three pairs of lovers with space



Here are assembled studies by five leading scholars on the question of the age of the boys to whom Japanese men were attracted in the long golden age Greek love enjoyed in Japan down to the Meiji restoration of 1868. As will be seen from the writings presented here, this question is essential to understanding the historical character of Greek love as something “available to all” in Tsuneo Watanabe’s words and thus very different to the pursuit of a modern sexual minority.

All four of the books presented here stress that, according to the traditional Japanese method of counting age found in their sources of information, a person is born aged one, and thus that one year needs to be taken off to find the modern English equivalent. It is important to note that, despite this, none of them make this adjustment themselves in what follows, so the reader is expected to do so for himself.

They are presented in order of original publication, thus beginning with Watanabe’s suitably introductory survey before proceeding to the more thorough. All the footnotes are by the authors of the excerpts.



The Love of the Samurai
by Tsuneo Watanabe and Jun'ichi Iwata

Jun'ichi Iwata (岩田準一) was the pioneer of study of Greek love in Japan as a lost phenomenon. He published his studies, Honcho danshoku ko 本朝男色考 (Considerations on Japanese Homosexuality), as a series of essays in Showa 5-8, 1930-33. Four of these were translated into French by Tsuneo Watanabe and incorporated with his own brief historical survey of Japanese homosexuality into Histoire et histoires des homosexualités au Japon, published in 1987. The following three short excerpts are taken from its translation into English by D. R. Roberts as The love of the samurai: a thousand years of Japanese homosexuality (London, 1989).


Adolescent boys in the period of civil wars

Discussing the change around the 15th century from the love of boys by monks, which had hitherto been the dominant form of homosexuality:

The cultural tradition of homosexuality underwent a remarkable transformation in the world of the samurai: the term which designated the object of pederastic love changed from chigo (literally: young child) to wakashu (literally: young man). This corresponds to a change in the age suitable to be loved: the chigo would have been from about ten or eleven to sixteen or seventeen years old; the wakashu was now from about thirteen or fourteen to eighteen or nineteen, sometimes even more than twenty years old. There appeared a homosexuality of a military type comparable to that of the Spartans.  This kind of pederasty was called shudo. [p.47]



Love of the chigo and love of the wakashu

This obscene and comic play from the beginning of the 15th century is not only evidence of the provincial vogue for homosexuality, but also tells us that at that time two kinds of homoeroticism. ‘shonin-mania’ (shonin or shonen being the current word for 'boy’), and ‘wakazoku-philia' were both fashionable. Shonin-mania is the love of boys from nine or ten to sixteen or seventeen years old: it is, of course, the love of the chigo. Wakazoku-philia designated the love of an older adult for wakashu, young men from seventeen or eighteen to about twenty-two or twenty-three years of age. It resembles more closely the homosexuality of our own day than the paedophile love for the chigo. However, with the change in the cultural tradition of homosexuality, it seems that these two kinds become one. At the same time, there was invented as designating the love-object a new compound word chigo-wakashu, which, shortened, became simply wakashu. Essentially, wakashu became the general term which covered both chigo and wakashu in its original sense. It is on the basis of this new definition that the word itself and the concept of shudo were formed and underwent development. [p. 80]



Some signs of the renaissance of the shudo spirit

Comparing shudo and with the form of homosexuality emerging in late 20th-century Japan:

There are, in fact, certain fundamental differences between shudo and present-day homosexuality which itself has many points in common with that of Western countries. First of all, there were in shudo as in Greek paiderastia, ‘stages of development’ considered to be natural, and even more or less obligatory; while the young man had the mae-gami he was the ‘passive’ object of the love of older men; when he had reached adulthood, he had to become a ‘boy-lover’, and sooner or later he ended up happily married. It is difficult to see these stages in contemporary homosexuality, however, and relations between adults are the dominant trend of our own day.

Another fundamental difference is that the homosexuality of shudo was in reality a bisexuality; as love-objects, the youths had a psychological value similar to that of girls (dress, hair-style, make-up). The wakashu were not young ‘men’ but young androgynes, one might say. Today, on the other hand, we see a good number of exclusive homosexuals who throughout their lives love not the adolescent with his androgynous beauty, but only ‘men’.

