Where a Women’s Lib Activist Met Creative Works on Homosexual Themes -- report on the Yaoi/BL Symposium

The word yaoi in Japanese refers to a genre of creative works whose theme is male and male gay relationships, and yet ones that target female audience. It is also called “BL,” which stands for “boys love.”

On October 2, at the campus of Osaka University, a symposium on Yaoi/BL was held for the second time following the last year. The title this year was Female Writers of JUNE Fictions  the Era of Azusa Nakajima’s Courses on Fiction Writing.

JUNE (pronounced joo-neh), is a magazine with yaoi works, which was published from 1978 to 1996. The famous author and critic Azusa Nakajima, also known as Kaoru Kurimoto, had a series of articles on how to write fictions in the magazine. From this series that had evaluated fictions submitted by its readers, many yaoi writers emerged as prominent authors.

In the symposium that attracted audience of various ages, panelists discussed what Azusa Nakajima's courses on fiction writing meant to JUNE’s female authors.

One of such authors is Fumiko Nomura, also known as women's lib activist Fuyumi Nakano. For me ((translator’s note: the original article's writer)), the interview with her was the highlight of this symposium.

Nomura's fictions have been highly recognized and published as books. What did JUNE mean to her? Basically, works published in JUNE provided her with sexual fantasy necessary for masturbation. She would get excited, for example, with a sadomasochistic relationship described in a particular work. However, having affinity with that kind of sexual relationship conflicted with the thought behind women's lib activities in which she engaged in her real life. That contradiction between having fantasy with a dominant/submissive sexual relationship and being a women’s lib activist would torment her.

According to Nomura, she came to understand why she grew fond of that kind of sexual fantasy: as she was completing her last fiction Good-bye Misty Love, she realized that, because she had hated male dominant society that had discriminated against women, she had been soothing her anger by describing a male and male dominant/submissive relationship where the dominant male eventually collapses.

Having completed the last fiction while she was away from Japan and knowing the direction of her anger, Nomura went back to Japan with determination to confront the reality of the society that she lived in.

Original article on the WAN website.
Translated and adapted by Naoko Hirose


Women's Korean Wave vol.21 Definitely Neighbors (Part 2 of 2)

Women's Korean Wave vol.21 Definitely Neighbors (이웃집 웬수)
written by Yeong-ae Yamashita

(You can read Part 1 here.)
The protagonist is Yun Jiyeong (actor: Yu Hojeong). Jiyeong, a housewife, and her husband Kim Seongjae (Son Hyeonju) lose their son in a traffic accident while they are quarreling. Shocked by the loss, the couple gets divorced. She soon gets a part-time job at a restaurant, where she meets its owner and chef, Chang Geonhui (Sin Seongrok). Later, their relationship becomes intimate. Meanwhile, her husband gets to know Kang Mijin (Kim Seongryeong), a designer, and begins dating with marriage in their mind.

Although each one of the divorced couple now has her or his own life, both are the parents of an infant girl. Because of this, they cannot cut their connection to each other. One day, Jiyeong finds that Seongjae's uncle moves in next door. Seongjae also moves into his uncle's house to become a good father to his daughter.

In the beginning, whenever the divorced couple meet, they have an argument. Their relationship changes little by little. When Jiyeong has to work late, Seongjae and his uncle look after the girl.

As for each other's new boyfriend/girlfriend, both pretend to be indifferent but they couldn't help saying something on the matter to each other. Their dialogues express their complicated feelings.

Mijin, a widow and a single mother, cannot understand why Seongjae lives next door to his ex-wife. She has never got divorced. When she has questions, she asks them frankly. She gets along with Jiyeong. The dramatist Choe says that Mijin is her ideal woman.

On the other hand, Jiyeong learns a lot while she raises the infant daughter and becomes independent. When she was married, she was too obedient to say anything to her mother-in-law. After getting divorced, she became self-assertive gradually. After seeing her own senile mother, she reconciled with her father and stepmother.

Her romance with Geonhui, whose father is a big hospital owner, looks like a fantasy but is described well as what makes her grow. One thing I am discontented with about the drama is the way Geonhui calls Jiyeong ajumma. Ajumma means an older married woman who has children. It also implies an uneducated woman who cooks and takes care of children.

In a Korean custom, names two people address each other change according to their relationships. Even after being intimate, Geonhui and Jiyeong do not change names they call each other, which do not match later episodes especially when they talk about love. It may suggest that their relationship is never closer than the one defined by how they address each other's name.

Interestingly enough, the way they talk to each other is polite but has some variations if you listen carefully. For example, Jiyeong uses casual peer-to-peer language to appease Geonhui when he woos her, or when she preaches him. By calling him "you" (너), she stresses that she is older than him and should be given precedence over. Although the way she calls him changes, Geonhui's way of talking does not change. You cannot see such variations on Japanese subtitles at all.

Original Article on the WAN website (October 5, 2011)

Translated and adapted by Atsuko Ishikawa


Women's Korean Wave vol.21 Definitely Neighbors (Part 1 of 2)

Women's Korean Wave vol.21 Definitely Neighbors (이웃집 웬수)
written by Yeong-ae Yamashita
Definitely Neighbors is a Korean drama series which sheds light on a divorced couple facing various events and going through complicated feelings with a light touch. SBS aired it on weekends in 2010. The number of episodes is 65.

Korean dramas in general relate divorce with "adultery" or "revenge" but you will never see either of them in this drama. Rather, it characteristically focuses on the reality of the surroundings of those who experienced divorce.

What made dramatist Choi Hyeonkyeong write this? She says, "those who got divorced don't want to talk about their divorce very much. So they are not able to overcome their pains. Not only that, but also divorce hurts children the most. If it's so, dealing with this topic straightforwardly would heal their pain. Through this drama, I would like to present how an ideal divorced couple would be."

Korean society had seen a rapid increase in divorce rate since the year 2000. The highest divorce rate was recorded in 2003 but the rate still ranks at first or second among the OECD countries. To suppress the divorce rate, the Korean government introduced a legal system that made divorce procedures more complicated in 2006.

Aired under such social circumstances, actors in the drama obtained some conspicuous awards. Its audience rate was always more than 20 %. It has already broadcast in Taiwan and in Japan. DVD will be released soon.

Original Article on the WAN website (October 5, 2011)

Translated and adapted by Atsuko Ishikawa


Kusama’s Body Festival in 60s

An art exhibit named Kusama’s Body Festival in 60’s, which features the artist Yayoi Kusama's works in that decade, is being held in Tokyo.

o August 6, 2011 (Sat.) - November 27, 2011 (Sun.)
o The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art
o 3-7-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
o Tel: 03-3402-3001

The exhibit website: http://www.watarium.co.jp/exhibition/1108kusama/index.html (in Japanese only)

The artist's official website has an extensive English section: http://www.yayoi-kusama.jp/e/information/index.html

Original Article on the WAN website (October 6, 2011)

Translated and adapted by Naoko Hirose