READY FOR BATTLE -- A Young Japanese Samurai On His Way to War (or "How the Merchant's Son Played 'Dress Up' in the Photographer's Studio")
Ca. 1870s-80s. Early Meiji-era of Scenes and People of Japan, by Japanese Photographers.
While my title is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek description of the assumed (or actual) situation in the photographer's studio, here is a serious and interesting analysis of the image content offered by someone else on the Web :
Here's little more info about the Samurai for you tough-guy Westerners who wish you could have been a Samurai and swing your sword around. You would have been swinging something else around, too ! Read on.....
QUESTION for HETEREOSEXUAL MALES : Can a gay guy kick your ass ?
ANSWER : You're damn right ! Especially when he's a SAMURAI !
THE GAY LIFE in OLD JAPAN
These days, when we talk about or visualize the Glorious Samurai, our mention of them is usually devoid of something important. The world's social and religious aversion to homosexuality has worked to separate and sweep under the rug this once-understood and accepted facet of the Samurai.
In its place, we are left with a group of men who have been "cleansed and sanctified" in the minds of Westerners who have been raised in a nominally monotheistic religious culture, giving us a conservative republican Samurai Warrior with Western, Judeo-Christian family values, living with a so-called "honorable" code of ethics that makes for the stuff of macho dreams found in testosterone-fueled Hollywood movies.
Time to set the record straight :
CONSERVATIVE STATEMENT from the WEB :
Samurai --- Virile, Strong, Warriors among Men, and Fighters after the Spirit of Bushido --- The Last Samurai of Hollywood fiction --- ALSO CARRIED THE BANNER OF HOMOSEXUAL LOVE INTO BATTLE WITH THEM, AND PRACTICED HOMOSEXUAL LOVE AS AN HONORED AND TRADITIONAL WAY OF LIFE.
Therefore, if you are a fan of "all things Samurai", you better not be anti-homosexual, and you better not be a GAY BASHER. The real Samurai held GAY LOVE in high esteem, and encouraged it. Gay love and relationships were considered beneficial for the youth, teaching him virtue, honesty and the appreciation of beauty.
WIKIPEDIA ARTICLES on the WEB, CULLED FROM HISTORICAL SOURCES :
"........Shudō is the Japanese tradition of age-structured homosexuality prevalent in samurai society from the medieval period until the end of the 19th century. The word is an abbreviation of wakashudō (若衆道), "the way of the young" or more precisely, "the way of young (若 waka) men (衆 shū)". The "dō" (道) is related to the Chinese word tao, considered to be a structured discipline and body of knowledge, as well as a path to awakening.
The older partner in the relationship was known as the nenja (念者), and the younger as the wakashū (若衆).
PEDERASTY or BUST !!!
The practice was held in high esteem, and was encouraged, especially within the samurai class. Their homosexual lifestyle was considered beneficial for the youth, teaching him virtue, honesty and the appreciation of beauty. Its value was contrasted with the love of women, which was blamed for feminizing men.
With the rise in power and influence of the merchant class, aspects of the practice of shudo were adopted by the middle classes, and homoerotic expression in Japan began to be more closely associated with traveling kabuki actors known as tobiko ( 飛子) , "fly boys," who moonlighted as prostitutes......."
MILITARY SAME SEX LOVE
".......From religious circles, same-sex love spread to the warrior (samurai) class, where it was customary for a boy in the wakashū age category to undergo training in the martial arts by apprenticing to a more experienced adult man. The man was permitted, if the boy agreed, to take the boy as his lover until he came of age; this relationship, often formalized in a "brotherhood contract", was expected to be exclusive, with both partners swearing to take no other (male) lovers. This practice, along with clerical pederasty, developed into the codified system of age-structured homosexuality known as shudō, abbreviated from wakashūdo, the "way (do) of wakashū".
The older partner, in the role of nenja, would teach the wakashū martial skills, warrior etiquette, and the samurai code of honor, while his desire to be a good role model for his wakashū would lead him to behave more honorably himself; thus a shudō relationship was considered to have a "mutually ennobling effect". In addition, both parties were expected to be loyal unto death, and to assist the other both in feudal duties and in honor-driven obligations such as duels and vendettas. Although sex between the couple was expected to end when the boy came of age, the relationship would, ideally, develop into a life-long bond of friendship. At the same time, sexual activity with women was not barred (for either party), and once the boy came of age, both were free to seek other wakashū lovers.
Like later Edo same-sex practices, samurai shudō was strictly role-defined; the nenja was seen as the active, desiring, penetrative partner, while the younger, sexually receptive wakashū was considered to submit to the nenja's attentions out of love, loyalty, and affection, rather than sexual desire. Among the samurai class, adult men were (by definition) not permitted to take the wakashū role; only preadult boys (or, later, lower-class men) were considered legitimate targets of homosexual desire. In some cases, shudō relationships arose between boys of similar ages, but the parties were still divided into nenja and wakashū roles......"
YES, THE SAMURAI COULD, AND DID MARRY --- In spite of the fact that PEDERASTY WAS THE RULE when the men were doing their soldering and war-mongering, they did marry women under carefully observed social rules. However, this was not for mutual love and family relationships as Westerners would normally define marriage between a male and female. For the Samurai, sexual relations with a woman was more along the lines of a "necessary evil" to procreate for the purpose of making more little Samurai to keep things going.
WHY THE ANACHRONISTIC USE THE WORD "GAY" IN MY SAMURAI CAPTIONS ?
Some will call these guys "BI-SEXUAL", but for the sake of this caption, I'm sticking to "GAY" --- a 20th Century transformation of the word that used to mean PARTY-TIME HAPPY --- an in "The Gay '90s" --- but is now used for men who have a sexual preference for other males.
I am retroactively applying the modern "Gay" tag (in a performance sort of way) to liven up the discussion. If the Samurai were alive today, and "doing their thing", we would all be calling them "The Gay Military of Japan".
Actually, it is almost as ridiculous as some goofy Westerners saying "....the RAINBOW symbolizes the LGBT community....", thus causing conservative Christians to scramble in an effort to remove all Biblical Rainbows from pictures of Noah's Ark.
Any other appeal to "historical and cultural social context" to say these men were not homosexual (or that "Gay"and "Homosexual" are two different things) --- in spite of the Samurai's conditioned sexual preference for male intercourse --- is just a lame misdirect by modern-day Samurai lovers who are chagrined by the fact that their "warrior heroes" preferred the joy of porking other men instead of porking their wives. I say "pork", because in old Japan, sexual relations between men and women were not anything close to what we call "making love".
So, even while "makin' babies" under the "stuff we don't really want to do" rule, the Samurai continued to hold the sexual love and bonding with males as the preferred and highest highest love, and the "necessary evils" of being "joined to a woman" as an obligatorily social headache.
As we all know, there are plenty of Gay men living in many countries of the world today who, for various social reasons (including the threat of death), emotionally and sexually live in the same situation --- loving men, but setting up house with women --- some resolving the emotional predicament better than others.