The Strange Predicament

“He found himself in the strange predicament all sailors share: essentially he belonged neither to the land nor to the sea. Possibly a man who hates the land should dwell on shore forever. Alienation and the long voyages at sea will compel him once again to dream of it, torment him with the absurdity of longing for something that he loathes…”

The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea

Yukio Mishima

 
 

Yukio Mishima and Henry Scott Stokes on the beach

Good-Bye, Men of Nippon!

Tamotsu Yato (矢頭 保 Yatō Tamotsu, 1928(?) – May 1973) was a Japanese photographer and occasional actor responsible for pioneering Japanese homoerotic photography and creating iconic black-and-white images of the Japanese male. He was a friend and collaborator of the writer Yukio Mishima and the film critic Donald Richie, as well as a long-term romantic partner of Meredith Weatherby, an expatriate American publisher and translator of Mishima’s works into English. Yato completed three volumes of photography:

Taidō: Nihon no bodibirudā-tachi (体道:日本のボディビルダーたち). Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1966; English version: Young Samurai: Bodybuilders of Japan, New York: Grove Press, 1967. With an introduction by Yukio Mishima.

Hadaka matsuri (裸祭り). Tokyo: Bijutsu Shuppansha, 1969; English version: Naked festival: A Photo-Essay, New York/Tokyo: John Weatherhill, 1968. With an introduction by Yukio Mishima and essays by Tatsuo HagiwaraMutsuro Takahashi, and Kozo Yamaji. Translated and adapted for Western readers by Meredith Weatherby and Sachiko Teshima.

Otoko: Photo-Studies of the Young Japanese Male, Los Angeles: Rho-Delta Press, 1972. Dedicated to the memory of Yukio Mishima.

Even though Yato’s work received only a limited public distribution, it has attained a cult following and has been acknowledged as a major influence by a number of artists working with male erotica. Thus, Sadao Hasegawa remarks in his Paradise Visions: “Tamotsu Yato achieved fame by creating Otoko (Man) a picture book. He photographed Yukio Mishima, nude. His subjects: traditional, muscular, unsophisticated countryside men, are mostly extinct today. Otoko was valuable because you could see these long-bodied, stout-legged, cropped hair, square-jawed men… Good-bye, men of Nippon!”

 
 

 

Ordeal by Roses

“To me photography can be simultaneously both a record and a ‘mirror’ or ‘window’ of self-expression.”

 Eikoh Hosoe

 
 

Yukio Mishima photographed by Eikoh Hosoe

 
 

Bara (薔薇, “rose”), also known as the wasei-eigo (English words coined in Japan) construction “Men’s Love” (メンズラブ) or ML, is a Japanese jargon term for a genre of art and fictional media that focuses on male same-sex love, usually created by gay men for a gay audience. The term bara in relation to gay material for men originated in the 1960s, possibly as a result of Bara kei (Ordeal by Roses, published in 1961), a collection of semi-nude photographs of the gay author Yukio Mishima by photographer Eikoh Hosoe, and was reinforced by the early and influential gay men’s magazine Barazoku (薔薇族, lit. “rose tribe”), founded in 1971 and the first gay magazine in Asia to be sold at mainstream bookshops.

 
 

Killed by Roses or Ordeal by Roses (Bara-kei, 1961–1962). The series of dark, erotic images centered on the male body  was set in Mishima’s Tokyo house, positions Mishima in melodramatic poses.

 
 

Born inJapan in 1933, he decided to become a photographer at age 18. Since then Mr. Hosoe has been established himself as an internationally acclaimed photographer and professor. Mr. Hosoe has consistently pursued personal original directions in his work, focusing on the dialogue between men and women, life and death, the supernatural, theatre, and the nude and the landscape. His photographs have been recognized in major exhibitions spanning Asia, Australia, Europe, and the US, at venues including the Yokohama Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institute, the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House, the Museum of Modern Art, the International Center for Photography, and The Ikeda Museum of 20th Century Art. The Howard Greenberg Gallery has long represented his work in NYC. The many books of his work include Man and Woman; A Place Called Hiroshima; Ba-ra-kei: Ordeal by Roses; Eikoh Hosoe: Aperture Masters of Photography; Embrace; Butterfly Dream, and recently re-released by Aperture, Kamaitachi. Hosoe has been the director of the Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts (Kiyosato, Yamanashi), since it’s opening in 1995. He has lead workshops in Japan and abroad.

Homoerotic photography has also been accredited as contributing to the bara genre, with Tamotsu Yatō and Haga Kuro mentioned by Tagame in particular.

 
 

*More photographs by Heikoh Hosoe on The Genealogy of the Style‘s Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.599051250183652.1073741829.597542157001228&type=1&l=0d4956a127