Japan is a society in crisis. Japan is an island nation, consisting of the four large islands of Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. Together they are approximately the size of Germany or the State of California, and it has a population of approximately million people 3. Japan has a large population in relation to its land mass and as a consequence most Japanese people live crowded together in an urban corridor squeezed along the eastern edge of the Japanese islands.
Introduction There has recently been much discussion in the field of lesbian and gay studies about Dennis Altman's theory of 'global queering'  which outlines the influence of the Civil Rights' Movement in the US and Europe on the development of lesbian and gay 'identities' which then, through the 'globalising' influence of post-industrial wage-based economies, consumerism, the mass media and tourism, in turn begin to affect indigenous understandings of homosexuality in societies where traditionally there has been no notion of a personal identity founded on the gender of sexual object choice.
In this theory, the US is often assumed to be somehow in advance of the rest of the world and the models pioneered in that country for increasing the social space accorded to lesbian and gay lives are generalised as suitable models for lesbians and gay men in other countries to adopt.
Japan, as the world's only fully 'modernised' non-western culture, is an important testing ground for Altman's theory. To what extent have indigenous Japanese understandings of same-sex desire, fashioned in a religious and political climate quite different from that in western countries, been influenced by western models of lesbian and gay identity?
Until recently, it was impossible to answer this question for, Japan culture essay five years ago, there was practically no information available in English about homosexuality in modern Japan and there was only one book and a handful of academic papers concerning Japan's well-attested historical tradition of male homosexuality.
Unfortunately, despite the new information that has recently been made available, some researchers still insist on viewing 'homosexuality' in Japanese society Japan culture essay western eyes and evaluating the situation facing lesbians and gay men in accordance with western models of what it means to be 'a lesbian' or 'a gay.
What I wish to do in the present paper is stress how representations of primarily male homosexual love and even sex permeate Japanese popular culture to an extent that would be unimaginable in the US or Europe and that 'homosexuality' in Japan is therefore very differently conceptualised.
However, I must point out that the visibility of 'homosexuality' in Japanese media such as comic books, women's magazines, TV dramas and talk-shows, movies and popular fiction has not created the space for individuals expressing lesbian or gay 'identities' to come out in Japan culture essay life.
Yet, as recent research has shown,  the notion of 'coming out' is seen as undesirable by many Japanese gay men and lesbians as it necessarily involves adopting a confrontational stance against mainstream lifestyles and values, which many still wish to endorse.
Just as the starting point for discussion of what 'homosexuality is' in the Japanese context will be different from that in America or Europe, the end point can also be expected to differ. Altman anticipates this when he comments that although 'new identities may develop' when non-western societies interact with western cultures, he is quick to point out that 'their development is not predictable through western models.
Japanese terms describing 'homosexuality' Discussion of 'homosexuality' is common in a wide variety of Japanese media. However, it is almost impossible to give clear content to any of the terms which are currently in use because they tend to mix up same-sex desire with cross-dressing and transgenderism for both men and women.
Although Japan has had a wide range of vocabulary for describing the partners involved in male homosexual interactions, some of which date back hundreds of years, there has been a marked change in the nature of these terms in the modern period.
During the Tokugawa periodthe nanshoku sometimes transcribed as danshoku and meaning 'male eroticism' code contained a wide variety of terms for describing the partners involved in homosexual acts depending upon such factors as age their junior or senior rolestatus, gender identity, and the context in which the acts took place.
These terms described sexual styles or sexual roles that individuals adopted and not some inner identity or essence based on a preference for a same-sex sexual partner. It was assumed that men who found women attractive could also be attracted by a wakashuu, literally 'young boy,' or by a female-impersonator onnagata or 'woman-shape'.
Significantly, the term onnagirai ['woman-hater'] which was used to describe those men who preferred not to be sexually involved with women, suggests that it was not their preference for boys that was considered unusual but their antipathy towards women.
