Nobuko Yoshiya

Nobuko Yoshiya
Nobuko Yoshiya

Nobuko Yoshiya
Born 12 January 1896(1896-01-12)
Niigata, Japan
Died 11 July 1973(1973-07-11) (aged 77)
Kamakura, Kanagawa, Japan
Occupation novelist

Nobuko Yoshiya (吉屋信子 Yoshiya Nobuko?, 12 January 1896 - 11 July 1973) was a Japanese novelist active in Taishō and Showa period Japan. She was one of modern Japan's most commercially successful and prolific writers, specializing in serialized romance novels and adolescent girls’ fiction, as well as a pioneer in Japanese lesbian literature, including the Class S genre.


Early life

Yoshiya was born in Niigata prefecture, but grew up in Mooka and Tochigi cities in Tochigi prefecture. Her father was in the public service, so her family relocated often.[1] She was the only daughter and youngest child of her family. Both her mother and her father came from samurai families.[2] Her literary career began when she was in her teens, although prior to this she had developed a love for writing which sapped her time for learning domestic skills from her mother.[1]

Literary career

Her works are keenly aware of contemporary sexology.[3] One of her early works, Hana monogatari ( 花物語 "Flower Tales", 1916–1924), a series of fifty-two tales of romantic friendships, became popular among female students. Most of the relationships presented in Flower Tales are those of longing from afar, unrequited love, or an unhappy ending. It depicts female-female desire in an almost narcissistic way by employing a dreamy writing style.[3][4]

Yaneura no nishojo ( 屋根裏の二處女 "Two Virgins in the Attic", 1919) is semi-autobiographical, and describes a female-female love experience with her dormmate. In the last scene, the two girls decide to live together as a couple.[5] This work, in attacking male-oriented society, and showing two women as a couple after they have finished secondary education presents a strong feminist attitude, and also reveals Yoshiya's own lesbian sexual orientation.

Her Chi no hate made ("To the Ends of the Earth", 1920), won a literary prize by the Osaka Asahi Shimbun, and reflects some Christian influence.

In 1925, Yoshiya began her own magazine, Kuroshoubi (Black Rose), which she discontinued after eight months.[3] After Black Rose, Yoshiya began presenting adult same-sex love as being akin to 'sisterhood' and complementary to heterosexuality, becoming more mainstream in her works.[6]

Yoshiya's other major works include Onna no yujo ("Women's Friendship", 1933–1934), Otto no Teiso ( 良人の貞操 "A Husband's Chastity", 1936–1937), Onibi (鬼火 "Demon Fire", 1951), Atakake no hitobito ( 安宅家の人々 "The Ataka Family", 1964–1965), Tokugawa no fujintachi ( 徳川の夫人たち "Tokugawa Women", 1966) and Nyonin Heike ( 女人平家 "Ladies of the Heike", 1971)

Although not all of Yoshiya's works depict same-sex romance between girls, even in plots with heterosexual domestic melodrama, her novels tended to avoid depictions of marriage. Her writing style was marked by onomatopoeia, exclamation points and other unusual diacritical marks, which were considered aesthetically appealing by her female readers, and were part of a movement to introduce realistic dialogue into stories. Her use of imagery, especially in setting scenes in unexpected locations, such as an attic or veranda, aided in creating a melodramatic atmosphere.

Yoshiya's stories were considered "respectable" texts, suitable for consumption by girls and women of all ages, as the lesbian attachments are depicted as emotionally intense yet platonic relationships, destined to be curtailed by graduation from school, marriage, and/or death. This can be explained in part by the contemporary understanding that same-sex love was a transitory and "normal" part of female development leading into heterosexuality and motherhood.[4]

Yoshiya made no secret of her own lifelong relationship with a same-sex partner, Monma Chiyo, and unlike many Japanese public persona, was not reticent about revealing details of her personal life through photographs, personal essays and magazine interviews.

Yoshiya lived in Kamakura, Kanagawa prefecture during World War II. In 1962 she built a traditional wooden house with Japanese-style garden in a quiet setting, which she willed to the City of Kamakura on her death, to be used to promote women's cultural and educational activities. The house is now the Yoshiya Nobuko Memorial Museum, and preserves the study as she left it, with items such as handwritten manuscripts and favorite objects are on display. However, the museum is open only twice a year, in early May and November, for three days each time.

See also


  1. ^ a b Schierbeck, Sachiko Shibata; Edelstein, Marlene R. (1994). Japanese women novelists in the 20th century: 104 biographies, 1900-1993. Museum Tusculanum Press. pp. 88–91. ISBN 9788772892689. 
  2. ^ Robertson, Jennifer (2002) "Yoshiya Nobuko Out and Outspoken in Practice and Prose" in Anne Wathall e.d. The Human Tradition in Modern Japan pp. 155-174 ISBN 0842029125
  3. ^ a b c Dollase, Hiromi (2003). "Early Twentieth Century Japanese Girls' Magazine Stories: Examining Shōjo Voice in Hanamonogatari (Flower Tales)". The Journal of Popular Culture 36 (4): 724–755. doi:10.1111/1540-5931.00043. OCLC 1754751. 
  4. ^ a b Suzuki, Michiko (August 2006). "Writing Same-Sex Love: Sexology and Literary Representation in Yoshiya Nobuko's Early Fiction". The Journal of Asian Studies 65 (3): 575. doi:10.1017/S0021911806001148.;jsessionid=419D6C9B25191554B1DBD61007F71527.tomcat1?fromPage=online&aid=857000. 
  5. ^ Tsuchiya, Hiromi (March 9–12, 2000). "Yoshiya Nobuko’s Yaneura no nishojo (Two Virgins in the Attic): Female-Female Desire and Feminism". Homosexual/Homosocial Subtexts in Early 20th-Century Japanese Culture (San Diego, CA: Abstracts of the 2000 AAS Annual Meeting). Retrieved 2008-02-24. 
  6. ^ Suzuki, Michiko (2009). Becoming Modern Women: Love and Female Identity in Prewar Japanese Literature and Culture. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0804761987. 

General references

  • Frederick, Sarah. "Women of the Setting Sun and Men from the Moon: Yoshiya Nobuko's Ataka Family as Postwar Romance."U.S. - Japan Women's Journal, English Supplement 23. 2003.
  • Frederick, Sarah. "Not that Innocent: Yoshiya Nobuko's Good Girls in Jan Bardsley and Laura Miller eds. Bad Girls of Japan. Palgrave, 2005.
  • Mackie, Vera. Feminism in Modern Japan: Citizenship, Embodiment and Sexuality. Cambridge University Press (2003) ISBN 0521527198

External links

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