Emerging Lesbian Voices from Japan

Emerging Lesbian Voices from Japan

Emerging Lesbian Voices from Japan

Emerging Lesbian Voices from Japan


Lesbian Sexuality has remained largely ignored in Japan despite increasing exposure of disadvantaged minority groups, including gay men. This book is the first comprehensive academic exploration of contemporary lesbian sexuality in Japanese society. The author employs an interdisciplinary approach and this book will be of great value to those working or interested in the areas of Japanese, lesbian and gender studies as well as Japanese history, anthropology and cultural studies.


In America and the West, when I read about people who have come out, it's as if hiding the fact that you're a lesbian is really bad. They seem to think that telling your parents is the way to go about forming a relationship with them, even if you end up fighting. I think that's really different to Japan, where it's thought that hiding it is kinder to your parents.


As discussed above, sex is rarely talked about within Japanese households. References to heterosexual kinship are, however, ubiquitous. Indeed, as Foucault argues, the lack of overt discussions about sex cannot be equated with repression, for a discourse on sex and sexuality has to exist to be repressed or seemingly made insignificant and invisible (Foucault 1978). Moreover, the assertion that gender/sexuality and kinship are mutually exclusive domains of study is highly problematic. Rather, as Yanigasako and Collier have demonstrated, they in fact 'constitute a single field' (1987:15). Hence, all areas of contemporary Japanese kinship relations are premised on a hierarchical genealogical grid in which the heterosexual nuclear family is accepted as the ideal form.

The centrality of heterosexism is both overtly and covertly built into constructions of kazoku through such institutionalised norms as the sexual division of labour, gendered spheres, motherhood and work practices which sustain a particular family type as privileged. As such both the act of (hetero)sex and (hetero)sexual practices of individual family members as well as the ideological construct of kazoku as a bounded unit are kept under surveillance and normalisation (Foucault 1979:195-228) within all areas of social and cultural discourse. This makes it extremely difficult to discuss sex, let alone sexuality in such familial groupings (Weston 1991:43). Thus, on the surface it appears that 'coming out' to family members in Japan holds similar difficulties as it does for Anglo-European lesbians. Yet there are significant differences. Weston found in her study of lesbian and gay kinship relations in the Bay area of San Francisco that:

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