However, during Japan's rapid modernisation in the Meiji periodthis understanding of homosexuality as one 'Way' [doo] of enjoying sex began to be displaced by western sexological terms such as dooseiaisha the Chinese-character translation of 'homosexual,' literally 'same-sex-love person' which suggested that homosexual desire was characteristic of a certain type of person: However, the dissemination of this idea throughout society was extremely uneven and, as will be described later, the expression of same-sex desire today does not necessarily mean that a person will be nominalised as 'a homosexual' in terms of that desire.
The novelist Mishima Yukio,  writing a novel about homosexual love just after the war, produced a neologism: This film, starring the famous Japanese transvestite actor Peter, is shot in documentary style and gives an interesting account of Tokyo's lates underground gay scene where 'normal' adult men maintained relationships with younger transgendered men who worked in Japan's mizu shoobai ['water trade' or entertainment business].
Today, homosexuality in Japan is largely conflated with cross-dressing and transgenderism due to the prominence of cross-dressed individuals featured in the media and the entertainment world.
Thus, homosexual men are understood to be okama literally a 'pot' but meaning something similar to the English word 'queen' and are usually represented as cross-dressed and effeminate.
The use of the term okama derives from the slang usage of the term to refer to the buttocks and thereby to anal sex which is considered to be the definitive sexual act engaged in by homosexual men. However, use of this term is extremely loose and it can be used to describe a man who displays any transgender attribute.
For instance, an article in the current-affairs magazine AERA 1 March on men who adopt female names and personae in order to participate in women-only Internet chat lines, describes such men as netto okama [Net okama], although here there is no relation between the adoption of a female name and same-sex attraction.
Okama are regularly featured on TV comedy shows in Japan and can also be found in Japan's mizu shoobai where they serve as entertainers in okama bars serving a straight and predominantly male clientele.
Okama and nyuuhaafu 'hostesses' celebrate New Year with a traditional phallic symbol in a Tokyo okama bar. Japanese homosexual women are sometimes described using another 'pot' metaphor, onabe [meaning 'pan'] a parallel term to okama which only has meaning in relation to it.
However, this term is less well known than the English loan word rezu [from lesbian]. Onabe are represented as the opposite of okama, being masculine in both dress and demeanour.
Yet this term, too, is difficult to pin down. For instance, an article in the magazine Da buinchi Da Vinci; Marchdescribes the relationship between a nuuyhaafu ['new half': One further term connected with the 'pot' metaphor is the word okoge which is literally the burnt rice which sticks to the bottom of the pot and is a term for 'fag hag' straight women who like to hang around gay men but this is not generally understood, despite the popular movie of that name which I discuss later in the paper.
The idea that same-sex attraction necessarily involves some kind of transgenderism or desire to be like or even become the opposite of one's biological sex is constantly reinforced by Japanese media which discuss homosexuality and transgenderism in the same context. For example, in the same edition of the popular magazine Da buinchi March discussed above, there is an article on cross-dressing boy bands entitled 'Do you like men who are too beautiful?
Given the number of katakana an indigenous alphabet for transcribing foreign words terms introduced in these articles, the writers provide a glossary entitled 'Words to help you understand individuals who have gone beyond their sex [sei wo koeta hito bito].
In this list it is not at all clear how gay men and lesbians want to 'go beyond' their sex or what, if anything, they have to do with transgendered individuals. The boys who cross-dress professionally as part of their stage act [described as imeeji kei, or 'image group'] state that their cross-dressing has nothing to do with same-sex desire and the couple described as an onabe and a nyuuhaafu are not 'homosexual' but transsexual.
It is therefore not clear why the subject of homosexuality should come up at all in this context. Although physically he can pass as a woman, his gender performance is masculine and his sexual orientation is presented as heterosexual.Food Culture in Japan (Food Culture around the World) [Michael Ashkenazi, Jeanne Jacob] on schwenkreis.com *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers.
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(This essay is excerpted and modified from Teaching About Women in China and Japan, by Lyn Reese, found in Social Education, NCSS, March ) (the Ch’ien T’ao poem is from Kenneth Rexroth & Ling Chung, Women Poets of China, New Directions Book, ).