‘A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese Prints’
“In many prints on display at the Japan Society,” Ian Buruma writes, “the wakashu“—beautiful youths—”are almost impossible to distinguish in dress and deportment from the female beauties in the same pictures. An exquisite woodcut by Utamaro, for example, shows an elegant woman gazing up adoringly at a young samurai. Despite his two swords, he looks like a young woman himself. What gives him away as a youth is the shaved spot on the crown of his head between his forelocks and the elaborately arranged hairdo on the back and sides. After coming of age at eighteen or nineteen, the forelocks would be cut off and the pate clean-shaven.”
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