Class S (クラスS Kurasu Esu?), or "S kankei",[1] abbreviated either as S or Esu (エス?), is an early twentieth century Japanese wasei-eigo term specifically used to refer to strong emotional bonds between schoolgirls,[2] and a genre of girl's fiction (少女小説 shōjo shōsetsu?) which tells stories about the same, particularly a mutual crush between an upperclassman and an underclassman.[3] The S is an abbreviation that can stand for "sister", "shōjo" (少女?, lit. young girl), "sex",[3] "schöne", and "escape".[2]

Class S had links to the Takarazuka Revue,[3] an all-women revue established in 1914,[4] in which women play men romancing women played by women.[5] In this particular style of love, the women who have been influenced by Takarazuka return to their daily lives and develop crushes on their female classmates or coworkers. This type of romance was typically seen as fleeting and more of a phase in growing up rather than true homosexual behavior;[4] as long as these relationships remained confined to adolescence they were regarded as normal, even spiritual.[2] These relationships were common, and it has been proposed that eight out of ten schoolgirls had Class S relationships.[6] Dōseiai (同性愛?, "same sex/gender love") was another term coined at the turn of the 20th century to describe same-sex female relationships; both of two feminine partners and of a masculine and feminine partner (also called ome).[7] It was suggested in the popular media of the time that the Takarazuka otokoyaku (the woman playing the masculine role) caused women in Class S relationships to become ome couples (butch and femme), and persist in homosexual relationships long after it was acceptable.[3] Robertson sums this up in her theory, saying that "many females are attracted to the Takarazuka otokoyaku because she represents an exemplary female who can negotiate successfully both genders and their attendant roles and domains."[8]

The creation of girls schools was very rapid at the time: by 1913 there were 213 such schools. The western novels Little Women and A Little Princess were translated into Japanese in 1906 and 1910 respectively, in order to educate the girls to become "good wives, wise mothers". However, these works also introduced western concepts of sisterhood, sentimentalism, and romance to the girls of Japan. The tomboyish Jo of Little Women particularly gave Japanese girls a different idea of adolescence.[4] In 1936, Class S stories were banned by the Japanese government.[6] As co-educational schools became more prominent, Class S relationships became more discreet.[1]

An influential Class S author was Nobuko Yoshiya, a lesbian Japanese novelist active in the Taishō and Shōwa periods of Japan, who was involved in the Bluestocking feminist movement.[9] A modern-day yuri light novel series which strongly borrows from the Class S genre is Maria-sama ga Miteru. It is considered to be a modern equivalent to Yoshiya's Hana monogatari.[10]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Shamoon, Deborah (1 January 2009). "The Second Coming of Shôjo". HESO Magazine. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Subramian, Erin. "Women-loving Women in Modern Japan". Yuricon. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Robertson, Jennifer (August 1992). "The Politics of Androgyny in Japan: Sexuality and Subversion in the Theater and Beyond". American Ethnologist (3 ed.) 19 (3): 427. doi:10.1525/ae.1992.19.3.02a00010. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Dollase, Hiromi (2003). "Early Twentieth Century Japanese Girls' Magazine Stories: Examining Shōjo Voice in Hanamonogatari (Flower Tales)". The Journal of Popular Culture 36 (4): 724–755. OCLC 1754751. doi:10.1111/1540-5931.00043. 
  5. Randall, Bill (May 15, 2003). "Three By Moto Hagio". The Comics Journal (252). Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 McHarry, Mark (November 2003). "Yaoi: Redrawing Male Love" ([dead link]). The Guide. 
  7. Robertson, Jennifer (1999). "Dying to tell: Sexuality and suicide in Imperial Japan.". Signs 25 (1): 1–35. doi:10.1086/495412. 
  8. Robertson, Jennifer (1998). Takarazuka: Sexual Politics and Popular Culture in Modern Japan. University of California Press (Berkeley, California: University of California Press). ISBN 0-520-21150-2.  More than one of |location= and |place= specified (help)
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