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three pairs of lovers with space



Ihara Saikaku 井原 西鶴 was the pen name of Hirayama Tōgo 平山藤五 (1642–93), a prolific and popular professional Japanese writer. After successfully establishing himself as a poet, he went on to become the creator of the "floating world" genre of Japanese prose with the publication of twenty-six books of prose. Though fictional in detail, many of them are demonstrably based on real events and even people whom Saikaku knew. Many were concerned with love affairs, and, writing as he was in the Edo period, when Greek love flourished in Japan to an extent only matched by ancient Greece herself, these naturally included about as many love stories about men and boys as of men and women. Besides being probably the richest collection of Greek love stories ever produced by a single author, they offer lively and invaluable insight into wakashudō 若衆道, “the way of loving boys”, the peculiarly Japanese version of this form of love.

Ihara Saikaku

The following is an incomplete catalogue of the Greek love content of Saikaku’s works, in chronological order. All were first published in Ōsaka. Note according to the traditional Japanese method of counting age followed by Saikaku, a person is born aged one, and goes up one each subsequent New Year, thus between one and two years needs to be taken off to find the modern English equivalent. This adjustment has not been made in the translations of the stories referred to, but a partial adjustment of the minimum one year been made in the synopses given here. Nevertheless, it should be borne in mind that the boys were as likely as not to have been a year younger than described even here.

The first translation into English, which included thirteen stories from several of Saikaku’s books was by E. Powys Mathers as “Comrade Loves of  the Samurai and Songs of the Geishas” in volume seven of his Eastern Love (London, 1928). It will be referred to several times in what follows. It was not a direct translation, but was made loosely from the free translation into French of the same selection by Ken Sato as Contes d’amour des samurais, XIIe[1] siècle japonais (Paris, 1927). Sato invented his own names for the stories, which Mathers followed.

All the links on this page are to English translations on this website.

The Life of an Amorous Man

Kōshoku Ichidai Otoko  好色一代男, Saikaku’s first prose work, was published in 1682. It recounts the love life of Yonosuke, a lustful plebeian, between the ages of six and sixty, including liaisons with 3,742 women, 725 boys, and other males whilst still a boy himself. The only translation into English has been an abridged version by Hamada Kengi as The Life of an Amorous Man, (Vermont, 1964), from which the Greek love passages on this website have been taken.

Five Women Who Loved Love

Kōshoku gonin onna 好色五人女 was published in 1686. Five stories, each telling of the effect of a violent love affair upon a young heroine. Despite this subject matter, Greek love is mentioned in the passage given below from the third story, and is a main theme of the fifth. The only full translation into English has been a free one by Wm. Theodore de Bary as Five Women Who Loved Love, 1956.

III. “The Beauty Contest”, translated by W. Theodore de Bary in “Koshoku gonin onna, Book III” in Anthology of Japanese Literature edited by Donald Keene (New York, 1955). The setting for the following passage is Kyoto in 1682:

There was in the capital a band of four inseparable young men who were known for their handsome appearance and riotous living. Thanks to large inheritances they could spend every day in the year seeking their own pleasure. One night, till dawn, they might amuse themselves in Shimabara[2] with China-girl, Fragrance, Florapont, and Highbridge. Next day they would make love to Takenaka Kichisaburō, Karamatsu Kasen, Fujita Kichisaburō, and Mitsuse Sakon in the Shijō-gawara section.[3] Night or day, girls or boys, it made no difference to their pleasure.

V. Gengobei, The Mountain of Love


The Great Mirror of Male Love

Nanshoku Ōkagami 男色大鑑, was published in early 1687. The greatest compilation of boy-love stories ever produced, the first twenty concern the love affairs of samurai with boys of their own class and the remaining twenty the liaisons of kabuki boy actors. Unsurprisingly, in view of their unifying theme, all are relevant to Greek love.[4] The only complete or scholarly translation into English has been by P.G. Schalow as The Great Mirror of Male Love (Stanford, 1990). Some of the stories were earlier translated in Mathers’s Eastern Love. The stories are listed below with, first their English names according to Schalow’s accurate translation, and then, where applicable, the names Mathers gave them in translation of Sato’s French rendition:


1. Love: The Contest Between Two Forces

An introductory comparison between the love of boys and the love of woman, asserting the superiority of the former.

2. The ABCs of Boy Love.

A townsman retired into the countryside observes two samurai boys whose relationship, when they are  (humourously) only eight and so too young to be wakashu, already embodies the ideals of boy-love, including complementary role-playing, and endures until one of them dies at 13.