We could put it, rather schematically, that modern homosexuality is that of homosexuals as a minority, whereas shudo was available to all, in so far as it was well integrated into the heterosexual society. This explains why in the present day homosexuality is merely tolerated, while shudo was both value and model. [p. 134]



P. G. Schalow’s Introduction to The Great Mirror of Male Love

Nanshoku Ōkagami 男色大鑑, by Ihara Saikaku 井原 西鶴 (Ōsaka, 1687) translated from the Japanese is the greatest compilation of boy-love stories ever produced. The only complete or accurate translation of it into English (Stanford, 1990) has been by P. G. Schalow, author of several scholarly works on Japanese homosexuality. Half these forty short stories concern the formally structured love affairs between samurai and wakashu, boys generally thought necessarily to be of a particular age, and the following excerpt from his introduction clarifies what that age was:

Cultural Setting: Samurai

A wakashu was identified essentially on the basis of his long-sleeved robe and his hairstyle. In reading Nanshoku ōkagami, close attention must be paid to the way hairstyles and robes are described, for they are often the only clues to a boy’s age and availability. At the age of eleven or twelve the crown of a male child's head was shaved, symbolizing the first of three steps towards adulthood. The shaved crown drew attention to the forelocks (maegami), the boy’s distinguishing feature. At the age of fourteen or fifteen the boy’s natural hairline was reshaped by shaving the temples into right angles, but the forelocks remained as sumi-maegami (cornered forelocks). This process, called “putting in corners” (kado o ireru), was the second step towards adulthood. From being a mae-gami (boy with forelocks), the wakashu had now graduated to being a sumi-maegami (boy with cornered forelocks). The final step, completed at age eighteen or nineteen, involved cutting off the forelocks completely; the pate of his head was shaved smooth, leaving only the sidelocks (bin). Once he changed to a robe with rounded sleeves, the boy was recognized as an adult man (yarō). He was no longer available as a wakashu for sexual relations with adult men like himself but was now qualified to establish a relationship with a wakashu. [pp. 28-9]



Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan
by Gay Leupp

The Tokugawa period of Japanese history  in the title of Leupp’s book (California, 1997) ran from 1603 until the Meiji restoration of 1868.  However, in addition to being an exhaustive study of Japanese homosexuality during this era, his first chapter, on “The Pre-Tokugawa Homosexual Tradition” is the most thorough survey in English of homosexuality in earlier times.


Monastic Homosexuality

From all this material, we acquire some idea of the characteristics of monastic homosexuality. The typical relationship involved a monk and a boy serving as an acolyte or, in Zen monasteries, a postulant (kasshiki) These boys often came from ranking families and were either training to enter the clergy or receiving instruction in scripture and sutra-chanting as part of their education. Sometimes they were very young; among better-known religious figures, Honen (1133-1212) and Shinran (1173-1262) both entered at age nine, Ippen (1239-89), at ten, Eisai (1141-12l5) and Nichiren (l222-82), at twelve.[1] A postulant might be placed in a Zen temple at age five. By the time he reached his teens, the boy may have developed a special relationship with an older monk, who would be referred to as the nenja.[2] The youthful partner would be called the nyake.[3] Both these terms were in use by the early twelfth century and appear in the reference work Kojidan (Talks on ancient matters, 1215).[4] By the seventeenth century the senior partner was called the "older brother" (anibun) and the junior, the "younger brother" (ototobun); the relationship itself was called a "brother-hood bond" (kyodai musubi).[5] The pair ritually swore loyalty to one another and, at least in later periods, documented their relationship with a written oath. [pp. 43-4]



The Object of Desire

Tokugawa literature on nanshoku usually expresses the viewpoint of the "older brother," or male-brothel patron whose homosexual desire focuses upon attractive younger males. An examination of male-male sexual desire during this period, therefore, should begin with an inquiry about what sort of partners the former seem to have preferred. I will also consider the feelings of those who attracted the interest of such men: boys in general, youthful or young-looking actor-prostitutes, and young man-servants.

