By Deborah Michelle Shamoon
This publication lines the improvement of women print tradition in twentieth-century Japan through studying the narrative and visible aesthetics of prewar women magazines. It explores the ways that that prewar tradition stimulated the advance of postwar ladies comics.
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Additional resources for Passionate Friendship: The Aesthetics of Girls' Culture in Japan
The reader contribution sections of this magazine in particular helped to create a reading community of girls in the prewar years. All prewar girls’ magazines, however, are marked by the prevalence of passionate friendships and idealized ren’ai relationships between girls 29 30 Passionate Friendship that redirected girls’ sexual desire away from boys and kept them within the safe confines of the girls’ school. The novel Otome no minato (The Girls’ Harbor) is typical of fiction that depicts the common pattern of these relationships in girls’ schools; the all-girl Takarazuka Revue is another example of the homosocial bonds of girls’ culture.
As S relationships became more widespread, tolerance for intimacy between girls seems to have increased among sexologists and educators. If it seems surprising that same-sex schoolgirl crushes were once considered normal, it is important to note that American culture held similar values not so very long ago. In Bachelor Girl, a study of single women in the United States, Betsy Israel writes that schoolgirls in mid- to late-nineteenth-century America were also encouraged to form close, passionate friendships with other girls, called “smashes” (28).
In his essay on ren’ai, Kitamura Tōkoku readily acknowledges that poets who pursue romantic love generally end up in unhappy marriages (Mathy 40). As Michiko Suzuki observes, when Tōkoku wrote of spiritual love as a means of self-discovery, he meant the male self, with woman as a helper (10). What then becomes of the systems of ren’ai and iro? Certainly, the geisha and the prostitute remain important literary figures in Meiji and beyond, but, by the 1890s, as realism and Naturalism (Shizenshugi) became the dominant modes of fiction and the middle-class family became the primary subject of literature, ren’ai with its accompanying ideals of female chastity and intellectual companionship fully replaced the codified courtship of the pleasure quarters.