3. Within the Fence: Pine, Maple, and a Willow Waist (Mathers: Love long Concealed)

Beautiful 14-year-old Tamanosuke, endowed with strong romantic inclinations, gives himself to a samurai who has fallen in love with him despite their knowing that, since he is in the personal service of a lord, it will doom them to die. However, instead of their request to be allowed to kill themselves being accepted, Tamanosuke is ordered to have his hair shaven as a man, putting him beyond further amorous attentions from men.

4. Love Letter Sent in a Sea Bass (Mathers: He rids himself of his Foes with the Help of his Lover)

12-year-old Jinnosuke, so beautiful that everyone falls in love with him, accepts the suit of 27-year-old samurai Gonkurō. Four years later, they kill a jealous rival for the boy’s love, so that it is revealed that Jinnosuke has taken a lover despite being bound not to by his being in service to a lord. However, the circumstances are thought so much to their credit that they are forgiven, and Jinnosuke becomes an inspiration to boys everywhere. A retelling of real events in 1667, with the boy’s name and province changed.

5. Implicated by His Diamond Crest

When 26-year-old samurai Daiemon saves 14-year-old beauty Tannosuke from being framed by an unworthy suitor he had spurned, they fall in love. Returning from one of their trysts, Daiemon is shot by samurai Buzaemon, who mistakes him for a bird. To avoid an investigation likely to reveal  that Tannosuke had taken a lover though bound not to by his being in service to a lord, Daiemon feigns madness and kills himself. Tannosuke, wishing to join him, fights a duel with Buzaemon in which both die.


1. A Sword His Only Memento

Fatherless Katsuya, 13, is spotted by a lord and taken on as his page and lover, and showered with solicitous attentions until he is 17 and another boy captures his lord’s heart. He briefly contemplates suicide until he discovers a letter from his dead mother urging him to avenge his father’s murder. This accomplished with the help of Gensuke, a new admirer, the lord relinquishes his claims on him, allowing them briefly to be lovers until Katsuya celebrates his coming-of-age and they become “true brothers”.

2. Though Bearing an Umbrella, He Was Rained Upon (Mathers: He Died to Save his Lover)

Korin, 11 or 12, is summoned with his mother by a lord who has heard of his filial sense. Smitten by his beauty and sweet disposition, the lord takes him to his service and his bed. When the lord says he would die for him, Korin replies that his yielding to the lord’s authority was not true love, and he was going to keep his heart for one he could love and die for himself. Though not taken seriously, he is true to his word, as he reminds his lord when interrogated after the lover he eventually acquires is spotted leaving at night. The weeping lord cuts the defiant boy up in three sword-blows. Korin’s 20-year-old lover commits ritual suicide in front of his tomb.

Title page of Mathers's Eastern Love, vol. VII

3. His Head Shaved on the Path of Dreams

Kan’emon, master of martial arts and connoisseur of boys, and beautiful Sannojō fall in love one cold night, but Kan’emon dies of a chill before they can consummate. The grief-stricken boy seeks out his house, where he meets Sanai, who had been Kan’emon’s wakashu for the five years until he came of age. Sannojō only agrees not to kill himself if Sanai agrees to become his lover. They exchange vows, then Sannojō has a dream which convinces him they have Kan’emon’s approval.

4. Aloeswood Boy of the East (Mathers: The Soul of a Young Man smitten with Love follows his Lover on a Journey)

Ichikurō, a merchant mad about boys and on his way to Edo to meet a boy actor, briefly encounters Jūtarō, a herbalist’s son, who has hitherto rejected all his many suitors despite having a romantic disposition. Jūtarō decides Ichikurō is the man for him and falls literally sick with thwarted love, until his death is expected. His frightened family find and bring Ichikurō to him, and the boy recovers. Convinced of a karmic bond, the man and boy pledge themselves to each other for this life and the next.

5. Nightingale in the Snow

Two boys of 15 and 16, pages to a lord whose little son needs nightingale feathers if he is to be saved from scarring by smallpox, induce a reluctant boy-loving samurai to give up his nightingale. They later return to ask him to be their lover. When they have finally convinced him of their fervour, he pledges his troth by biting off the last joints of his little fingers and giving them each one.


1. Grudge Provoked by a Sedge Hat

Rammaru, a beautiful youth of 13, serving in a temple and not yet allowed to become a monk because it would end his sexual availability for the priests there, is taunted with promiscuity by Sadasuke. Replying that being used as a plaything is not love and that he has only one lover, he plots revenge. His visits his lover, an illiterate but utterly devoted hairdresser called Seihachi, for a last time, then kills Sadasuke. Monks sent in pursuit capture him and are planning to rape him before he is beheaded, when Seihachi, whose suspicions had been aroused by his beloved and had therefore followed him, attacks and scatters them. “Together they fled to parts unknown.”

