Yamada Yōko

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Yamada Yōko (stage name: 山田 よう子, given name: 山田 洋子), the bisexual Japanese arm wrestler known as “The Sturdy Arm” and “Iron Beauty”, took silver at the world championship just six months after beginning training. After completing school she had been feeling uninspired and directionless, but a chance encounter with an arm wrestler in a restaurant convinced her to give the sport a try. She has since taken home an impressive list of wins and placements and dabbled in other sports, like mixed martial arts and pro wrestling. Outside of sports, she has worked in affiliation with KT Projects as a gravure idol.

One of Yamada’s MMA bouts can be viewed here. Her blog (in Japanese) can be found here.

 

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Kamikawa Aya

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At the time of this writing, Kamikawa Aya has been Japan’s only openly transgender elected official. After a frustrating experience reaching out to local politicians to gain recognition for transgender issues, she took their advice and ran for office herself. Originally elected in 2003 on an independent ticket, she has held her regional assembly seat through (at least) 2014. She is involved with an underground think-tank for LGBT political voices; spoken at a coming-of-age ceremony especially for Japanese LGBT youth; and been interviewed regarding her views on Japanese media programming that features transgender characters.

Although Kamikawa has become famous due to her work on behalf of the trans community, she is also known for advocating on behalf of other underrepresented groups, including people with disabilities and students. Her website (largely in Japanese) can be found here.

 

Miyazawa Kenji

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Although Miyazawa Kenji’s work went largely unrecognized during his lifetime he is now known as one of Japan’s foremost poets and authors of children’s literature. He was a committed Buddhist and a vegetarian – a rarity in a country that values seafood as a staple – and frequently wrote about interspecies dialogues, among other examples of empathic communication. One of his better known pieces, “Strong in the Rain,” exemplifies his focus on nature and self-sacrifice; in it, he longs for a robust body so that he can better serve his neighbors, even as they look down on him for his ordinariness. When the 2011 earthquake hit Japan the poem gained memetic popularity, becoming a symbol of Japanese resilience. (Several more poems, in English and German, are available here, along with a short article on a choreography based on his works. A few more are available for downloading in English here. Works in the original Japanese can be found here. For a more detailed analysis of Miyazawa’s themes and techniques, try this website.)

Miyazawa is included on this blog with the caveat that speculation about his asexuality does not appear to be (at least per a cursory search) rooted in anything he himself expressed, but rather his seeming lack of interest in any romantic or sexual connection. His writing is entirely devoid of sexual themes and he was never known to have taken any sort of partner; in fact, his deepest connection was reputed to be with nature.

 

 

Mishima Yukio

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At the time of his death by seppuku at age 45, Mishima (the pen name of Hiraoka Kimitake, under which he became famous, and the name used in biographical sources) had published roughly 30 novels, 50 plays, 25 books of short stories, 35 books of essays, one libretto, one film, and reams of poetry, to the tune of three Nobel Prize in Literature nominations and recognition as ones of the most important Japanese authors of the 20th century.

Mishima’s second novel, Confessions of a Mask, was the first to gain widespread attention, earning him fame at the age of 24. Semi-autobiographical, it tells the story of a physically frail, homosexual man, who conceals his differences in order to blend in with society.