at the right time, it's like click, standard Japanese (laughs).

Interviewer: When did you realise you were a lesbian?

Y-san: If I think about it now, it was when I was in kindergarten. There was a girl I thought was really cute. And I remember that when we held hands during playtime, my heart always would beat really fast. And if you want to know about what kind of kid she was, she had really clear, white skin, big eyes and really long eyelashes, and she had slightly brownish hair which she wore tied up in a pony tail. Even now, the kind of women I like are the kind that anyone would think are beautiful. It's probably a reaction to the fact that my own looks are going downhill (laughs). I was in the fourth or fifth grade of elementary school when I realised that I only liked girls. Because of my family's circumstances, I was always changing schools, and wherever I ended up, I only ever liked the girl with the cutest face in the class. That's how I realised it. But I didn't feel any sort of guilt about it. When I got into middle school, I looked back on it and thought it was a little strange, though.

Interviewer: Do you suppose that was related to your sexual development at the time?

Y-san: I suppose so. When I got to that age, my friends and I would talk about who had started having their period, or whose breasts were getting bigger, and, I think, at times like that, I was excited in a different way from the other girls. Also, from a young age I was a relatively good student. And I was always pretty quiet, with my nose in a book, but because of changing schools so much, I was the type of kid who became the target of bullies. And so I was often picked on by boys. They threw rocks at me, hit me, pulled up my skirt—that sort of thing. And I was really troubled over why or how I kept setting it off, so I regularly stayed home from school. Because of all this, I ended up disliking boys. And girls didn't do that sort of thing, so I liked them—I think that has something to do with it.

Interviewer: So you went to a co-ed school?

Y-san: That's right. And I didn't particularly want to go to a girls' school. What I really wanted was to go a school where I could study to my heart's content. My desire to learn was stronger than my sexual desire (laughs).

Interviewer: Well then, when did you make the connection between liking girls and your sexual awareness?

Y-san: After I entered high school. In middle school, there were some university students, maybe nineteen or twenty years old, who came to school for teaching practice, of course. Those 'big sisters' (onē-san) really made my heart throb, but I knew from the beginning nothing would come of it. I kissed someone my first year in high school—she was a girl in my class. As for something more physical, my first attempt at physical contact was a failure—that was in my third year of high school. I finally lay down with the girl I liked (laughs)—I was on the top, she was on the bottom, but from that point we didn't know what to do, so we gave it a rest. Well, not knowing what else to do, I did touch her breasts, but that's all I did and the girl on the bottom seemed to have been expecting more. She told me I was 'hopeless.' And that was the end of that (laughs). After that, I finished high school and met a married woman through a local dōjinshi [amateur coterie magazine]. It was a rather long-running literary arts magazine. The woman was quite ordinary, but one day I went over to stay the night and we started playing around a bit, and in a flash I was really into it… and she taught me all kinds of things. … That was my first time.

Interviewer: She taught you? But that woman wasn't a lesbian, was she?

Y-san: Uh, right but, she said, if it were a man and a woman this is what you do—that's the way she taught me. And well, for my part, I had reached an age where I could basically imagine what to do. So, that was the beginning of my life of sexual debauchery (laughs). When that affair had been going on for about three months, she left her house and moved in with me. That lasted three months—half a year? She moved out of her house temporarily, and I think she always had the feeling that she'd have to go back home. For me, it was rather unpleasant, quite frankly. I wanted to read books, write stories and go out to have fun once in a while, but I felt like I couldn't do that because she was there. By that point, when her husband finally located my apartment and came to get her, I felt a sense of relief, to tell the truth.

Interviewer: There are a lot of married women [in the scene], aren't there? N-san is married too. It's probably the man's fault.

Y-san: When you heard N-san's story, didn't you think, what're you doing? At the PTA, with the married women in the neighborhood, and the like….

Interviewer: I know what you mean. Well, N-san says she hates house-proud housewives.