2. Tortured to Death with Snow on His Sleeve (Mathers: He followed his Friend into the Other World, after Torturing him to Death)

Yamawaki Sasanosuke, a page of the lord of Iga Province, jealous of his lover Haemon’s acceptance of a cup of saké from another boy, takes his revenge further than intended, causing Haemon to freeze to death, so he kills himself.

3. The Sword That Survived Love’s Flames

Hansuke goes to holy Mount Kōya to bury the ashes of his deceased wakashu, a shopkeeper’s son whom he had loved since the boy was thirteen, and meets his ghost, who tells him the sword kept with his ashes is in fact the property of a samurai who is causing his parents terrible trouble by demanding it back. Hansuke therefore returns to the sword to the boy’s amazed parents.

Statue of Saikaku in Ikukunitama Shrine, Osaka

4. The Sickbed No Medicine Could Cure (Mathers: All Comrade-Lovers die by Hara-kiri)

At Asakusa in 1640, Mokawa Uneme, a young man of 17, falls sick with love for 15-year-old beauty Itami Ukyō, serving in the same household, who hears about it and accept him as his lover. Shuzen, a samurai also in love with Ukyō woos him clumsily and is rejected rather derisively. Shuzen plans to kill him, but instead Ukyō kills him when they fight. Ukyō commits ritual suicide bravely on their lord’s orders and is promptly followed by Uneme (summoned back by a go-between) and others overcome with grief.

5. He Fell in Love When the Mountain Rose Was in Bloom (Mathers: A Samurai becomes a Beggar through his Love for a Page)

Young samurai Tagawa Gizaemon falls hopelessly in love with Okukawa Shume, a lord’s treasured page and gives up everything to follow him, eventually becoming a beggar. It is three years before they speak. Moved by the depth of Gizaemon’s love for him, Shume tells his lord he is torn by his duty as a follower of nanshoku and his duty to him. Refused permission for suicide, he takes Gizaemon as his lover, expecting to do for it, but is unexpectedly forgiven, while Gizaemon is ordered to leave and becomes a monk.


1. Drowned by Love in Winecups of Pearly Nautilus Shells

A gentleman in Kyoto, hitherto dedicated to the love of women, is inconsolable when his lovely young wife dies in childbirth. To please his relations, he takes another wife, “But he never spoke a single intimate word with her, so the poor young lady became a widow with a living husband. He found it impossible to abstain completely from sex, however, and since he was utterly bored with women he kept a boy at his side from then on. This apparently served as a perfectly satisfactory replacement.”[5] (The story ends with this passage, which is the only reference in it to boys).

2. The Boy Who Sacrificed His Life in the Robes of His Lover

Though exceptionally beautiful, Nozaki Senjūrō is at sixteen believed not to have had a lover, but in fact an official called Takeshima Sazen had been that for a few years, so when Senjūrō refuses to read the love letters of samurai Imamura Rokunoshin, and the latter discovers Sazen is the cause, he decides furiously  to force Sazen to give up the boy. To save his lover, Senjūrō tricks Rokunoshin into inadvertently killing himself instead. No longer wanting to live himself, Rokunoshin tricks Sazen into killing him, then Sazen kills himself.

3. They Waited Three Years to Die

Young samurai Segawa Uhei refuses to give up his 15-year-old wakashu, Kikui Matsusaburō, to his smitten friend Yokoyama Seizō. They agree to fight, but to wait three years until Matsusaburō comes of age, so that Uhei can have had full enjoyment of him. Their friendship is strengthened by knowledge of their common fate. When they finally fight and kill each other, Matsusaburō chooses to die too.

4. Two Old Cherry Trees Still in Bloom (Mathers: They loved Each Other even to Extreme Old Age)

Two withered old samurai of 62 and 65 living together in Edo are thought by others to be religious companions, but in fact they had fallen in love when they were fifteen and eighteen and their love has endured, the older still thinking of the younger as a boy. Both spurn the slightest contact with women.[6]

Hatsudayū (right) rudely importuned in the street: an original illustration to "Tears in a Paper Shop"

5. Handsome Youths Having Fun Cause Trouble for a Temple

Though only seventeen, it was already two years since Taka-okagawa Geki had exchanged love-vows with the boy Onakai Okura. Romping in a temple one day, in the absence of the chief priest, he accidentally kills his wakashu and readily accepts the decisions of the chief priest and then the authorities that he must commit ritual suicide and thus save his name. On the point of doing so, he is interrupted by a strange girl who says she refuses to survive him. His father explains that she is the bride he had been intending for him. Okura’s father then gets the authorities to rescind their decision, adopts Geki as his own son and marries him to the girl.


