This week: a discussion of asexual representation in manga, an interview with former idol and current politician Yuki Hashimoto, and an established lesbian bar in Nichome discriminating against trans women.
Morgan Byrne traces the powerful impact Miyazaki’s film can have for young viewers at various points in their lives, both longing for independence and struggling with depression.
To kick off Pride, Vrai highlights seven yuri titles across a variety of subgenres, from underground DJs to teenage assassins.
Progress can be slow, but there are still characters to celebrate, particularly in manga.
Asexuality in Manga and More (Coherent Cats, Karleen)
A discussion of terms, several examples of series with either coded or explicit asexual and aromantic characters, and further reading.
Asexual (アセクシャル, Aセクシャル, 無性愛)
In English, asexuality is a sexual orientation defined by not experiencing sexual attraction. In Japanese, asexual means experiencing no sexual nor romantic desire. It’s equivalent to aromantic asexual in English. It can be shortened to “aseku,” like English speakers shorten it to “ace.” There are two ways to say asexual: the loanword “asekusharu” (アセクシャル), or the Japanese word “museiai” (無性愛) literally meaning “no sex love,” or “no sexual love.” The noun for a nonsexual person is “museiaisha” (無性愛者). In Japan all formal words for sexual orientation use “seiai,” meaning “sexual love.” From a Whorfian linguistic point of view, in which the language a person speaks affects their worldview, you could say sex and romance are conflated in Japanese society based on this etymology. That may be why asexual has an inherent aromantic element that it doesn’t in English.
Nonsexual (ノンセクシャル, 非性愛)
The word “nonsexual” (ノンセクシャル) as a sexual orientation is wasei-eigo, meaning it’s a word used in Japan based on English but isn’t used in English. In Japanese, nonsexual means experiencing romantic desire and no sexual desire. It can be shortened to “nonseku.” The Japanese formal word for nonsexuality is “hiseiai” (非性愛) meaning “non sex love” or “non sexual love.” The noun for a nonsexual person is “hiseiaisha” (非性愛者). Basically, nonsexual people can pursue and have romantic relationships with others and not be sexually attracted to them. They may or may not have sex, but don’t experience a desire toward other people. Nonsexual people can describe their romantic and sexual desires in tandem with nonsexual or hiseiai. For example, “gei no nonseku” (ゲイのノンセク) or “gei de nonseku” (ゲイでノンセク) could describe someone who’s gay and nonsexual.
Transphobia in Nichome: Bar Goldfinger Is On My Shitlist (From Kentucky to Tokyo, Jessica Gordon)
One of Nichome’s most established lesbian bars, Goldfinger has had reports from trans women about being excluded; the bar has chosen to double down.
Translation from bottom Tweet and then top Tweet: [Speaking] as one of the cis-gender (assigned gender) male gays (male homosexuals). As someone who believes in LGBT Rights. This movement of exclusion of trans women can have an impact on the LGBT community and society, which will enhance transphobia. I strongly protest goldfinger. #NoGoldFinger #goldfingersince1991. At least, what role did transgender people play in gay rights (LGBT Rights)? They reestablished the foundations of what gender and sex / sexuality means to us. The most successful lesbian team should never be encouraging trans exclusion. The impact is [just] too great.
Also a good friend and trans activist, Tomato Hatakeno, wrote a very lengthy piece in Japanese about the issue. If you can read Japanese, I highly recommend it. I’ll try to see if Tomato-san will allow me to translate it into English so others can read it as well.
Bar Goldfinger has now updated their stance to, “If we find someone who doesn’t fit in this event (イベントの雰囲気にそぐわない方）we may possibly ask you to stay out.” in Japanese (shout out to my friend Luna for translating and letting me know about this new picture).
‘Give birth to at least three kids’: Japan ex-minister under fire for linking single women to low birthrate (The Japan Times, Tomohiro Osaki)
Sakurada had been fired for previous remarks but continues to make public statements.
The comments have placed Sakurada back into the media spotlight after he was effectively forced out of his post as the Olympics minister just last month over comments he made about reconstruction efforts in Tohoku, large areas of which were devastated by the March 2011 quake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.
At a fundraising party for LDP lawmaker Hinako Takahashi, Sakurada reportedly said in a speech that Takahashi was “more important than reconstruction” in Tohoku.
Even before that, Sakurada, a seventh-term lawmaker who represents a Chiba constituency, had repeatedly made headlines over misstatements and blunders. He once admitted at a Diet committee that, despite doubling as the minister in charge of cybersecurity, he had never used a computer.
#KuToo: Japanese women submit anti-high heels petition (The Guardian, Matthew Weaver and Agence France-Presse)
The petition is in protest of the physical pain and harassment stemming from obligatory heel-wearing.
The KuToo campaign – a play on words from the Japanese kutsu, meaning shoes, and kutsuu, meaning pain – was launched by the actor and freelance writer Yumi Ishikawa and quickly won support online.
Campaigners said wearing high heels was considered to be near-obligatory when job hunting or working at many Japanese companies.
Ishikawa told reporters after meeting labour ministry officials: “Today we submitted a petition calling for the introduction of laws banning employers from forcing women to wear heels as sexual discrimination or harassment.”
The actor explained how a government official had told her she “was a woman and sympathetic to our petition … and told us that this is the first time voices of this kind had reached the ministry”.
“It’s the first step forward,” Ishikawa added.