Y-san: Well, everyone's different, but there certainly are a lot of them. One housewife said she kinda liked N-san, and when the woman told her, N-san apparently goes, 'Why didn't you tell me sooner? I'm hooked up with a married woman over in that apartment block.' Aside from that, there are a lot of times when I hear that this housewife and that housewife are together and I think, really?

Interviewer: Huh? … It wouldn't be good if this discussion stayed too serious (laughs).

Y-san: When I drink, I get really talkative (laughs). Getting back to me—right now, I've been writing lesbian short stories (shōsetsu) and I've gotten a little famous outside of the big city. I was up for an award for new writers. And the married woman I was with, she was good enough that she got a prize for new women writers in Kobe—she produced quite good work, and we developed an interest in each other through a literary route.

Interviewer: How did her husband find out?

Y-san: She kept the love letters I sent her in a bag she carried around with her—that never left her side. Well, her bag got opened up and out came a really thick bundle of letters.

Interviewer: How old was she?

Y-san: I think she was around thirty-six. Her husband was around fifty, I guess. But, I met his wife through a literary magazine, and I even spent the night at their house many times, so he must have known how attached I was to his wife. So, I suppose he must have been thinking it was something like the world of Tanizaki's [novel] Manji.[3] The three of us would… something—something creepy like that (laughs). Anyway, when he saw her letters, he realised our relationship had progressed more than he had imagined—I suppose it was like she cut him out, or like an estrangement or something.

From my standpoint, it was like I was afraid of the fire I set. She got caught up in the fire, and before the husband knew it, his house had burned down (laughs).

After that, I had a bit of this and that, but before long I came up to Tokyo and started working as a reporter for a weekly magazine, which is where I am now.

Fooling around, getting serious, living together, breaking up

Interviewer: What kind of experiences have you had in Tokyo?

Y-san: A hostess I met at a homo[4] bar took me to a lez [rezu][5] bar in Akebonobashi [in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo][6] called Himitsu [secret].

Interviewer: That's near Nanbara kikaku [Nanbara productions].[7]

Y-san: There seem to be a lot [of bars] around here. At the time, I had just started working at the weekly, and every week I got paid, which made me really happy. Even though I had to pay my rent and food and stuff from that money, when the money came in—it was on Thursdays—that evening I bundled up the whole wad and headed off to the lez bar (laughs). From the time it opened to the time it closed, I was firmly planted inside. At the time, I was hooked on onabe gui.[8]

Interviewer: Onabe gui?

Y-san: A neko [femme/bottom][9] sidles up to a full-fledged otokoyaku [woman in drag],[10] and buys the otokoyaku drinks. In fact, I used to hope for something like that, but it didn't happen very often.

Interviewer: Those people must be rich housewives or something, right?

Y-san: Sure there were some, but also hostesses and dancers from the Nichigeki [theater] too. There were certainly a lot of hostesses. These were people who normally served men and they had money.

Interviewer: Were there any cases that developed out of that?

Y-san: There was one, a woman who was in plays, and she liked me—we lived together for about six months. To tell the truth, she wasn't my taste, but I was lonely being all by myself in Tokyo. After that, I met my wife [okusan], who I broke up with this year. This was at a lez party, a party held at [the women's space] JORA [in Tokyo]—it was love at first sight. … JORA isn't around anymore, though. It really was love at first sight with her, and we lived together for around four years.

Interviewer: Why did you break up?

Y-san: After we had been living together for around three years, I once again fell at first sight for a mama-san [bar proprietress] at a club that the editor of a certain magazine had taken me to. At first I intended to just have an affair, but before long it got really serious. Even then, I continued two-timing my wife and things remained as they were for about a year. But in the end, my wife cut off support for me. Now I'm living alone. I'm still with the mama-san, though. I'm incorrigible (laughs). Anyway, that's the way things are now. … If you want to talk numbers, I suppose nearly thirty people—not that many.

Interviewer: You think so? To me, that sounds like a lot.