1. Tears in a Paper Shop

After handsome Jūrōemon comes chivalrously to the rescue of beautiful boy star of the theatre Fujimura Hatsudayū, rudely importuned in the street, Hatsudayū seeks him out and they fall in love. For two years, they love each other so passionately that Jūrōemon neglects his household and is driven to disappear by its resentment of him. Heart-broken Hatsudayū abandons the theatre and later, at 18, becomes a monk. A year later, he hears that Jūrōemon has died, and, after praying for his soul where it happened, is never heard from again.

2. He Pleaded for His Life at Mitsudera Hachiman

An old man never interested in love goes to the theatre to see the boy actor Hirai Shizuma and appears to fall in love with him. Moved, Shizuma offers himself, but it transpires the man is there for his stunning 15-year-old daughter, who has fallen ill with love for him. He meets her and agrees to be her lover, but she dies the next day. Feeling guilty, he turns to religion and soon passes away too.

3. Love’s Flame Kindled by a Flint Seller (Mathers: An Actor loved his Patron, even as a Flint Seller)

In Kyoto in 1652, boy actor Tamagawa Sennojō, whose patrons often had to wait ten days for an amorous appointment, and for the pleasure of whose love many men had lost their fortunes, hears that a former lover who had disappeared has returned to live under a bridge. He finds and comforts him, but the man is displeased to have the simplicity of his new pleasures disrupted and disappears again. A distraught Sennojō builds him an empty tomb and hires a priest to mourn over it.

4. Visiting from Edo, Suddenly a Monk       

When Kyoto actor Tamamura Shuzen is 19 and his beauty has faded, he retires to live in seclusion as a monk, Kaken, but is followed by Asanojō, a boy still in his prime who had latterly kept himself for Shuzen alone. Sent away, Asanojō returns to join him as a monk. A girl of 13 who had in the meantime fallen in love with him, also becomes a nun after being rebuked for following him.

5. Votive Picture of Kichiya Riding a Horse

Early in 1660, Kyoto boy actor Tamamura Kichiya, with whom many of both sexes fell desperately in love sees a northerner in the street staring at him in amazement, and gives him a toothpick. The man immediately returns home to make money as the only means he sees to consummate his love. Returning five years later, wealthy due to discovering gold, and told Kichiya had moved to Edo, he follows him there and finds he had already shaved off his forelocks and thus become a man. When Kichiya tells him that in those days he would have gladly satisfied his love, the man is so touched that he gives him enough money to live well for life before returning home.

Itō Kodayū entertaining Buddhist priests: an original illustration to "A Huge Winecup Overflowing"


1. A Huge Winecup Overflowing with Love

Highly skilled boy actor Itō Kodayū could command thrice the price of other actors for a night in bed. One night, the men at a party he was attending see a beautiful woman outside pointing him out to her little son as the boy his father had fallen hopelessly in love with. Asked by them to explain, she tells of her husband’s habit of falling in love with boys and how, fallen into poverty, he was now sick with love for Kodayū. They give her one of the latter’s robes for her husband and tell Kodayū, who wants to give himself to the man, but the woman reappears to say her husband had just died in peace after receiving the robe.

2. Kozakura’s Figure: Grafted Branches of a Cherry Tree

A man visiting a temple is deeply moved by the sincerity of a sealed letter left there by actor Kozakura Sennosuke, in which this mesmerizingly attractive boy expressed his longing for true love with a man. He attends a performance by him and leaves him a love letter which, by comparison with the many others that Sennosuke receives, is so obviously deeply felt that Sennosuke seeks him out and gives himself to him.

3. The Man Who Resented Another’s Shouts

A masterless samurai who collects prints of beautiful boy actors falls in love with Takii Sanzaburō through one of him, and struggles to afford tickets to see him perform every day. One day, a troublemaker shouts at Sanzaburō to get off the stage. The samurai follows and kills him. Sanzaburō finds him and gives himself to him. They are so much in love that Sanzaburō abandons his career. Later the samurai is summoned to be with his dying mother and disappears. Sanzaburō wastes away with grief and dies at 18.