Boys and Youths

Such terms as wakashu-zuki, shudo-zuki, and nanshoku-zuki, which were generally interchangeable, referred to males with a general preference for younger male partners and indicated the prevalence of age-graded homosexual relationships in Tokugawa Japan.[6] The ideal partner for the "older brother," or paying customer, seems to be a boy between fifteen and eighteen. This period was regarded as one of transition from childhood to adulthood; the initiation (genpuku) ceremony could be performed any time within this interval. Perhaps because the average life expectancy during the period was only about fifty, boys were encouraged to assume full adult responsibilities at an early date. There seems to have been little concern about shielding teenagers from sexual experience, including the sexual advances of their elders, unless the latter became obnoxious or violent.[7]

Thus, the publisher's afterword to the Iwatsutsuji (1713), a collection of homoerotic literature, urges adult readers to share the volume with young male friends: "We hope that men will read the book with youths who are not yet enlightened about this way of love, and that it will be a source of pleasure to many."[8] By "youths," the editors probably meant teenagers. An early seventeenth-century work called Shiratama no soshi (The white ball book) suggests that a male was considered most suitable as a homosexual sex partner from age seven to twenty-five, during which time he would develop from a child (kodomo) to a youth (wakashu) to a man (yaro).[9] These categories roughly correspond to the more poetically defined stages given in the Wakashu no haru (Springtime of youths): from age eleven to fourteen, the boy was a "blossoming flower" (tsubomeru hana); from fifteen to eighteen, a "flourishing flower" (sakari-bana); and from nineteen to twenty-two, a "falling flower (ochiru hana).” Sixteen (fifteen by Western reckoning, as the Japanese regarded babies as one year old at birth), was thus the boy's "springtime."[10] Saikaku also declares that sixteen "is the age when youths are most attractive to other males."[11] References to such youths often contain melancholy overtones; the poem on a Toyonobu portrait of a beautiful youth holding a small flower cart runs, "The days of young men are as numbered as those of the cherry blossom."[12] It is surely no accident that the samurai is also often compared to this flower. In the latter case, the tragedy is death in battle; in the former, the inevitable onset of age and ugliness.

The terminology of male prostitution also expresses the preference for boy partners. Some nanshoku teahouses were known as "children-shops," (kodomo-ya) and the suffix -ko (child) was included in the terms for various male prostitute types: "sex child," (iro-ko) "stage child," (utai-ko) "cross-dressing child," (kage-ko) "working child," (tsutome-ko) etc. The term  chishi ("seedling" or "little boy") also referred to a young catamite.[13]

In ancient Greece, according to Dover, "once the beard was grown, the young male was supposed to be passing out  of the eromenos stage."[14] In Japan, by contrast, the transition was marked by the adoption of a new hairstyle and mode of dress at the  genpuku ceremony. The growth of facial hair cannot be controlled, so the Greek boy's evolution  out of the sexually passive role could not be delayed, but the timing of the Japanese boy's transition could be  determined by his parents or his lord. The rite of passage might occur any time between ages thirteen and seventeen.[15]

Leupp's "Fig. 31. 'Older brother' and 'younger brother' with long forelocks in bed." From Iro monogatari, ca. 1630

Between about age ten and the time of the genpuku ceremony, a boy's head would be partly shaven. First, the crown  of his head would be shorn, leaving conspicuous forelocks, or maegami. (This term was also used to refer to the boy himself at this stage.) Somewhat later, these forelocks would be reshaped; the hair at the temples would be cut at right angles. This hairstyle was known as "cornered forelocks" (sumi-maegami; the youth himself was also referred to by this term). Finally, the entire pate and crown of the head would be shaven; this was the adult hairstyle. Thus, the two lovers in Figure 31 are clearly distinguished as a maegami and an adult. Genpuku literally means something like "first clothing," and at this point the youth would also receive his first adult robe, distinguished by its rounded, closed sleeves.[16]

Basho celebrated the appeal of the maegami in a haiku poem:

Maegami mo
mada wakagusa no
nioi kana

Doesn't the boy
with his forelocks
still bear the
fragrance of fresh

But a poem of 1693 indicates that, as he aged, the maegami lost much of his sexual attractiveness:

genpuku wa
shudo no ue no

Genpuku means
retirement from
[the insertee role in] shudo[18]

Jippensha Ikku's Hizakurige seems to illustrate this rule. The ne'er-do-well duo of Yaji and Kita begin as sexual partners. Yajirobei, "a proper merchant," becomes enamored of a boy named Hananosuke, the apprentice of a  traveling actor. After he exhausts his small fortune on this boy, the two flee Yaji's hometown to Fuchu (Sunpu). Soon Hananosuke undergoes the genpuku ceremony and assumes the adult name Kitahachi. Yaji and Kita undergo many adventures in this long novel, but after the genpuku ritual there is no mention of any sexual contact between the two men. Indeed, they compete in pursuing women.[19] [pp. 122-7]



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

Pflugfelder’s study of Japanese male homosexuality (Berkeley, 1999) covers the same period as the preceding by one by Leupp, but carries on a further eighty-two years.  However, the chapter from which the following excerpt is taken concerns only the Edo period of 1603-1868, synonymous with Leupp’s Tokugawa.