Y-san: Well, it includes one-night stands.

Interviewer: When you read research about the psychology of sexuality, it says that lesbians hardly ever have casual sex—especially in foreign countries.

Y-san: I think that compared with homo couples, it's quite true that cheating is less common, but that doesn't mean lesbians don't cheat. It's just that for homos when they learn their partner is fooling around on the side, they go, 'What kind of guy is he? Take me along next time,' and end up having three-ways and things like that. For lesbians, those kinds of things are extremely rare. When you find out your partner is having an affair, the first thing you do is get into a fight.

Dashing away at dawn

Interviewer: Do people around you know you're a lesbian?

Y-san: Yeah. When I was in high school, my mother read my diary. And in it was an endless stream of writing about girls. Up to that point, I had studied hard and was well-behaved, so she was really affectionate towards me. However, one day I went home and my mother seemed really strange. And then when I went into my room, on top of my desk was my diary, which was partly ripped up. Eek!—I thought—she saw it—and my whole world started shaking from the shock. And when I went to my mother and asked, 'Mother, did you look at my diary?' she goes, 'It makes me sick just to think about the dishes you've been using—I don't even feel like washing them.' So, as soon as I finished high school, I started living on my own.

Interviewer: How are things now?

Y-san: We both avoid the topic. I send her money every month, but otherwise, we keep our distance, but not too much so. One time I went home and said I'm a lez and I'll probably never marry a man, and she pretended she didn't hear me (laughs). That's how we get along.

Interviewer: I'm sure it was a shock for her.

Y-san: For her and for me both. But that wasn't the way to react. If I had a more fragile disposition, I guess I might have thought about suicide. She talked about it as if I had killed someone.

Interviewer: How about being with men?

Y-san: When I was around nineteen, I was as cute as I am now (laughs) and men asked me out and I went out for a drink with them, and before I realised it, we were in a love hotel[11]—that happened four or five times. But, I always fought them off and I dashed away at dawn (laughs).

Interviewer: At that time, did the men know you were a lez?

Y-san: Yeah, they knew. But they must have thought it was just a word, or that they'd show me the way, something like that, so it was amusing, which I guess is why they wanted to buy me drinks. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened—especially the first time—if I had failed to fight them off. But, I'm sure it all comes down to me only being able to like women.

Interviewer: So, as far as men are concerned, you're a virgin?

Y-san: Yeah, that's right. I don't think I ever had something like that.

Interviewer: Something like that?

Y-san: A hymen (laughs). At this age, to never have 'known' a man—there's a strong sense of embarrassment. But that's the way I'll be my whole life, right? It's not that just getting close to men makes me shudder or anything. The first time I come into contact with a man for work, somehow my attitude toward them is awkward, but I think that would go away if I had just one experience with a man. As for whether me liking women would change if I did that, I'm pretty confident it wouldn't.

Body language

Interviewer: Would it be safe to say that the psychology of a tachi [butch/top] is basically that of a man?

Y-san: There's this book American Couples,[12] and it talks about all kinds of couples—normal [nōmaru], homo, lez—and what partners want from each other in each kind of couple. And, unsurprisingly, looks are given as an important factor, but for lesbian couples, looks are not important—it's the inside that's important, it says. Generally speaking, I think that's the case. Even for tachi. But I've always been different—if a woman's not beautiful, I'm not interested. If her face and her figure are not better than average…. If I were to walk around with someone less than average, what a wretched couple we'd make (laughs).

Interviewer: And a nice chest, of course…

Y-san: Breasts are no big deal. If they have a good shape.

Interviewer: When you first meet someone, where do your eyes go?

Y-san: Well, after I look at the whole package, it would be the legs. But the most important thing is the face. If the face isn't good, I haven't got any desire to look at the whole package.

Interviewer: On that point, psychologically, you're like a man, aren't you?

Y-san: When I go to a bar, if I see a hot woman, I go up and talk to her—when the circumstances allow, that's what I do.

