Aug 1, 2014

Transvestite culture in Japan

Hi everyone!

The rainy season was over and super humid disgusting summer has come. I really hate Japanese summer which seems getting hotter and hotter every year. Last Saturday on the 26th when  1,889 people were rushed to hospital due to heatstroke and 11 died. Isn't it awful?

Sorry, I didn't mean to complain about the weather. Today's post topic is transvestite culture in Japan. 

What intrigued me was a news report I saw on TV last week. A 27-year-old man got arrested for sneaking into a shop in an attempt to steal money and setting fire before leaving the place. But strangely, the person shown in video breaking in the building was a "girl." Yes, as you guessed, she was a man dressed as a woman. According to the report, he was an employee at a "cross-dressing maid cafe" in Akihabara, the Mecca of otaku.

A cross-dressing maid cafe?! I never knew such a thing even existed. I checked on the internet and found out there are at least several cafes or bars with transvestite waiters in the Tokyo area.

"Male maids" at Newtype, a cross-dressing cafe in Akihabara
where the arrested man might have worked 
Interestingly, those cross-dressers are not necessarily gays. Of course some may be, but many say they just love wearing women's clothes and they are romantically and sexually attracted to women rather than men. Some lady maids even brag that they are popular with women as they understand girls better and have common topics with them. 

That is a big difference from gay bars in Shinjuku 2-chome area, where cross-dressers are either homosexual or at least bisexual with high probability. In Akihabara cross dressing may be a kind of cosplaying, and that's why even young girls and heterosexual couples can casually go to a transvestite cafe.

New Type
Address: 3rd floor of Isamiya Diahachi Bldg., 3-7-12 Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Tel: (03)5577-5565 
Hours: Tue.-Thu., Sun. & holidays, open 6-11 p.m.; Fri., Sat. & day before national holidays, 6 p.m.-6 a.m.;  

There are books, photo albums and DVDs of men in girl clothes. 

女々男子∞【めめだんしエイト】 (~オールカラーハードカバー写真集~)
Photo album "Meme danshi eight" featuring eight cross-dresers

ゆりだんし (myway mook)
another photo album "Yuri danshi"
ここまで可愛くなれる! 男の娘メイクBOOK (SANWA MOOK)
"Otoko no ko Make Book"
make-up book for crossdresers
Traditionally, Japanese have appreciated androgynous beauty. In Kabuki, a classical dance-drama established in the 17th century, performers are all men. Many kabuki fans often say that male actors can be more womanly than real women because men are always pursuing ideal female beauty. The photo below is of Tamasaburo Bando, a famous female-role actor (onnagata, 女形)and living national treasure. 
Legendary onnagata actor Tamasaburo Bando
Even in strolling troupes that have both male and female performers, good-looking young actors are often expected to play female roles. Believe or not, this lady is also a man, and straight.

Actor Taichi Saotome 

Cross-dressers can find their places to live in the world of TV as well. The most famous transvestite TV personality these days is definitely this big man-lady Matsuko Deluxe, who can be seen anywhere, on TV, in publicity on trains, etc. Everybody loves his (her?) sharp tongue.

From here I'll write in Japanese. 


窃盗(せっとう): theft
目的(もくてき): purpose
忍び込む (しのびこむ): to sneak into
事件(じけん): incident、case


防犯カメラ(ぼうはんー): a security camera
映像 (えいぞう):video picture

女装(じょそう)する: to wear women's clothes
店員(てんいん): an employee of a shop, restaurant, cafe, etc.



必(かなら)ずしも~ではない: not necessarily
異性(いせい): people of the opposite sex


昔(むかし):ancient times
中性的 (ちゅうせいてき): androgynous 
美(び): beauty
もてはやす: to praise
傾向(けいこう): tendency


伝統芸能(でんとうげいのう): traditional performance art
歌舞伎(かぶき): kabuki
演(えん)じる: to play
役(やく): a role


役者(やくしゃ): an actor/actress
大衆演劇(たいしゅうえんげき): popular drama (a genre of Japanese theatrical art)
しばしば: often

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