CHAPTER 1.  AUTHORIZING PLEASURE: Male-Male Sexuality in Edo-Period Popular Discourse

Youths, Lovers, Brothers and Others

The shudō construct, in other words, specified the erotic object not in terms not of biological sex, which was implicitly understood to be male, but of age—in this respect differing not only from "homosexuality" but also from the Chinese-derived nanshoku.[20]

Youth, however, was a relative matter. When, for instance, did it begin? Few boys under the age of seven appear in shudō texts, in part because the status of  wakashu assumed a degree of personhood that cultural convention did not ascribe to human beings before that age.[21] Prior to becoming youths, males were simply warabe or children, a status that was weakly gendered and relatively noneroticized. The borderline between childhood and youth, however, was rather vaguely drawn. Thus the 1643 tract Shin’yūki (Record of Heartfelt Friends] suggests that, because youths between twelve and fourteen still displayed considerable immaturity, shudō ties with them ought to be written with characters indicating that the beloved was "primarily a child"[22] A youth idolized by some might appear to less appreciative eyes a mere “brat” (wappa, a pejorative variant of warabe), as one speaker scoffs in the mid-seventeenth-century erotic debate Denbu monogatari (Boors’ Tale]. Yet even here, the critic does not object to adult men’s pursuit of the youngster because it constitutes a sexual exploitation of minors—a notion no less recent in Japan than in the West—but instead because it lacks a sufficient degree of esthetic refinement.‘[23]

For writers on shudō, a question of far greater interest than the minimum age of the wakashu was determining his prime. Shin’yūki, for instance, located the peak of youthful desirability at between fifteen and seventeen, providing alternate ideographs meaning "special way” for shudō pursuits with partners of this age.[24] Yet one of the distinguishing characteristics of young male beauty, it was widely opined, was its fleetingness, prompting frequent comparisons with that short-lived blossom, the cherry, as well as with other flowers. Subsequently, according to Shin’ yūki, shudō ties would enter a phase described as the “end of the way” (likewise pronounced shudō), corresponding to the years eighteen through twenty. Instead of mere decline, however, Shin’yūki's commentator saw during this period the emergence in the youth of a new maturity and attention to "manly honor” (otoko no giri), which did not detract from but served to further refine shudō 's pleasures and proprieties.[25]

If the chronological end of youth was no more clearly agreed upon than its beginning, it was unquestionably more debated. As portrayed by the author of Shin’yūki, the late stages of youth already betrayed an incipient manhood. much as youth’s earliest phase was marked by a residual childishness. At the same time, the passage from youth to manhood constituted a more significant social leap than the earlier one from childhood to youth, and it was from the other side of this crucial divide—that is, from an adult male perspective—that the figure of the wakashu assumed his alterity and allure. The age at which this transition took place attracted considerable attention from commentators precisely because it was ultimately arbitrary. Opinions regarding its date varied greatly: from Shin’yūki’s twenty (or, according to some authorities, earlier), to twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-five, to as late as thirty and beyond?[26]

The upper boundary of youth managed to retain considerable plasticity because manhood was essentially a social condition, its biological referent far less important than its cultural markings.[27] Various changes in the youth’s body—the appearance of body and facial hair, enlarged genitals, taller stature, body—the appearance of body and facial hair, enlarged genitals, taller stature, deeper voice, and so on—were generally recognized as signs of physiological maturation, but did not in themselves confer adult status. In the eyes of some devotees of shudō, such secondary sex characteristics (to invoke, anachronistically, a twentieth-century biological conceit) might even serve to enhance a partner's beauty, as with the regional lord or daimyo whom a 1708 story portrays-—albeit as "eccentric" (monozuki)—as fond of page boys with hair on their shins.[28] Ironically, the physical attribute that most unequivocally signalled manhood, thereby withdrawing the youth from the category of erotic object, consisted not in the appearance of hair but in its removal—namely, the shaved pate that distinguished the coiffure of adult males. Boys and youths, conversely, could be recognized by unshorn forelocks (maegami), a feature around which shudō esthetics wove a highly fetishistic erotic.