Interviewer: And then you hit on her?

Y-san: No, at that point it's just harmless conversation. I'm a lez, but I don't say anything outright (laughs).

Interviewer: When do you hit on someone for real?

Y-san: At those times, first of all I go to a different place. I go somewhere I feel at ease. But, if I go that far, it's when I'm certain I have some hope. If I fail and I end up getting teased by someone of the same sex, I don't think I'll get over it—that point I take very seriously, so I'm a coward. And also, I suddenly move my body right next to a woman, and I touch her hair, or a move my hand onto her body—through improvised body language (laughs) I let her know [I'm interested]. And if I haven't turned her off by that point, I kiss her, and if I haven't turned her off … hotel (laughs).

Interviewer: Your former wife, and the mama-san of that club now, were they normal [futsū] people before?

Y-san: Yeah, they were. I specialise in getting women who were not originally lesbians (laughs). My wife was interested in lesbians, but I was her first, and the mama-san now was only into men. She had a male lover at the time. I'm turned off by lesbians—I have this aversion toward them. So when I go to a party, I have no intention of trying to pick them up. (I met my wife at a party though.) But when we talked about this and that, it was like I was a special case. It seems pretty normal for everyone to find someone at parties.

Interviewer: But you have your own way?

Y-san: That's for sure. When you try to do it in your own narrow little world, it feels like you're going to suffocate.

Interviewer: This is changing topics, but one thing that's been a mystery to me is what the otokoyaku [male-role player] does to get sexual satisfaction.

Y-san: For the onnayaku [female-role player], she has basically the same kind of orgasm as she would with male-female sex and she gets her satisfaction that way. But the otokoyaku comes too. Now 80 percent of the time, I am the tachi (top), but I used to be tachi 100 percent of the time. In those cases, even if I didn't let my partner touch my body, I came. I guess it's psychological. It was the same sensation as masturbation. Maybe when you caress your partner, your own sexual organs are somehow connected. Now, I'm much bolder (laughs) and I come in a grander way (laughs).

Interviewer: Is it better now?

Y-san: Yeah, it is. Not letting your partner touch you, when it comes down to it, it's unnatural. It's like in SM, when you tie your partner up, she can't touch you, but this [not being able to touch the otokoyaku] is just based on an agreement, right? For it to happen in normal (futsū ) sex is unnatural.

Interviewer: Ever do anything sadistic?

Y-san: It's a matter of what feels good. When it feels good, when it feels painful, the expression on your face is the same, isn't it? I like to see that expression. But I'm a lightweight—I don't walk around with whips or anything (laughs).

Interviewer: What do you think about women's sexual organs?

Y-san: They're hideous, but cute (laughs). Basically, I want to see everything about a person I like—I think it's part of our natural desire as animals. That's why we love someone so much it's unbearable. It's like getting a present. It's something like that excited feeling you get when you're unwrapping a Christmas present. That's what this person has between her legs. Design-wise, it's not great (laughs). As for it's appearance, as is, it's kind of embarrassing, don't you think?

The aesthetics of loving women

Interviewer: I heard you failed in your attempt to pick up a tachi….

Y-san: Oh, that. There was this woman who was really hot, but she had a little tachi-esque something about her. I decided to try and find out more, so I bought her a drink…. (laughs). Then, I looked at her with those eyes, and she really understood, and then she made it clear to me that she herself was a tachi—I'm so dense I didn't know (laughs).

Interviewer: Wham! (laughs).

Y-san: This might make the neko angry, but—two hunters together? I felt very much like, oh, pardon me—I'm so sorry to have bothered you.

Interviewer: I met that person at the first anniversary [for Luna, the magazine that this interview appeared in] party in August, and she was wearing a skirt.

Y-san: From a man's perspective, she's very hot. Most tachi are like me—indifferent about their appearance, not worrying about make-up, just putting on pants, and keeping their hair short, but she has long hair and wears make-up—like a real beauty—wears a skirt—it's very unusual. I suppose that's her own aesthetic.

