Yoshiya Nobuko (1896-1973) was a queer novelist whose popular writing spanned the Taishō and Shōwa eras. Yoshiya's parents were descended from samurai and adhered to the Meiji era teachings of "good wife, wise mother" (良妻賢母 ryōsai kenbo), with the expectations that Yoshiya would follow suit. However, at the age of 19, Yoshiya moved from Tochigi Prefecture to Tokyo, where she attended meetings with the feminist Bluestocking Society, where she met other feminists who inspired her to cut her hair and dress androgynously. Yoshiya's first published work was a 52-story serialized novel called Flower Stories 花物語 (Hana Monotagari), which was published in Girls’ Pictorial magazine (Shōjo gahō) from 1916-1924. Flower Stories has been cited as one of the first works of girls' novels (shōjo shōsetsu) and as an inspiration for so-called girls' comics (shōjo manga) and women's comics (josei manga). Throughout her works, Yoshiya explores various themes surrounding women’s relationships with other women (both romantic and platonic), social expectations, sisterhood, and forced heterosexual relationships and the choices women make to get out of them. She published her own magazine, Black Rose 黒薔薇 (Kuroshoubi), as well as To the Ends of the Earth 地の果てまで (Chi no Hatemade), Two Virgins in the Attic 屋根裏の二処女 (Yaneura no nishojo), Women's Friendship 女の友情 (Onna no yujo), and Tokugawa Women 徳川の夫人たち (Tokugawa no fujintachi). The focus on women and their relationships, especially with other females, falls in the Class S genre, which encompassed all girls’ stories, including love and friendship, and was the early name for the Shōjo and Yuri genres. Her second major work, Two Virgins in the Attic has been cited as the first prototype for yuri (lesbian/girls love stories) manga, which gets its name from “lily,” one of the flowers that Yoshiya included in her Flower Stories. It was said to be semi-autobiographical and Yoshiya’s way of coming out as lesbian, which coincided with her public relationship with school teacher Monma Chiyo. Although they couldn't legally marry, they used a strategy common for queer couples: Yoshiya adopted Monma as a daughter, which enabled their family relationship to be legally recognized, even if they couldn't achieve full spousal rights. Yoshiya and Monma’s relationship lasted for 50 years before Yoshiya died of colon cancer at the age of 77 in 1973.
“The sadness of those who love their own sex and therefore cannot live their lives in the form of a conventional marriage is redoubled by the chagrin of parents—for whom marriage represents the sole pinnacle of womanly achievement—and the opprobrium and scorn of everyone else.” Nobuko Yoshiya, Yellow Rose.
“While it is not difficult to frame these desires via the flexible contemporary category of 'queer,' it may be surprising to some readers that to invoke the word 'lesbian' for Katsuragi and Urakami’s relationship, Flower Stories, or Yoshiya’s work and life more generally, has sometimes been controversial. I think this is a wonderful question to raise and discuss in a classroom or elsewhere using the story itself, and no translator’s introduction can “answer” it. […] While the term 'lesbian' or loan word 'rezubian' were not used in these stories or by Yoshiya herself in her lifetime, they are used literally here in reference to Sappho from Lesbos. More broadly, the claim that 'lesbian' does not apply in the Japanese context or the prewar Japanese context (both arguments are sometimes made) leans far too much toward cultural essentialism and the false sense that Japan was cut off from the rest of the world, including its varied discourses on sexuality. The impression given by 'Yellow Rose' and its milieu is rather the opposite: a highly cosmopolitan girls’ culture, aware of Sappho as a figure available to express the desire of one girl for another. It is engaged in active exploration of the rich but incomplete solutions posed by the possibilities of western philosophy, emotional poetry, and travel to America as sources for different ways of thinking about the realities and aesthetics of women’s lifestyles, desires, and conceptions of love.” Sarah Frederick, Introduction to English translation of Yellow Rose.
I portrayed Yoshiya as a set of “three in one” to denote her as having lived through the three eras of Meiji (1868-1912), Taisho (1912-1926), and Showa (1926-1989).
I gave the tallest kokeshi a simple design of only glasses and a lattice pattern. When Yoshiya had her home built, she asked that it be designed “like a convent in Nara,” which I surmised was motivated by a desire for simplicity.
I based the medium kokeshi off the green font and gold coloring of the book cover of Flower Stories.
I based the smallest kokeshi off the girl on the cover of Forget Me Not.
Each of the three pieces draws out information and feelings about Yoshiya, and thereby creates a portrait of one person.
For further learning
- Bill Lipsky. 2021. Nobuko Yoshiya: Stories of the Bonds Between Women. San Francisco Bay Times.
- Clémence Leleu. 2020. Nobuko Yoshiya, Pioneer of Japanese Lesbian Literature. Pen (ペン).
- Yu Umehara. 2018. Reading Girls’ Agency: The Pillow Book and Flower Tales, Past and Future. The Asian Conference on Cultural Studies 2018, Official Conference Proceedings. International Academic Forum.
- Nobuko Yoshiya. Translated by Sarah Frederick. 2015. Yellow Rose (1923) from Flower Stories (Hana monogatari). Boston University.
・２０１５年3月11日 屋号を「Tree Tree Ishinomaki」と定め、こけしの製作と販売を始める
以降、全日本こけしコンクール入賞２回、JR東日本石巻線ラッピングデザイン、カリモク × BE@RBRICK「コケブリック 400％」の描彩、ドラマ「99.9-刑事専門弁護士-SEASONⅡ」の美術セットへのこけし提供などなど。
Takatoshi Hayashi (born April 1974 in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture) holds a degree from Tohoku Gakuin University. After ten years working as a prospective civil servant and company worker, he took on his family’s kimono shop business in 2009. He began independently studying kokeshi making in 2011, and on March 11, 2015 began making and selling kokeshi under his business Tree Tree Ishinomaki. Since then, he has twice won top spots in the All Japan Kokeshi Competition. His prominent works include an exterior wrapping design for the JR East Ishinomaki Line train, the painted design for the KOKEBRICK 400% collaboration between Karimoku and BE@RBRICK, and the contribution of kokeshi for the TV drama 99.9 Criminal Lawyer Season 2. He also played himself as a kokeshi maker in the film adaptation of the same drama.