Minister Narihira’s Coming of Age by Chokosai Eisho, a parody of genbuku. An ink and colour print from a woodblock, ca. 1795

The transition to manhood was elaborated not only tonsorially but sartorially. A ceremony known as genbuku announced the youth’s coming of age, at which point he was expected to exchange his wide-sleeved robes (furisode) for adult male garb. It was at this time, too, that the forelocks, which a preliminary modification of hairstyle (sumimaegami) around the mid-teens had left untouched, were shaved off completely. Now a man rather than a youth, he ceased to provide a suitable object for the erotic attentions of other males, since his pursuit no longer met the esthetic criteria of shudō.[29] This coming-of-age ceremony, however, did not have a fixed date, instead varying widely according to class, locality, and household or individual circumstance—a fact that helps to explain the lack of agreement on youth’s upper extremity. Indeed, because the tonsorial and sartorial markings of manhood were relatively easy to manipulate, they offered a convenient tool for regulating the practice of shudō. Thus, as we shall see in the next chapter, when lawmakers wished to discourage the erotic pursuit of young male actors or peddlers, they simply ordered them to shear off their voluptuous forelocks, while conversely, the daimyo of the 1708 tale sought to prolong the erotic availability of his hirsute page boys by refusing to allow them to undergo genbuku until the age of thirty.[30]

Within the milieu of prostitution, the boundaries of youth came to extend far beyond the “end of the way" as the author of Shin’yūki defined it. The logic of the marketplace gave the kagema and other types of male prostitute, or more accurately their keepers, the economic incentive to prolong youthful status for as long as possible, thereby maximizing earnings from the adult males who provided their chief clientele. Nevertheless, as he grew older, the kagema was likely to find his male patrons replaced increasingly by female, for whom physical maturity was assumed to be a more important consideration than youthfulness. An eighteenth-century senryū, for example, satirizes the youth who has "reached the age where his prick sells better than his ass” (Ketsu yori ka henoko no ureru toshi to nari).’[31] Senryū and other Forms of popular discourse frequently poked fun at the superannuated male prostitute who, if not dividing his favors—posterior and anterior—between men and women, was, through inadvertent word or deed, giving away the true age that he tried so hard to conceal. Though less frequently, well-seasoned "youths" occasionally crop up in a non-commercial context as well, such as the sixty-three-year-old samurai wakashu whom Saikaku depicts in one of the stories of his Great Mirror, or among the monks of mounts Kōya and Nachi, whose erotic careers a common adage held to last respectively until the ages of sixty and eighty?[32] Representations of this sort, however, did not so much question the conventional expectation that male erotic objects literally be young as reinforce that ideal by portraying its flouting in a humorous or otherwise remarkable light.

New Years gathering within a brothel by Masanobu Okumura, ca. 1739: a man relaxes in a brothel with a boy (composing a poem) and a female prostitute

While the issue of age loomed constantly over the figure of the wakashu, his sex and gender invited a lesser degree of problematization. He was undoubtedly male in terms of anatomy, or else sexual interaction with him would not, by definition, have qualified as nanshoku. In a broad sense, he was also masculine, for he acted according to a set of expectations that applied to all males, at least during a certain period of their lives. What he was not was virile (an English word deriving from the Latin vir, meaning an adult male), in the sense that he did not yet possess in full the attributes of mature manhood, including the prerogative of phallically penetrating other males. Females, too, lacked virility, but it did not necessarily follow from this fact that the youth was feminine. From the perspective of the adult male, both women and wakashu were "other" than himself, but they were also distinct from each other. For one thing, the youth would eventually become a man himself, whereas a woman could not.[33] Impending manhood (as in Shin’yūki's "manly honor”) manifested itself even before the youth had attained maturity—a process that shudō, far from hindering, was seen as helping bring to fruition.