Interviewer: Oh, I want to know more about those aesthetics. The tachi aesthetic, or perhaps your own individual aesthetic, Y-san.

Y-san: There's a woman running a place called J in Shinjuku. She's a tachi but she also ran in the torch relay for the Tokyo Olympics. She's around 170 cm tall, and really cool. She rides around on a 750 cc bike—plus she's a hāfu [half-foreign]. During the Olympics, there was an article about her in a foreign newspaper and they wrote about her as Mr. So-and-so (laughs). If I could have as hot a body as she has, my life would probably be different. I could get money easily, and I'd probably be doing all the things I have disdain for now. People would buy things for me, and I'd try to sleep with hundreds of women and I'd take a celebrity as a lover (laughs). But the reality is different. But of course I want to make myself look good, stand out, and I want to get hot women, but if I tried to look like that, it wouldn't be anything but a big joke. Which I suppose is why I look down on these kinds of desires. But as for outward appearances, there are certain things I'm looking for in a partner, but I've never thought about myself. That's why if I'm going to use the term aesthetic… how can I explain it? …I feel like, since I'm open about being a lez, on whatever point, I should make sure people aren't criticising me for being a lez. But that's not aesthetics, it's a principle. If you talk about aesthetics, it's having people not pointing at you behind your back—I'm always defiantly showing off, it's something like that, I guess. More than taking on the label otokoyaku, even if I'm younger, even if I don't have any money, I can't let someone pay my way. The mama-san I'm dating now costs a lot of money, so sometimes she pays, but….

Interviewer: On the other hand, you don't spend money on clothes or makeup… so you break even?

Y-san: Hmm…. (laughs). It's not that this is how I look because I'm being frugal.

Interviewer: So, you're not wearing those clothes because you are trying to look like a man?

Y-san: Right. I think of myself as a woman. This hair, these pants, this shirt—it's just because I like them. That's what I think, but in fact it could be that at the heart of it is a desire to look like a man. I haven't developed as a woman, now, have I? When you become twenty-seven, it's completely natural to wear makeup, right? That's one thing that proves I've not developed as a woman. But I don't think of myself as a man or anything like that. It often happens that I feel like I'm more effeminate [onnappoi] than the neko I'm dating. The way I think about things, the way I feel, I'm not bothered by that part of myself—in fact, I like it.

Interviewer: Well then, you don't want to change your sex and become a man, right?

Y-san: Of course not. I like myself as a woman, and plus if I were to become a man, I'd certainly be a disgusting man.

Interviewer: Why's that?

Y-san: I'd be indecisive and that kind of thing, at any rate.

Interviewer: You think so? So… seeking out beautiful, feminine women is you seeking out your ideal?

Y-san: Hmm... I think it is.

Interviewer: If that's the case, then your masculine [otokorashii] appearance is simply because you don't bother with your looks.

Y-san: That's right.

Interviewer: But surely there aren't any tachi with buzz cuts?

Y-san: There are. Among the hosts at the lez bars (laughs).

Interviewer: Long hair would be too troublesome?

Y-san: It wouldn't suit me.

Interviewer: How long ago did you stop wearing skirts?

Y-san: After high school I was an OL ['office lady'] for a little while, at that time I wore a two-piece suit, but after that I've exclusively worn pants.[13]

Interviewer: You must have been cute twirling around in a skirt (laughs). How about your hair?

Y-san: It was short. With this hair and a skirt, it generated a certain impression, that's for sure.

Interviewer: I'm sure it did. But there's certainly something appealing about it (laughs).

Y-san: But I strutted around like a man (laughs).

Interviewer: When did you start walking like that?

Y-san: I was probably born with it. I've always done it (laughs). And when I started wearing pants, it naturally became a man's way of walking.

Inside the male drag?

Interviewer: Would you share what it is about you that women like, Y-san?

