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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



This thesis addresses popular works of fiction written or produced near or after 1989 in Japan and examines the roles that sexual orientation, gender and 20th century social and discursive history have had on the conceptualization of familial relations in postwar Japan. This thesis will analyze the means by which writers and artists during the 1980s and 1990s have engaged discourses of family in their works and will argue that these writers explicitly use queer (hereby defined as non-heterosexual and/or non-gender conforming) individuals and narratives to question, reshape and propose alternatives to culturally received images of heterosexual marriage and the nuclear family model. In Japan, the earliest legal model of family was the ie or house system, which codified earlier social structures that had existed amongst the samurai class of the Edo period (1600-1868) and enshrined the concept of male primogeniture into law. This was changed after World War II, when the Ie system was abolished and replaced by a model of conjugal (nuclear) familial relations. This new model of household organization was promoted by the Allied Occupation, major businesses and corporations, and the postwar Japanese government, and its attendant gendered division of labor was the foundation upon which Japan recovered economically in the postwar period and remade itself as an export-driven, capitalist country in the 1960s and 1970s. This model of family, however, has come under increased socioeconomic pressure as a result of the 1990 real estate market bubble bursting and subsequent economic contraction, as well as by continuing demographic trends that indicate a long-term, decreasing population. This thesis will argue that the model of familial relations propagated during the postwar period, particularly during the 1960s and 1970s is ideologically rooted in a historically contingent model of sanctioned heterosexual relations, and that through examining depictions of those precluded from these sanctioned relations, a better understanding of the operation of gender, sexuality and familial relations as they operate in the Japanese popular and cultural spheres can be achieved.


First Advisor

Stephen Miller

Second Advisor

Amanda Seaman