Shudō texts, which embodied what might be called a “virile gaze," frequently ranged women and youths side lay side as comparable objects for esthetic appreciation and erotic consumption?[34] Yet comparability was not the same as homogeneity; indeed, writers on shudō took great delight in elaborating the features that set the two erotic objects apart. Saikaku opens his Great Mirror with a long list of such contrasts—asking, for instance, which is preferable, "The mouth of a woman as she blackens her teeth [possibly indicating that she is married or a courtesan], or the hand of a youth as he plucks his whiskers?"—.-although the esthetic sensibilities involved here may be lost on the twentieth-Century reader.[35] With a greater economy of language, Saikaku's contemporary, the haiku (or more properly, haikai) poet Matsuo Bashō, asked essentially the same question: "Plum and willow, wakashu or woman?” (Ume yanagi sazo wakashu kana onna kana).[36] Neither a woman nor yet a man, the youth shared traits with both, but at the same time significant differences.To classify him as a “third gender” would be misleading, however, since membership in the wakashu category was only temporary).[37] [pp. 30-36]


[1] Takahatake Takamichi, Young Man Shinran: A Reappraisal of Shinran's Life (Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1987), p. 20.

[2] The first character suggests both desire and concern; the second means "person."

[3] The term is written with the characters for "youth" and "spirit"; the word also comes to mean "anus."

[4] Iwata Junichi, Nanshoku bunken shoshi, (Ise: Kogawa shoten, 1973), p. 314.

[5] Apparently the first known appearance of this vocabulary in a published work occurs in the Shikido jitsugo kyo (True Sutra of the Way of Sex, 1678).

[6] Compare the situation in modern gay communities, in the West as well as in Japan, where relationships between adult men of comparable ages are more common. Accordingly, homosexual pornography seems as likely to celebrate the adult macho male as the beautiful youth as the object of desire. See Michael Pollak, "Male Homosexuality or Happiness in the Ghetto," in Philippe Ariès and Andre Bejin, eds., Western Sexuality: Practice and Precept in Past and Present Times (Oxford and New York: Blackwell, 1986), pp. 53-4.

[7] Cecilia Segawa Seigle, Yoshiwara: The Glittering World of the Japanese Courtesan (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1993), pp. 85-86.

[8] Schalow, Paul Gordon. "The Invention of a Literary Tradition of Male Love: Kitamura Kigin's Iwatsutsuji," Monumenta Nipponica 48, 1 (Spring 1993), p. 31.

[9] Koike Togoro. Koshoku monogatari (Tokyo: Kamakura insatsu, 1963) p. 186.

[10] Compare Straton, Anthologia Palatinus, XII, 4: "The bloom of a twelve-year-old boy is desirable, but at thirteen he is much more delightful. Sweeter still is the flower of love that blossoms at fourteen, and its charm increases at fifteen. Sixteen is the divine age." Quoted in Reay Tannahill, Sex in History (New York: Stein and Day, 1980), pp. 85-6.

[11] Caryl Ann Callahan, trans., Tales of Samurai Honor by Ihara Saikaku (Tokyo: Monumenta Nipponica, 1981), p. 142.

[12] Howard A. Link et al., Primitive Ukiyoe from the James A. Michener Collection in the Honolulu Academy of Art (Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii, 1980), p. 235.

[13] See appendix to Iwata Junichi. Honcho nanshoku ko (Ise: Kogawa shoten, 1974) p. 327f.

[14] Dover, Kenneth J.,  Greek Homosexuality (Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press, 1978) p. 86.

[15] David W. Plath, "Gempuku," Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan (Tokyo, 1983) vol. 3, p. 7.

[16] Schalow, Paul Gordon, The Great Mirror of Male Love, by Ihara Saikaku (Stanford, 1990) pp. 28-29.

[17] Koike Togoro, op. cit., p. 264; Iwata Junichi, op. cit., p. 257.

[18] Suzuki Katsutada, Senryu zappai kara mita Edo shomin fuzoku (Tokyo: Yuzankaku, 1978) p. 181

[19] Jippensha Ikku, Tokaidochu hizakurige, ed. Aso Isoji (2 vols. Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, 1985) vol. 1, pp. 32-33; Thomas Satchell, trans. Hizakurige or Shank's Mare: Japan's Great Comic Novel of Travel and Ribaldry by Ikku Jippensha (Tokyo and Rutland, Vt.: Turtle, 1960) pp. 369-370. Satchell appears to have entirely overlooked the homosexual content of this passage.

[20] In colloquial usage, it should be noted, nanshoku conveyed no less an expectation of youthfulness on the part of the erotic object than shudō;, my point here is simply with regard to etymology.