Y-san: They say I'm cute (laughs). I suppose it's because I'm gentle and they can see that I live honestly. Of course, it's not true, but that's what I'm told, that I don't give off bad vibes.

Interviewer: How about on the outside?

Y-san: Well, I don't have a nice body or anything, but… they say my eyes are cute. … How embarrassing (laughs) even though they're so narrow.

Interviewer: When you are looking down naturally, you seem like an innocent boy. Like a boy at Koshien [Stadium].[14] (Laughs.)

Y-san: Well, I'm not that young (laughs).

Interviewer: Do you watch dirty videos and stuff like that?

Y-san: One time, with about five or six other lesbians, I saw one. None of us had ever seen one before so we gawked at it with pervy eyes (laughs)—all snuggled together under the kotatsu [heated table]. We had about five or six 30-minute videos, but after about fifteen minutes, we got fed up with the man in the video and we didn't watch the rest. Incidentally, the neko watched very intently. We tachi said to each other that it figures that the women are the most lewd (laughs).

Interviewer: In the world of men and women, they really do say that women are the lewdest, but how about in the lesbian world (laughs).

Y-san: Hmm… I wonder.

Interviewer: Why did you stop watching the video partway through?

Y-san: We're shy. If just two women were watching them, I'm sure they would have watched them to the end (laughs). Twice each (laughs).

Interviewer: The neko again were all watching it. Was it that the tachi were just posing?

Y-san: I'm sure that's it. They definitely wouldn't want other people to see them intently watching an adult video.

Interviewer: Are there a lot of shy women?

Y-san: I suppose so. There are lots of lots of people obsessed with things being clean. So, the pure otokoyaku women don't like people to touch their bodies. I used to be like that. Because I'm obsessed with things being clean. The gist of it is that I'm shy.

Interviewer: I see.

Y-san: At the extreme end would be people who get crew cuts and bind their breasts, right? Even in bed, I don't think they unbind their breasts. And then they single-mindedly concentrate on pleasing their partner. They wouldn't want their partner to be aware that their own body was excited.

Interviewer: …!

Y-san: At least I think that's the way it is. That's why in bed they keep their breasts bound and their male underwear on. If their partner saw that they were wet, or that their nipples had gotten hard—that'd like admitting that they're women, and that's why I think it would be so humiliating. I think that's the idea behind it.

Interviewer: I had thought that the breast binding was one way of performing masculinity [otokorashisa], but I see it has a much deeper meaning.

Y-san: It's true that it's a fashion. Loosen the necktie and unbutton the collar a little—there are some women who would be aroused if they saw the cloth binding. But even that's something that came later, so it's really something used to cover up the fact that you are a woman, even in bed.

Interviewer: This is interesting, but of course it sounds like a problem.

Y-san: It's strange that people who should be intimate feel the need to hide part of themselves when it's just the two of them. On that point, among young people today there seems to be an increasing number of people who do both otokoyaku and onnayaku, meaning they aren't stubbornly keeping their insides bound up, which I think is a good thing.

Y-san died of cervical cancer several years after this interview took place.


[1] Throughout the interview, Y-san uses the self-referent watashi [I], which tends to be gender neutral in formal speech but somewhat feminine in casual speech. Had she used atashi [I], it would have marked her as rather feminine; conversely boku [I] would have marked her speech as transgressively masculine, and ore [I] considerably more so.

[2] The Kansai region contains the major cities of Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto and its dialect, though often considered more friendly sounding than the 'standard' middle-class Tokyo dialect, has been thought by many to be inappropriate in business and other formal situations. To emphasise one's dialect in Japan has long been seen as a sign of rebellion against Tokyo hegemony.

[3] Manji is the title of a novel about a lesbian love affair first published in 1951 by well-known (male) writer Tanizaki Jun'ichirō (Tokyo: Shinchō bunko, 1998). The plot, involving a married woman having a lesbian affair, is indeed similar to the situation Y-san recalls. Two film versions have been made, first in 1964 (dir. Masumura Kasuzō) and again in 1983 (dir. Yokoyama Hiroto).

