Not That Innocent: Yoshiya Nobuko’s Good Girls

  • Sarah Frederick


We might expect that a writer who was openly lesbian in 1920s Japan would automatically quality as a “bad girl.” Yoshiya Nobuko (1896–1973) in many senses questions such an assumption. She prolifically created novels for serialization in newspapers and women’s magazines from the 1910s to the 1970s, and throughout most of her writing life she lived with a female partner Monma Chiyo, and this became widely known. It would seem likely that her fiction would defy the gender norms of her time and extol bad girls of various sorts. Yet the female characters of her girls’ fiction and romance novels exhibit hyper-typical images of “good girl” femininity rather than subvert them, and critics frequently describe her writing style as flowery (bibunchō). On the surface at least, her descriptions of pure and clean girls and women hardly overturn stereotypes and ideals of girlishness or feminine virtue. However, Yoshiya’s celebration of ultra-feminine virtue and emotional intensity did work as a criticism of and resistance against gender norms and the family system during her lifetime, and her writings help to complicate our sense of what resistance or badness might be. In particular, Yoshiya used the flexibility of fiction to construct alternative gender expectations in a way that could appeal to a broad range of readers of various sexualities and genders.


Gender Norm Female Character Woman Writer Good Girl Exclamation Point 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Yoshiya Nobuko, “Foxfire” (Onibi), trans. Lawrence Rogers, The East 36, no. 1 (May-June 2000): 41–43.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For example Yoshiya Nobuko, Zuihitsu: Watashi no mita bijintachi (Tokyo: Yomiuri Shimbunsha, 1969) and Jidenteki joryū bundanshi (Tokyo: Chūō Kōronsha, 1962).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Tanabe Seiko, Yume haruka Yoshiya Nobuko: Akitomoshi tsukue no ue no ikusanka. 2 vols. 1999. Reprinted (Tokyo: Asahi Bunko, 2002);Google Scholar
  4. Yoshiya Nobuko, Otome shōsetsu korekushon (Tokyo: Kokushokan, 2000–2003). Wasurenagusa is daylily, but its literal meaning is closer to “forget-me-not.”Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Sarah Frederick, “Sisters and Lovers: Women Magazine Readers and Sexuality in Yoshiya Nobuko’s Romance Fiction,” AJLS Proceedings 5 (Summer 1999): 311–320.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    See Jennifer Robertson, “Yoshiya Nobuko: Out and Outspoken in Practice and Prose,” in The Human Tradition in Modern Japan, ed. Anne Walthall (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2001), 169.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    Barbara Sato, The New Japanese Woman: Modernity, Media, and Women in Interwar Japan (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), 51–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 11.
    Yoshiya Nobuko, “Danpatsu oshikari no koto,” Kuroshōbi 3 (March 1925): 52–56.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Yoshiya Nobuko, “Tōsho jidai,” in Yoshiya Nobuko: Sakka no jiden, vol. 66 (Tokyo: Nihon Tosho Sentā, 1998), 33–34.Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    Jennifer Robertson, Takarazuka: Sexual Politics and Popular Culture in Modern Japan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 14.
    For detail in English see Robertson, Takarazuka, 68; Michiko Suzuki, “Developing the Female Self: Same-Sex Love, Love Marriage and Maternal Love in Modern Japanese Literature, 1910–39” (Ph.D. diss., Stanford University, 2002), 28–39.Google Scholar
  12. 15.
    See Sabine Frühstück, Colonizing Sex: Sexology and Social Control in Modern Japan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003).Google Scholar
  13. 17.
    For example see Satō Tsūga in Hayashi Sawako, “Toshokan shiryō to shite no taishū jidōbungaku o kangaeru: Yoshiya Nobuko no shōjo shōsetsu o rei ni,” Ōtani Joshidaigaku kiyō 35, no. 1.2 (March 2001): 189.Google Scholar
  14. 19.
    Yoshikawa Toyoko, “Seitō kara ‘taishū shōsetsu’ e no michi: Yoshiya Nobuko Yaneura no nishojo,” in Feminizumu hihyō e no shōtai, ed. Iwabuchi Hiroko et al. (Tokyo: Gakugei Shorin, 1995), 132.Google Scholar
  15. 20.
    Yoshiya Nobuko, Yaneura no nishojo (Tokyo: Kokushokan, 2003), 79–80. (Original publication. Tokyo: Rakuyōdō, 1920.)Google Scholar
  16. 21.
    Yoshiya Nobuko, Hana monogatari, 2nd edition (Tokyo: Kokushokan, 1995), unpaginated preface. Original publication, 1920.Google Scholar
  17. 26.
    See my “Bringing the Colonies ‘Home’: Yoshiya Nobuko’s Popular Fiction and Imperial Japan.” In Across Time & Genre, ed. Janice Brown and Sonja Arntzen (Department of East Asian Studies, Edmonton: University of Alberta, 2002), 61–64.Google Scholar
  18. 28.
    Hiromi Tsuchiya Dollase, “Early Twentieth Century Japanese Girls’ Magazine Stories: Examining Shōjo Voice in Hanamonogatari (Flower Tales),” Journal of Popular Culture 36, no. 4 (Spring 2003): 724–755.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 34.
    Yoshitake Teruko, Nyonin Yoshiya Nobuko (Tokyo: Bungei Shunjū, 1986), 32–33.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Laura Miller and Jan Bardsley 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Frederick

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations