Lesbian feminists have looked back to the early twentieth-century women’s movement, and to relationships between women such as that between the founder of the feminist literary magazine Seito, Hiratsuka Raicho (1886—1971), and Otake Kazue (also known as Kokichi) (1893—1966), to create a sense of lesbian herstory (Izumo, 1993 ; Bessatsu 1987; see also Watanabe 2001). Mini-komi and commercial magazines have also contributed to a reclaiming of lesbian literary history. Although lesbian and/or queer women’s literature is difficult to classify, most critics and commentators trace the genre back to Yoshiya Nobuko’s (1896—1973) Hana Monogatari (Flower Tales) (Yoshiya 1916—18; 1924—26), a collection of 52 short fiction tales featuring romantic friendships between women (Suzuki 2006: 575—99). A highly successful and popular writer, Yoshiya adopted her long-term partner Monma Chiyo (1897—1996) into her family register in an effort to circumvent Japanese inheritance law (Sawabe 2011). Unable to enter into a legal marriage, adult adoption allows partners who are both Japanese nationals to legally claim the status of family (Maree 2004: 541—49; Maree 2014: 187—202).
The life and work of Russian literature translator Yuasa Yoshiko (1896—1990) has also been reclaimed within the rubric of lesbian literary figures. Yuriko dasuvidaniya (Sawabe 1990) recounts the story of Yuasa’s relationship with proletarian literature author Chujo Yuriko who later married to become Miyamoto Yuriko (1899—1951). A cinematic adaptation was released in 2011 (Hamano 2011). Academic Kurosawa Ariko edited a collection of letters between Yuasa and Miyamoto (Chujo) in 2008 which recounts their relationship from 1927 to 1930.
Translation, too, has been a big part of queer women’s culture (see Curran and Welker 2005: 65—80). Although it has been difficult for lesbian studies to be established as a viable academic project (Maree 2007: 291—301), there is a large body of translations of important works — for example, the translation of The Lesbian Issue: Essays from Signs (Freedman et al. 1982; 1990), Pat Califia’s Sapphistry (1988; 1993) and Lillian Faderman’s classic Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers (1991; 1996). From the early 2000s, there has been a notable increase in English language publications detailing lesbian experience, in the form of academic monographs (Chalmers 2002; Kamano and Khor 2006), non-fiction (Izumo and Maree 2000), anthologies (Summerhawk and Hughes 2008; McLelland, Suganuma and Welker 2007) and manga (Takashima 2003). Sparkling rain (Summerhawk and Hughes 2008), a collection of Japanese fiction by women who identify as lesbians or who write about same-sex female desire, gives some indication of the depth of such writing in Japanese popular culture. Consumption of Yuri (literally, lily, but meaning ‘lesbian’), BL (boys’ love) and Shojo (girls’) manga is another essential element of queer women’s culture (Levi 2010; Mizoguchi 2003: 49-75; Welker 2011: 211-28). Whilst depictions of lesbians and lesbian themes run through modern Japanese fiction (Watanabe 2008: 33-38), Nakayama Kaho is Japan’s only contemporary self-identified lesbian novelist.
From the 1990s, research within the rubric of queer studies has featured in academic journals (see Suganuma this volume) with queer women at the forefront. The ‘lesbian’ (1991) and ‘gay liberation’ (1995) editions of Imago, the ‘queer reading’ edition of Yunka (Eureka 1996), and the Lesbian and Gay Studies issue of Gendai Shisо (Contemporary Thought, 1997) pulled together a diverse range of work in Japanese and translations from other languages. The trajectory of queer studies in Japan is linked to feminist research and literary studies on the one hand and community queer writing on the other. Literary critic and theorist Takemura Kazuko (1954-2011) was a leading light through her work translating or co-translating queer studies texts by authors such as Judith Butler (1990, 1999, 2004a, 2004b; Butler et al. 2000, 2002) and in her own writing (Takemura 1996: 475-79, 2000a: 22-58, 2000b, 2003: 35-59, 2004, 2008, 2012). Current research spans the disciplines from, for example, contemporary feminist criticism (Araki 2008: 29-48; Hara 1996: 129-32, 2011: 8-28; Horie 2011: 50-64; Maree 1997, 2004: 541-49, 2007: 291-301, 2008: 35-45, 2013; Shimizu 2007, 2008), religious studies (Horie 2006a, 2006b: 145-59), film studies (Izumo 2002, 2005; Kanno 2011a: 287-303, 2011b: 613-14), queer linguistics (Abe 2004: 205-21; Lunsing and Maree 2004: 92-113; Maree 2002: 117-35, 2007: 291-301, 2008a, 2008b), manga studies (Mizoguchi 2003: 49-75; Nishihara 2010: 62-85; Levi 2010) and health studies (Fujii 2008: 99-119), to research on lesbian communities and lesbian relationships (Akaeda 2004, 2011; Iino 2004: 18-38; Kamano 2005: 11-30, 2009: 130-41; Kamano and Khor 2011; Khor and Kamano 2006; Sugiura 2005: 1-12, 2006a, 2006b: 127-44, 2011; Watari 2004: 10-12; Welker 2010: 359-80, 2011: 211-28). Lesbian cultural production has also navigated the shift from print culture to the Internet.