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CUT'S BOTH WAYS: the secret love of the SAMURAI

In all honesty, what historical figurehead has inspired awe and reverence as the Japanese Samurai has? Face it, the Samurai has achieved a near-mythical status, and has penetrated every facet of Western popular culture and entertainment. We have embraced Hagakure, or the way of the Samurai, as a definitive ideology nurturing nobility and honour above all. The Samurai is a peerless warrior, a cultured noble, and as romantic a figure as has ever been recorded in the annals of history. Nine-year-olds can relate an overview of the hagakure, and identify the many battle techniques of these immortal figures. In the Samurai some find a kindred spirit, others find a mentor, but everyone thinks that they know all aspects of the Samurai.

There exists, however, a reality behind the Samurai that has been all but hidden in the darkest depths of the historical abyss.
It has been called “the love that dare not speak its name”. It was the physical and sexual bond between an older warrior and a younger male apprentice that was nurtured during the teenage years of the boy’s apprenticeship.
It is called Wakashudo, and it is an integral and fundamental aspect of the life of a Samurai.

And that pain you now feel in your chin is called a floor, which has undoubtedly ended the momentum of your rapidly opening mouth.
Irony isn’t defined much more precisely than through revelations like this one. Yes, the Samurai warrior—accepted as the truest and worthiest of heroes by the roughest and most grounded of individuals in Trinidad—was gay. Gay, and by our Western definitions, a pedophile and child-molester. And he held this status proudly, even jealously for in his mind, and the minds of those he protected, no love was purer or more desirable than homosexuality.

Samurai Wakashudo had its early beginnings in the Kamakura period in the 1200s. Directly translated, it means “the way of the youth”. Also called Bi-do (snicker), or “the beautiful way”, it was a practice engaged in by all members of the Samurai class. While lowly travelling warriors (like the digital destroyer Haohmaru from Samurai Shodown fame) would eventually find a student/sexual partner in their later years, a daimyo, or Samurai Lord, would have quite a harem, comprising of fledgling students and favoured boys from his village protectorate.
It was expected of the youth to make the advance. If the warrior found him to be a suitable consort, a relationship would be forged. It was both a physical and emotional bond, and one that was held on the highest pedestal of Samurai honour. It was considered shameful not to find a male suitor before the age of 18. At this coming of age, the relationship would become platonic, and the newly-ordained Samurai would be allowed to take the role of pedagogue to his chosen students. However, though most Samurai would pursue the hearts of fair maidens, many would continue in a lifelong affair with their master.

In light of this, the utterly noble act of hara-kiri becomes more understandable. In many cases, the all-too-loyal act of ritual suicide after failing to save the life of one’s master was as much an act of penance by a depressed lover as it was a rite of utmost devotion.

Come on. You don’t think I’m gay do you?
Wakashudo declined and died as a doctrine in the mid-1600s after Japan’s warring factions were unified and the importance of the warrior noble diminished. Indeed, what was once an elite privilege evolved to a vice of commoners that was frowned upon.
Kagema, or boy actors dressed as little girls, vied for the affection of lusty merchants and deviants, and homosexuality in Japan became as infamous as it is to our Western sensibilities.

Say what you will, but the homo-erotic undertones of the Samurai have been anything but invisible to even the most casual fans of the group. Roruoni Kenshin, the resourceful and taciturn hero of Samurai X, has the most effeminate of profiles. His master, on the other hand, is a broad-shouldered charmer. Such was the desired pairing. Ukyo, the ultra-cheap nemesis in the video game classic, Samurai Shodown, has been given every derogatory gay moniker possible by fans of the game—even those who strive to perfect his unorthodox fighting style. An even better example of a desirable peer was the inimitable, umbrella-wielding Shizimaru. Players would often debate on the true gender of this character from the same game.

Fans of Jet-Li’s Buddhist monk escapades, take heed. Homosexuality was also quite popular between masters and students in the famous temples. Indeed, most Greek nobles and warriors, like Maximus—the hero from the film Gladiator—took part in such pederasty, and practised with young boys the techniques that they would use to woo the original divas like Helen of Troy. Gay is not young.

So you have been educated. Far be it for me to say that your love for the Samurai way of life (the part that doesn’t conflict your sexuality) has now been invalidated. The Samurai embodies a spirit that cannot be categorised by contemporary mentalities, or even our most accepted schools of thought.

So what if Shi-Shio was a flagpole-sitter? Would you even whisper “fassy” within a ten-mile radius of the guy? I wouldn’t—just as I have avoided using the 147 funny-guy jokes that just popped into my mind while writing this. Let it be a testimony to the fact that there is always more to an object than meets the eye.

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