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19.5.09

"Love of the samurai"



Throughout the recent years in which I've been writing M/M, my research has led me to discover that there really is an historical basis for the love of M/M romance, both with straight women and gay men. The manlove genre, yaoi, the m/m branch of graphic novels which originated in Japan has a deep and abiding origin in the history of the land and its people.

It's pretty much common knowledge that there is a rich history of manlove within Greek culture, but many people don't about the same tradition that existed among the samurai for centuries known as "nanshoku." You'd never know because the classic samurai films don't evermention it. But when I was working on my seminal M/M novels that led to the White Tigers series, I found a wealth of information which showed me a whole new world of m/m lore!

Here's an excerpt from a website, gay-art-history.org which explains nanshoku:


Not one of the many hundreds of samurai movies made in the past century even as much as hinted at it nanshoku, the “love of the samurai”*. From its pivotal position in the education, code of honor, and erotic life of the samurai class, the love of youths has sunk below the level of the untouchable to the level of the unmentionable, truly “the love that dare not speak its name”. But the indelible fact remains that one of the fundamental aspects of samurai life was the emotional and sexual bond cultivated between an older warrior and a younger apprentice, a love for which the Japanese have many names, as many perhaps as the Eskimo have for snow.

The samurai often called it bi-do, “the beautiful way”, and guarded the tradition jealously. Ijiri Chusuke, in 1482 argued:


“In our empire of Japan this way flourished from the time of the great master Kobo. In the abbeys of Kyoto and Kamakura, and in the world of the nobles and the warriors, lovers would swear perfect and eternal love relying on no more than their mutual good will. Whether their partners were noble or common, rich or poor, was absolutely of no importance… In all these case they were greatly moved by the spirit of this way. This way must be truly respected, and it must never be permitted to disappear.”(1)

Indeed, the only film I know of so far that exposes homosexuality in the samurai world is Taboo, a murder mystery set in fedual Japan with that beautiful young actor, Ryuhei Matsuda.


When I first saw it, I thought it was simply a unique plot twist for a murder mystery. However, as I said, my research showed the historical basis for this scenario.

For me personally, since I love writing about this period of time and this subject matter, the fact that there was this tradition of nanshoku has given me a rich supply of subject matter and I do hope to write more M/M stories in this vein!

1 comment:

Lisabet Sarai said...

Sedonia, that's fascinating! I had no idea that this was anything more than a female fantasy about beautiful men.

Thanks for sharing.

Warmly,
Lisabet