Women in same-sex relationships during prewar Japan resisted the national ideal set by the Meiji state declaring that a woman’s role to her nation was to be a “good wife, wise mother.” As part of Japan’s modernization process during this period, western influences and ideas came to Japan, and along with those ideas came new images for women: the shōjo and the New Woman. Female same-sex relationships were represented in stories published in shōjo magazines starting in the early twentieth century, written by women authors such as Yoshiya Nobuko. The publicity of these relationships led to scrutiny by elites and sexologists, deciding that some examples of this behavior were “abnormal.” Eventually, some of these women decided to utilize suicide as it was represented in Japanese culture as a strong message that represented their love for one another and their refusal to live in a society that challenged their relationships. The representation of some of these women involved in suicide attempts in the media reveals the gender discourse against masculine women in same-sex relationships.


Ng, Margaret




Arts and Humanities


Japan, lesbians, shōjo, feminism, women, gender, sexuality, Meiji, Yoshiya Nobuko, sexology, suicide

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2019 Jacob Rollin Springwood