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At which point of time the archipelago citizens first took a bite of this forbidden fruit? What were the ways of exchanging the experience between the samurai in the Middle Ages? What do Japanese think of gay love nowadays?
It's commonly thought that developed post-industrial countries tolerate homosexuality. This statement is partly true; however the reasons for some cultures to start accepting same-sex love are different. For example, in Europe gay minority got rights equal to those of heterosexuals after a long battle for them. In Japan homosexuality especially between men not only wasn't forbidden for a long time, but was actually welcome. And it has left a big imprint on the cultural development of the Land of the Rising Sun in general.
We can say that the history of the same-sex male love in Japan can be divided into four stages: ancient times, middle ages, early modern times and modern times. In the first period the notes about pederasty appear together with the spreading of Chinese characters. In VIII-XII centuries a lot of court aristocrats were fond of refined boys who as the women of that period shaved their eyebrows, put on make-up and blackened their teeth. As the culture of that period is characterized by a unique femininity and a simplicity of sexual norms (polygamy was popular both with women and men), homosexuality not only wasn't condemned but was actively popularized as a fashionable and high class activity.
The biggest centers of spreading the same-sex love were Buddhist monasteries. The forefather of this trend is thought to be Kuukai, "the father of Japanese writing". Despite the fact that no mentions of two men's love are found in his works, it's said that it was him who brought this trend from China, and the monastery that he founded on the Koya mountain remained the symbol of male homosexuality for a long time. It was forbidden for Buddhist monks to have sexual intercourse, however, they thought that this restriction was only about women and grown-up men. That's why gay sex in the monasteries was similar to modern pedophilia. There are a lot of documented cases of monks copulating with children and junior novices who they taught reading and writing to. Later the monks of the Jesuit order, one of the first Europeans setting foot on Japanese lands, were shocked by the scale of this phenomenon and by the careless attitude of the society to sex.
In the later middle ages, when samurais were in power, so-called shuudou ("Youth's Road") became popular. The meaning behind this was that the more experienced and grown samurai had sex with his apprentice. It was thought that this helped the young man to become more experienced and manly, and also reflected highly on the moral image of both partners. The grown one tried to look more dignified in the eyes of the young one, who in his turn followed his mentor's example. The same-sex love was opposed to love to a woman which was thought to soften a man. Such tight relations between warriors often led to a long and strong friendship, an essential companion of honor and devotion in a warrior's mind.
Another homosexuality center was Kabuki theater. At first both women and men were actors. But because of the eroticism of the performance and actresses' prostitution, women were banned from it soon. Their place was taken by feminine young men, who gained a bigger popularity among all the estates, which didn't really reflect on the "moral" side of Japanese theater. In the middle of the XVII century the government tried to ban homosexual relations because of the low birth rates and high death rates in Edo (modern Tokyo). But the edict didn't really influence sexual behavior of the Japanese who have been praising same-sex relations for centuries.
Homosexuality started to be condemned only in the XIX century on the wave of general westernization. However, the love between two men continued to be associated with manliness and devotion in the minds of Japanese people, which once more proved the amazing durability of Japanese traditions.
Thus we can say that homosexuality has always been an essential part of Japanese culture, and the attempts to fight it were taken only because of their practical meaning or artificial imposing of the Western moral.
As of today, a lot of open demonstrations of homosexuality can be seen in Japanese pop-culture. Countless musicians whose gender is very hard to determine at first glance, the excess of pornographic material that contains the shots of not only male copulation, but also pedophilia sometimes, can easily shock an average Western person.
Nevertheless, it's worth noting that anything that is a historical standard in a certain country, e.g. wearing a hijab, drinking alcohol or homosexuality, has all the rights to exist in the borders of its native cultural space. In other words, condemning Japan for homosexuality cult and making Russians fight the homophobia inside them are equally stupid and futile activities.