4. A Secret Visit Leads to the Wrong Bed

The actor Uemara Kichiya receives a mysterious summons for an assignation. Entering a house full of women, he is received by a beautiful princess, but suddenly the latter’s brother appears and demands him for himself, becoming even more excited when he discovers that what he had been led to believe was a girl was actually a boy.

5. A Terrible Shame He Never Performed in the Capital

The Osaka boy actor Suzuki Heihachi, who brought the beauty of boy love to the stage in Osaka, enraptures all men. One day a beautiful woman at one of his performances falls so ill from love of him that she becomes ill and dies. Heihachi catches a chill the next day and dies a month later, aged 22, in 1686.


1. Fireflies Also Work Their Asses at Night

Fujimura Handayū has to work all night entertaining and making love to clients, some repulsive, after working all day on the stage. Eventually ransomed from his contract at the theatre by a gentleman in love with him, he never forgets a priest who, apparently out of love, had once secretly released fireflies into the room he was in and then fled.

The rustic cuts off his little finger for Han'ya: an original illustration to "An Onnagata's Tosa Diary"

2. An Onnagata’s Tosa Diary

Kind-hearted and accomplished actor Matsushima Han’ya is “so skilled in lovemaking that he could almost kill a man with pleasure.” Once, during a play, a rustic in love with him cuts off his little finger as a token of his love. Han’ya asks him to visit, but when he offers himself to him, the man declines. When he goes away, Han’ya gives him a sword and a kimono as mementos. On his travels, the man is overcome with longing for the boy, and uses the sword to kill himself.

3. An Unworn Robe to Remember Him by

When toothpick-maker’s son Togawa Hayanojō is born, his beauty is such that it is clear he will make a great actor. By the age of 12, he “had acquired a knowledge of the ways of love. Men who saw him even briefly were immediately smitten”. A accomplished actor, he never refuses propositions from admirers until he takes another actor as his lover. He then loses interest in his patrons, their gifts dry up, he is suddenly unable to pay his clothes bills and kills himself aged just 17.

4. Bamboo Clappers Strike the Hateful Number

Tamamura Kichiya and a group of other “boy” actors go mushroom-picking with some merchant admirers. They meet a monk who calls himself a man of 21 totally devoted to the love of boys, but when he offers to let them use his bamboo clappers which can detect anyone’s true age, they prove strangely reluctant (being all older!). A rude samurai appears and demands Kichiya for himself. The latter sends the others away and pretends to comply, but gets the samurai drunk, tricks him into having his whiskers cut off (so he can no longer live by intimidation), then leaves him.

5. Nails Hammered into an Amateur Painting

A day’s outing to Sakai Bay, in which the author joins a large group of boy actors and connoisseurs of boy-love.


1. A Verse Sung by a Goblin with a Beautiful Voice

Describes an outing lasting a day and a night, on which a theatre manager took boy actor Fujita Minanojō, who appealed to men and women equally, but reserved himself for the former.

2. Siamese Roosters and the Reluctant Farewell

At a time when the fashion is to collect fighting cocks from Siam, boy actor Mineno Kozarashi has 37, but releases them after their crowing alerts his paying patron, whom he loves, to the need to leave for home in the morning.

The stranger delivers the box: an original illustration to "Loved by a Man in a Box"

3. Loved by a Man in a Box

The author has loved 1,000 boys in 27 years as a devotee of nanshoku, but feels bad that they have mostly been “working boys” rather than ones with whom he “shared a sense of honor and masculine pride”. Some men from Bizen come to Kyoto for amusement, go the theatre and engage the five leading boy actors for the night. In the morning a stranger gives them a box. Soon after the boys leave, a voice calls out from the box which turns out to belong to a wooden doll that can speak and has fallen in love with two of the boys. One of the men advises the doll that his love can never be fulfilled, and, unlike many men, the doll has the sense to accept his advice.

4. The Koyama Barrier Keeper

On an outing to a temple, the author and others get passing boy actors to join them for drinks. Reflections on boy actors, the money they have to be paid and their occasional displays of deep feeling.

5. Who Wears the Incense Graph Dyed in Her Heart?

Boy love has become less rough than it was and boys are expected to be delicate. One day, an exceptionally beautiful girl showed she was in love with a theatre manager whom the author was accompanying, but though they feel sorry for her, they disdain her for not being a boy.

Transmission of the Martial Arts

Budō denraiki 武道伝来記, published in 1687, is thirty-two stories about samurai loyalties and vendettas, in at least five of which wakashudō was a main theme:

Heartstrings Plucked on Lake Biwa

After 55-year-old samurai Shuri becomes a monk, Ganmu, abandoning his two beautiful 16-year-old wakashu, Uneme and Sakyō, they follow him and ask to be his disciples. He rejects them fiercely and they kill themselves, leading soon to his death. Set in 16th-century Azuchi.