[4] In the 1990s homo was displaced in the community by 'gay' [gei]. However, despite the derogatory nuance homo still carried in public discourse, in the 80s homo was the preferred term within the subculture as 'gay' had effeminate overtones. See Mark McLelland, Queer Japan from the Pacific War to the Internet Age Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005, pp. 137-38, p. 185.

[5] At the time of the interview, as now, while the term is used in the lesbian community as a neutral word, 'rezu' (lez) is simultaneously associated with androcentric pornography.

[6] Shinjuku Ward in Tokyo, primarily the Shinjuku Ni-chōme neighborhood, is known for its proliferation of gay bars, along with possessing a number of lesbian bars. Prior to the 1980s, lesbian bars were scattered more widely around the city. In English, a brief history of Japanese lesbian bars can be found in James Welker, 'Telling Her Story: Narrating a Japanese Lesbian Community,' In Andrea Germer and Andreas Moerke (eds.) Grenzgänge. (De-)Konstruktion kollektiver Identitäten in Japan (Japanstudien 16), Munich: Iudicium, 2004, pp. 119-44. In Japanese, histories of lesbian bars in Tokyo can be found in 'Komyuniti no rekishi 1971-2001: Nenpyō to intabyū de furikaeru' [Community History 1971-2001: Reflecting Back with Timelines and Interviews], Anī'su (Summer 2001): 28-78; see especially pp. 42-45. Shiba Fumiko 'Nemurenu yoru no tame ni' [For sleepless nights], Anīsu, (Summer 1997): 110-11; Shiba Fumiko, 'Shōwa rokujū [sic] nendai rezubian bumu' [Lesbian boom in the 1960s], in Tanbi shōsetsu, gei Bungaku bukkugaido [A guidebook to aesthete novels and gay literature], ed. Kakinuma Eiko and Kurihara Chiyo, Tokyo: Byakuya shobō, 1993, pp. 290-91.

[7] Nanbara kikaku is the publisher that produced the magazine Luna (Gekkō) , in which this interview appeared.

[8] Onabe, literally 'honorable pan,' is a term used to describe masculine, generally cross-dressing lesbians. Onabe also means food served in a nabe [pot] and onabe gui literally means 'eating nabe.'

[9] Neko, literally meaning 'cat,' indicates the passive partner in a female-female or a male-male relationship, the active counterpart to which is called tachi—originally a term used in kabuki theater to refer to sword-play. Tachi and neko roles might be translated as top and bottom, and are similar to but not synonymous with otokoyaku and onnayaku, discussed below.

[10] Otokoyaku, literally meaning 'male role,' is a term used to describe female performers who play male roles, for instance in the all-female Takarazuka Review, and is sometimes used to indicate the masculine partner in butch/femme couples. While in Takarazuka, the female counterpart is called the musumeyaku, literally, 'daughter role,' in butch/femme couples, the femme counterpart is sometimes called the onnayaku, female role. Jennifer Robertson's work is perhaps the most comprehensive in English on Takarazuka, including its lesbian association. See review of Jennifer Robertson's Takarazuka: Sexual Politics and Popular Culture in Modern Japan, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

[11] Ubiquitous in Japan, so-called love hotels [rabu hoteru] specialise in short-term occupancy for brief sexual encounters, generally renting rooms out by the hour.

[12] Philip Blumstein and Pepper Schwartz, American Couples: Money, Work, Sex, New York: William Morrow and Co., 1983; in Japanese, Amerikan kappuruzu, trans., Minami Hiroshi, Tokyo: Hakusuisha, 1985.

[13] Because of mandatory school uniforms, she would have worn skirts throughout her school years.

[14] Located near Osaka, Koshien Stadium is the home of the Hanshin Tigers professional baseball team and hosts wildly popular high school baseball tournaments each year.


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

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