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Yoshiya Nobuko
(January 12, 1896 - July 11, 1973) Japan

Yoshiya Nobuko



Yoshiya Nobuko's stories created the conventions that still fill modern shoujo literature, anime and manga. She was one of modern Japan's most commercially successful and prolific writers, specializing in serialized romance novels and adolescent girls’ fiction, as well as a pioneer in Japanese lesbian literature, including the Class S genre.

Nobuko was born in Niigata prefecture, but grew up in Mooka and Tochigi cities in Tochigi prefecture. She was the only daughter and youngest child of her family. Both her mother and her father came from samurai families. Her literary career began when she was in her teens.

Her works are keenly aware of contemporary sexology. One of her early works, Hana monogatari ( Flower Tales - 1916-1924), a series of fifty-two tales of romantic friendships, became popular among female students. Most of the relationships presented in Flower Tales are those of longing from afar, unrequited love, or an unhappy ending. It depicts female-female desire in an almost narcissistic way by employing a dreamy writing style.

Yaneura no nishojo (Two Virgins in the Attic - 1919) is semi-autobiographical, and describes a female-female love experience with her dormmate. In the last scene, the two girls decide to live together as a couple. This work, in attacking male-oriented society, and showing two women as a couple after they have finished secondary education presents a strong feminist attitude, and also reveals Yoshiya's own lesbian sexual orientation.

Her Chi no hate made (To the Ends of the Earth - 1920), won a literary prize by the Osaka Asahi Shimbun, and reflects some Christian influence.

Yoshiya made no secret of her own lifelong relationship with a same-sex partner, Kadoma Chiyo, and unlike many Japanese public persona, was not reticent about revealing details of her personal life through photographs, personal essays and magazine interviews.

Yoshiya lived in Kamakura, Kanagawa prefecture during World War II. In 1962 she built a traditional wooden house with Japanese-style garden in a quiet setting, which she willed to the City of Kamakura on her death, to be used to promote women's cultural and educational activities.

The house is now the Yoshiya Nobuko Memorial Museum, and preserves the study as she left it, with items such as handwritten manuscripts and favorite objects are on display. However, the museum is open only twice a year, in early May and November, for three days each time.


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