Hunting Early Mushrooms Sows the Seeds of Love

When samurai man Takekura Banzō declares his love to stunning samurai boy Numasuge Hannojō, the latter says he already has a lover. Outraged to discover the lover is a man of a lower class, Notoya Tōnai, Banzō goes to his house and orders him to give up Hannojō. Humiliated and wrongly believing himself betrayed by his boy, he attacks Hannojō, whose servants kill him. A devastated Hannojō takes revenge on Banzō and brings his head to Tōnai’s 16-year-old brother Tōhachi and then kills himself. Tōhachi, who had been planning to avenge Tōnai’s death on Hannojō, instead becomes a monk to pray for them both.

A page, supposedly representing Saikaku's own calligraphy, from the 1st edition of Saikaku Okimiyage

[Title of story not yet found]

Amongst other happenings in this story, a samurai's orphaned son is forced to sell his body in the temple-town from age nine to fourteen.

The Investigation Turned Up a Striped Hakama

Boat inspector Murashiba Yojūrō is the nenja of the beautiful boy Itoga Umenosuke, son of a high-ranking official. When Umenosuke feigns illness to decline entering the service of a lord’s son who has fallen for him, the latter consults his servant Shinroku, who tells him the cause is Yojūrō, since he himself had earlier been spurned by Umenosuke on account of him (and much resented it). The two contrive to have Yojūrō framed and beheaded as a criminal. Umenosuke discovers the role of Shinroku in this, and kills him before committing ritual suicide sitting on his body.

The Tragic Love of Two Enemies. Translated into English by Mathers in his Eastern Love, and apparently the only story from this book to have been thus translated so far.

Akanashi Senpachi, a page in the service of the lord of Echigo province, reluctantly kills his close friend Daizaki Shingohei on the orders of their lord. The latter’s inconsolable but pregnant widow moves to another province to raise the son that is born. When the beautiful son Shinosuke is thirteen, Senpachi is banished by his lord, settles in a nearby town and chances upon the mother and son without knowing who they are. He and the boy fall deeply in love and all three live together. Two years later, the woman realises Senpachi is her husband’s killer and orders her reluctant son to take revenge on him. She relents enough to allow them one last night together, during which the boy puts his sword through them both. Then his mother kills herself.

The Eternal Storehouse of Japan

Nippon Eitaigura 日本永代蔵, published early in 1688, a collection of thirty-six short stories principally on the economic life of the townsmen, in at least five of which wakashudō briefly featured:

Section IV, No. 4. Cha no jittoko mo ichi-do ni mina. Translated into English non-literally for a readership with typical anglophone prejudices by Soji Mizuno as "Ill-gotten wealth does not prosper" in Nippon Eitaigura. The Way to Wealth. (Tokyo: The Hokuseido Press, 1955).

The story of Risuke of Kobashi, an avaricious and cheating tea-merchant of Tsuraga in Echizen Province, who died unloved, his only distant relations & servants not wanting his amassed wealth. “As there was nothing else to be done, all his belongings were sold and the proceeds given to the local temple. The bonzes, rejoicing in their unexpected good fortune, did not spend all the money on Buddhist services, but squandered a good deal of it in drinking at Higashi-yama, and indulging in unnatural vice at Kyoto.”

Section V, No. 3. See Fujimura Tsukuru and Higashi Akimasa, eds., Ihara Saikaku shu, vol. 3 (Tokyo, 1977), pp. 127-132. For an English translation, see G. W. Sargent, trans., The Japanese Family Storehouse, or the Millionaire's Gospel Modernized (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1959), p. 118.

Amongst other happenings, a young heir patronizes both the boy-prostitutes of Niodo village and the courtesans of Nara and Kyoto.

Section V, No. 5. See Fujimura Tsukuru and Higashi Akimasa, eds., Ihara Saikaku shu, vol. 3 (Tokyo: Asahi shinbunsha, 1977), pp. 136-139. For an English translation, see G. W. Sargent, trans., The Japanese Family Storehouse, or the Millionaire's Gospel Modernized (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1959), p. 124.

Amongst other happenings, a husband provokes his wife to leave him after retaining a concubine and attempting to procure boy lovers.