[21] Seven is the lower age that I have encountered in various descriptions of the wakashu. It appears in Shiratama no sōshi, a text cited in Baijōken’s 1648-1653 Yodarekake (in Edo jidai bungei shiryō, ed. Hayakawa Junzaburō et al., 5 vols. [Kokusho kankōkai, 1916] 4:53); in the mid-seventeenth-century erotic debate Iro monogatari (in Kanazōshi shūsei, ed. Asakura Harohiko and Fukiozawaa Akio, 18 vols. to date [Tōkyōdō, 1980-] 4:184): and, much earlier, in Ijiri,, Nyake kanchinjō, 33b:19. It should be kept in mind that, well into the twentieth century, the system for coming of age in Japan differed from that of the contemporary West, so that an individual aged “seven” in Edo-period Japan might be as little as five years and a day but never more than six according to Western reckoning. Since it is in most cases impossible to provide a precise Western equivalent – or in the early twentieth century sometimes even in determine which system is being used - I retain the ages originally stated in the text throughout this study. Some shudō texts place the threshold of youth at eleven (Baijōken, Yodarekake, 4:52) or twelve (see sources cited in n.16 below), on the issue of age, see also Shibayama Hajime, Edo nanshoku kō Akusho hen (Hihyōsha, 1992), 119-128.

[22] Shin’yūki', in Nihon shisō taikei, 60:22 (trans. Paul Gordon Schalow in "Spiritual Dimensions of Male Beauty in Iapanese Buddhism,” in Religion, Homosexuality, and Literature, ed. Michael L. Stemmeler and José lgnacio Cabezón, Gay Men’s Issues in Religious Studies Series, no. 3 [Las Colinas, Tex: Monument, 1992], 90). This orthographic pun appears also in Baijōken, Yodarekake, 4:53.

[23] Denbu Monogatari, in Nihon koten bungaku zenshū, 37: 128-129 (trans. Gary P. Leupp in Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995], 209).

[24] Shin’yūki, 60:22-23 (Schalow “Spiritual Dimensions” 90). Similarly, see Baijōken, Yodarekake, 4:53.

[25] Shin’yūki, 60:23 (Schalow “Spiritual Dimensions” 90-91). Baijōken (Yodarekake, 4:53) assigns this phase of shudō characters indicating that its focus was “chiefly [polishing] the way.”

[26] These figures, which are by no means exhaustive, derive from Baijōken, Yodarekake, 4:52-53; Ejima Kiseki, Yahaku naishō kagami, in Hachimonjiyabon zenshū, ed. Hasegawa Tsuyoshi et al., 14 vols. to date (Kyūko shoin, 1992-), 2:66; Nishizawa lppū, Gozen Gikeiki, in Kindai Nihon bungaku taikei, ed. Nonaka ]irō et al., 25 vols. (Kokumin tosho, 1926-1929), 4:142; Yarō kinuburui, Kmsei shomin bunka 13 (1952): 33.

[27] Paul Gordon Schalow explores the malleability of the wakashu role in his "Male Love in Early Modern Japan: A Literary Depiction of the 'Youth,”’ in Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past, ed. Martin Bauml Duberman et al. (New York: NAL, 1989), 118-128.

[28] Nishizawa Ippū, Yakei tomojamisen, in Eda jidai bungei shiryō, 2:326. A late seventeenth-century report on daimyo governance, unpublished during the Edo period, listed at least three (the lords of Hirado [retired], Kōriyama, and Toryama) who prized such mature features as a tall stature or a beard in their male favorites, de scribing them as “man-lovers" (otokozuki). Of one, the compiler writes with approval that he had recently given up this “aberration” (higagoto), and now restricted his attentions to “beautiful boys" (bishōjin). See Dokai kōshūki, ed. Kanai Madoka (Jinbutsu ōraisha, 1967), 268-269, 270-272, 328-329. On the concept of otokozuki, see also Ujiie Mikito, Bushido tō erosu, Kōdansha gendai shinsho, no. 1239 (Kōdansha, 1995), 205-218. According to Shōsaiō’s mid-eighteenth-century work Gengenkyō (in Sharebon taisei, ed. Mizuno Minoru et al., 31 vols. [Chūō kōronsha, 1978-1988], 3:311), youths reached the peak of their lovability at the age when pimples (nikibi) appeared on their faces—a characteristic commonly associated in Edo-period Iapan with the onset of sexual maturity.

