New Explorations of Girls’ Media Culture
1 Love and Friendship: The Queer Imagination of Japan’s Early Girls’ Culture Yuka Kanno 17
one Love and Friendship: The Queer Imagination of Japan’s Early Girls’ Culture Yuka Kanno L ooking at the history of girls’ culture in early-twentieth-century Japan, one will immediately notice the value given to the word tomo, “friend.” Girls’ culture was not of course the only site where this trope existed; however, it was the one in which friendship thematically and visually prevailed, most emblemati- cally in magazines. Although friendship first maintained a gendered public place in the male domain, girls’ and women’s magazines began employing the term in their titles, symbolically addressing their readers and becoming for many, literal companions.1 A look into the readers’ pages in Shôjo no tomo (Girls’ Friend), for instance, attests to the ways in which readers anthropomorphized the magazine, treating it as a virtual friend. This essay will explore the cultural eruption of female friendship as a basis for queer networks and a site of erotic alliance among young women across the visual and literary fields in early-twentieth-century Japan. In doing so I will take up the literary work of women connected with Japan’s first feminist group Seitôsha (Bluestocking Society), and the imagery of shôjo, or the girl in the artistic genre of jojôga. The emotional texture and intensity of female friendship will be analyzed as a specific historical and cultural phenomenon but also an unequivocally gen- dered experience, central to the lives of adolescent girls, and particularly school- girls. The official language of friendship did not merely signify one relationship...
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