[Number unknown] Saikaku wo kasa ni kiru Daikoku. Translated into English non-literally for a readership with typical anglophone prejudices by Soji Mizuno as "Ready Wit and the God of Wealth (Daikoku)" in Nippon Eitaigura. The Way to Wealth. (Tokyo: The Hokuseido Press, 1955).

One of the characters is a beggar from Sakai in Senshu. The following are listed among his former accomplishments after he had come up to Edo and before he renounced the world: “ in hiring women, he was instructed by Takahashi of Shimabara, a high-class harlot; in unnatural vice he handled Heihachi Suzuki as he liked and in love-making he was regarded as a really elegant person by buffoons in the gay quarter of Kyoto.”

[Number unknown] Senji yo tsune towa kawaru toi-gusuri. Translated into English non-literally for a readership with typical anglophone prejudices by Soji Mizuno as "The Wonderful Prescription" in Nippon Eitaigura. The Way to Wealth. (Tokyo: The Hokuseido Press, 1955).

“ ‘is there any medical treatment to cure the pain of poverty from which even intelligent and talented people suffer?’ a certain man asked of a well-to-do person.” He was then given a long list of pleasures from which he should abstain, of which the following had sexual connotations: “ ‘Becoming acquainted with actors. Associating with prostitutes.’ “

Tales of Samurai Honour

Buke giri monogatari 武家義理物語, published in 1688, consists of twenty-six short stories illustrating the samurai code of honour, some of them pederastic. These have only been translated in full by Caryl Ann Callahan as Tales of Samurai Honor, (Tokyo, 1981), from which the three Greek love stories will be presented on this website (together with another in which it is not the main theme, and a brief excerpt from a fifth).  These are as follows (their names being followed by those adopted by Mathers for the two he too had translated in his Eastern Love):

Section I, No. 3.  A Friend of the Streets (Mathers:  Love Vowed to the Dead)

15-year-old Sakurai Gorokichi, a page of the 15th-century Shogun Higashiyama, falls ill with grief when the Shogun acquires a plover censer. He confides in his friend and fellow page Higuchi Muranosuke that he is pining away because the censer’s owner is his lover whom he cannot find. Just before dying, he makes Muranosuke swear to find his lover and take his place with him. Muransuke fulfils his vow even though he finds the lover old and unattractive.

Section III, No. 1.  Inspiration From A Gourd

In this story, implicitly set some time after 1635, the only passage of Greek love interest comes in a description of two samurai returning home after tours of duty in Edo:

The two men hurried on their way, and presently arrived at the shore of Fushimi; here they applied at the Boat Office and rented a fifty-koku boat. They made sure that all their luggage was on board, and were just about to give the order to cast off when a samurai  around sixty years old, accompanied by a beautiful samurai boy of twelve or thirteen, came up and said that he wished to board.  The boatman replied that the boat had already been engaged, whereupon the man, disappointment written on his face, turned back, leading the boy by the hand. The two travelers   could not remain indifferent to the sight and said, ‘We aren’t using the forecabin anyway, so let them come on board.’ Pleased at the prospect of a tip, the boatman prepared the cabin and brought the newcomers aboard.

Section IV, No. 2.  At Least He Wears His Youth's Kimono (Mathers: At last Rewarded for his Constancy)

Beautiful Muroda Inosuke, a especially-favoured retainer of the lord of Yamato, serves his lord in the bedchamber more than the other boys until false accusations about his secret love life cause his lord to place him and his mother under house arrest. Become destitute, they nearly kill themselves, but a dog starts delivering them food daily. After five years, Inosuke is suddenly pardoned and the jealous samurai who had libelled him is made to kill himself. Soon afterwards, he sights the dog and discovers that his mysterious benefactor is Okazaki Shihei, the Commander of the Guard, who has long been hopelessly in love with him. Determined to show his gratitude, he seeks him out, expresses his sadness that he is now a man, but takes him to his bed after putting on his old boy’s kimono and pretending he is 20 rather than 21.

Section V No. 3.  Far Better to Consider What She Said at the End

Lovely Hosoda Umemaru serves the lord of Sanuki castle, who loves him passionately, “yet everything has its season” and at 19 he has his coming-of-age ceremony. Unsurpassably-beautiful 13-year-old Kogin, daughter of a samurai and ripe for marriage, declines many proposals because she is in love with Umemaru. The latter loves her back, and her father allows the obvious match, but only reluctantly because he knows that Umumaru’s love for his lord is such that he is bound to kill himself when the lord dies, leaving his daughter a widow. So it comes to pass, and Kogin kills herself too.