[29] Erotic relations between men (i.e., males socially recognized as adults) may certainly have occurred in practice, but enjoyed little legitimation from shudō textual tradition. The drama scholar Dōmoto Masaki (<Zōhoban> Nanshoku engekishi [Shuppansha, 1976], 21-26) describes one such encounter as represented in the kyōgen play Rōmusha, which was written during the medieval period but still performed in Edo times, noting that its effect was farcical and even “grotesque.” A similarly comic atmosphere pervades the episode titled "Okashiki koi” (Strange Love] in Nankai no Sanjin's early eighteenth-century story collection Nanshoku yamaji no tsuyu (vol. 6 of Hihon Edo bungakusen, ed. Yoshida Seiichi et al., 10 vols. [Nichirinkaku, 1988-1989], 105—108), as well as Kitagawa Utamaro's polymorphously perverse 1802 <Ehon> Futahashira (see Hayashi Yoshikazu, <Enpon kenkyū> Zoku Utamaro, Enpon kenkyū sōsho, no. 3 [Yūkō shobō, 1963], 136-137), which depicts a cross-dressed male traveler who not only sleeps with the proverbial farmer’s daughter but violates her father (and mother) as well. Shibayama (Edo nanshoku kō:Akusho hen, 121-123) has asserted that an erotic preference by adult males for other adult males emerged as a subcurrent in shudō culture around the mid-eighteenth century, but his evidence is weak and his interpretation of the term nyaku-zokuzuki (which appears to derive from Dōmoto, Nanshoku engekishi, 17~18) something of a stretch.

[30] Similarly, in 1685. the shogunate is reported to have cracked down on ōwakashu or “senior youths," who kept their forelocks unshorn until age twenty-five or twenty-six, thereby remaining eligible as erotic objects in shudō. See Yoshida Setsuko, et al., Edo kabuki hōrei shūsei (Ōfūsha, 1989), 68.

[31] <Yanagidaru yokō> Yanaibako. in Shodai senryū senkusū, ed. Chiba Osamu, 2 vols, Senryū shūsei, nos. 5 and 6 (lwanami shoten, 1986), 2:101.

[32] The Saikaku story will be discussed again in chap. 5. While the actual origin of the proverb (Kōya rokujū Nachi hachijū) may have had no relation to shudō (see, for example, Ōgokudō no Arittake, Shikidō kinpishō, ed. Fukuda Kazuhiko, 2 vols., Ukiyoe gurafikku, nos. 2 and 3 [KK besutoserāzu, 1990-1991], 2:52), it was nonetheless widely understood in this sense during the Edo period.

[33] Whether the adult male caught a glimpse of his former self in the youthful object of his desire is not an issue that shudō texts addressed, although this silence has not prevented such commentators as the psychologist Watanabe Tsuneo [’”Sekai himitsu’ to kannōsei no shisutemu: Bunmei no shinsō ni hisomu ’danseisei no zeijakusa,'” Dorumen 3 [1990]:23-24,) from asserting that shudō represented a sublimated form of narcissism.

[34] The term ”virile gaze" is meant to evoke, but at the same time qualify, the notion of the "male gaze” already standard in various fields of esthetic and cultural criticism but in this instance problematic because it obscures crucial differences of age. For a seminal formulation of the latter concept, see Laura Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," Screen 16.3 (1975):6-18.

[35] Ihara,Nanshoku ōkagami, 39:317-320 (Schalow, Great Mirror, 53-56 [whence the quotation]).

[36] Matsuo Bashō, "Hokku hen,” in Nihon koten bungaku taikei, ed. Takagi Ichinosuke et al., 102 vols. (Iwanami shoten, 1957—1968), 45:39.

[37] It is in the context of urban prostitution that the wakashu, usually referred to by such occupational signifiers as kagema or yarō, most closely approached the status of a “third gender," his distinctive clothing and coiffure being neither entirely masculine nor feminine, but containing elements of both. We find, for instance. the following 1827 senryū (Okada Hajime, ed., <Haifū> Yanagidaru zenshū, 13 vols. [Sanseidō 1976—1984], 7:158), a play on the folk belief that a whetstone would break if a woman stepped across it: “Straddled by a kagema, the whetstone develops a wee crack" (Kagema ga matagu toishi ni mo chitto hibi). Like the more general status of wakashu, however, that of kagema was only temporary. For a cross-cultural perspective on "third gender” categories, see Gilbert Herdt, ed., Third Sex, Third Gender: Beyond Sexual Dimorphism in Culture and History (New York: Zone, 1994).