The Little Series that Could: Asagao to Kase-san (Okazu, Erica Friedman)
The bumpy but determined history of the Kase-san series’ publication.
In this post-Maria-sama ga Miteru “S”-scented environment, we were introduced to Yamada, a high school girl who takes care of the school grounds and Kase-san, the school track star. Yamada, we learn, has somewhat low self-esteem, not helped by the people around her, who have limited expectations for her. The story, told from Yamada’s perspective, follows her interest in Kase-san as an object of romantic affection, then a partner in an emotional romantic, then physical, relationship through their high school years. We follow Yamada as she deals with the feelings of love and attraction – and we get constant reminders that Kase-san is not 100% confident and assured, either. She, too, is a teenaged girl and not quite sure she’s doing any of this right.
Although none of the three Yuri manga magazines being published by 2011 were in any way pornographic, Hirari was the most sexless. Despite the stated “purity” of the Yuri, readers are given plenty of fanservice – especially in early chapters – in the form of underwear and changing scenes. “Pure” could, of course refer to the “S” aesthetic of passionate platonic romance. Takashima-sensei took to asking herself and the readers “What does “Pure” Yuri mean, anyway?” in her author’s comments in each volume.
Interview with Yuki Hashimoto, former underground idol and Shibuya Ward councilor (Japan Today, Ben K)
Hashimoto was inspired to educate herself on current events from a young age and currently devotes all her energy to the world of politics.
Yuki Hashimoto (YH): I became interested in politics began after I graduated from university. Since I was known as the “well-educated idol,” I would often get questions about social or political issues during interviews. But my interest in politics was spurred by the change in the voting age from 20 to 18.
(* Hashimoto graduated in March 2016 and the new voting age went into effect in June 2016.)
gJ: In early 2015, you’re quoted as saying that while your friends were headed for careers as lawyers or politicians, you wanted to “devote yourself to your career as an idol.” After you graduated from Tokyo University, however, you entered the Kibo no Juku. Did you have a change of heart?
YH: As a professional idol, I wanted to be able to express my opinions and take responsibility for them too. That’s why I wanted to learn about politics, so I entered a political school. At that point, I wasn’t aiming to become a politician but rather to improve my skills as an idol. In other words, I entered Kibō no Juku in order to be an idol who could exert a greater influence on society.
gJ: So then, how did you decide to become a politician?
YH: There were several reasons: Seeing a member of my idol group begin life with a disability after suffering an accident*, being there for a close friend of mine who is gay and listening to his worries, knowing that making people smile as an idol gave meaning to my life… Also, while I wished there would be more young politicians and that more young people would vote, it was difficult for me to think of politics as something I felt close to. So, I began to think I wanted to help create a society where all people, regardless of what their future holds, can live with a smile as they take on life’s challenges. I realized that politics is one way to achieve this. I thought there was a significant meaning for me to take up this challenge now at the age of 26, so I made the decision to become a politician.
(* Tomoka Igari: After an accident on April 11, 2018, in which a billboard fell on her and injured her spinal cord, Tomoka Igari began using a wheelchair. She continues to perform as a member of Steamgirls.}
AS GAY MARRIAGE IS LEGALIZED IN TAIWAN, TRANS PEOPLE CONTINUE TO FACE VIOLENCE ACROSS ASIA (Wear Your Voice, Lisa Hoffman-Kuroda)
While rights are slowly advancing for gay citizens, trans individuals continue to be subjected to legal discrimination.
And yet, the Taiwanese courts still require trans and intersex people to undergo sex reassignment surgery in order to change their legal gender on official documents. Although this law was challenged in 2014, it has not yet been overturned. There are many reasons why trans people might not want or have the material ability to access surgery; yet without it uncorrected documents make them vulnerable to a host of dangerous and discriminatory practices.
A similar law was upheld earlier this year in the Japanese supreme court, which ruled that transgender people must undergo sterilization before they can have their gender changed on legal documents. The court argued that the law is constitutional because it was meant to “reduce confusion in families and society,” even as Human Rights Watch said the ruling was “incompatible with international human rights standards.”
Elin McCready, an American professor who teaches at a Japanese university, has faced multiple barriers living in Japan as a trans woman. McCready’s spouse is Japanese and they have been married for over a decade; but after her transition, she became embroiled in a legal quagmire with the Japanese legal system, which states that transgender people can only change their gender markers if they meet certain conditions, including being unmarried, having no minor children, and having no reproductive capacity.
Episode 113 – PREVIEW: The Hokkaidō 150 Podcast – Dr. ann-elise lewallen (UCSB) (The Meiji at 150 Podcast)
A discussion of colonialism focusing in particular on the experiences of Ainu women.
This episode previews a new podcast series called Hokkaidō 150, produced in conjunction with the “Hokkaidō 150: Settler Colonialism and Indigeneity in Modern Japan and Beyond” workshop hosted at UBC. In this episode, Dr. ann-elise lewallen (UCSB) reviews gendered aspects of the colonization of Hokkaidō and recounts Ainu women’s reaction and resistance to settler colonialism. Stay tuned for additional Hokkaidō 150 podcast episodes here: hokkaido150.transistor.fm/
A hashtag for LGBTQ+ cosplayers of all stripes to post their photos and celebrate visibility.
Tweet: A link to a crowdfunding campaign for a line of trans-friendly undergarments
Y’all came up with some great examples across the decades!