Section VI, No. 4.  A Boy's Beauty Flowers When His Forelock Is Unshaven

At 15, Matsuo Kozen reluctantly leaves his lover Sugiyama Ichizaemon to go into the service of the governor of Nagato, being persuaded to do so by his unselfish lover. When samurai Shigino Uemon woos him, Kozen explains why they cannot be lovers, and Uemon agrees they can be brothers instead and goes on to prove his sincerity.

Saikaku’s Parting Gift

Saikaku Okimiyage  置土産, written in 1692-3 and posthumously published in late 1693, was a series of fifteen stories concerned principally with the vicissitudes of former rakes and courtesans. Five of them were translated into English by Robert Leutner as “Saikaku's Parting Gift. Translations from Saikaku Okimiyage” in Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 30, No. 4 (Winter, 1975), pp. 357-391.

Portrait of Saikaku together with his parting gift on the 1st page of Saikaku Okimiyage

Book II No. 1. The Winds from Mt Atago Blow

Book III No. 1  Dolls with Feet of Clay

[Another unidentified story:]

Somewhere in it, “Saikaku describes a teahouse in Osaka's Dotonbori district, where a posted roster of employees listed a variety of prostitute types for all customer tastes:
1. Hanayama Tonosuke, 14 years old. Fair complexion, lovely eyes. Recites kodayu tunes.
2.Iwataki Isaburo, 16 years old. A skillful dancer, sings nage tunes, and naturally imitates the manners of a woman.
3. Yumekawa Dairoku, 15 years old. A good drinker, who can keep up with anyone. Plays shamisen well, and is the most attractive of those dressed like traveling performers.
4. Matsunokaze Kotonojo, 17 years old. Good at making shadow figures, and can also spit water from his mouth to write characters on the wall. In juggling, he rivals Shio no Chojiro.
5. Fukakusa Kankyuro, 17 years old. In his manner of speaking, he closely resembles the late [wakashu role actor] Suzuki Heihachi. He has no special skills but is wonderful in bed!
6. Yukiyama Matsunosuke, 19-year-old yaro. When he sits in the room, it is easy to mistake him for a real stage actor.
Of these boys, Isaburo dresses as a woman, Kankyuro as a wakashu and Matsunosuke as a yaro. In this story, Matsunosuke seems most popular with the male customers.”[7]

A Miscellany of Old Letters

Yorozu no Fumihōgu, 万の文反古, apparently written ca. 1690-91 and posthumously published in 1696, consists of seventeen independent short stories written as letters, at least one of which (No. 1 in Section III) was pederastic. Five were translated into English,[8] but these did not include the latter, which was, however, included by Mathers in his Eastern Love as Letter from a Buddhist Priest telling his Friend that his Lover comes to him.


[1] “XIIe” was presumably a misprint for “XVIIe”.

[2] Shimbara was the designated courtesans’ district of Kyoto.

[3] The theatre section in Kyoto, where the kabuki drama originated. The four names which follow were the stage names of boy actors there.

Tomb of Saikaku in Seigan temple, Osaka

[4] Three may be thought only marginally so. Boy-love is mentioned only at the very end of Drowned by Love in Winecups of Pearly Nautilus Shells (IV.1) as a sensible alternative for a man who has had enough of women. The relationship described in Two Old Cherry Trees Still in Bloom (IV.4) began as fairly conventional wakashudo with a youth of 18 and a boy of 15             , but the point of the story is the bizarre fact that they still lived together in their sixties. In Bamboo Clappers Strike the Hateful Number (VII 4), the joke is that the “boy” actors are unwilling to hold bamboo clappers that will reveal their ages because they are all really already men.

[5] Quoted from Schalow’s aforementioned translation, p. 165.

[6] The age dynamics of the relationship depicted here are unique in Japanese accounts of wakashudo. In the introduction to his translation, Schalow observes that “their depiction seems intended for humorous effect. In fact, the man playing the wakashu role is labeled an eccentric in a headnote to the story, reflecting that society was probably less comfortable with an adult man retaining the boy’s role than with a boy playing the adult role. This is perhaps not surprising, since the latter involves the anticipation of a mature future role, but the former means retaining an immature role and abandonment of adult male prerogatives.”

[7] Gary Leupp, Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan (California, 1997) p. 133, citing Ihara Saikaku shu, vol. 3 edited by ed. Teruoka Yasuoka, Taniwaki Masashi, and Jinbo Kazuya (Tokyo, 1972) pp. 610-611.

[8] Virginia Marcus, “Yorozu no Fumihōgu by Ihara Saikaku” in Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 40 No. 3 (Autumn 1985) pp. 265-282.




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