The Mag that Liberated Japan’s Gay Men

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Homosexuality and Manliness in Postwar JapanHomosexuality and Manliness in Postwar Japan
by Jonathan D. Mackintosh
Routledge.  261 pages, $125.

 

IMAGINE a magazine arriving in the mail every month, over 300 pages filled with news, photos, and information that you never talked about with anyone. In the days before the Internet, that’s how gay life was organized in Japan.

The breakthrough came in 1971 when a writer and publisher, Itō Bungaku, launched a magazine for gay people in Japan. The magazine was called Barazoku, the “Rose Tribe,” perhaps because (to use the Buddhist metaphor) the rose is beautiful to look at and grows in many places, but it springs from a stem of thorns (i.e., straight society). Barazoku was the leader in the field and held its own even when a number of similar magazines began to circulate. It was published from 1971 to 2008, and at its height boasted 30,000 copies sold each month, with a readership easily two to three times that number.

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