Wakashu (literally “young companions”) was a standard stage of life for all men – they did not yet have the social responsibilities of an adult, but were considered sexually mature. As a third gender, wakashu had a unique appearance. Some of them had sexual relationships with adult men as well as women. And some wakashu were prostitutes for both. Their fluid sexual role was not transgressive, but was an established part of Edo social structure.

Youth on a Long-Tailed Turtle as Urashima Tarõ – A Wakashu depicted as a legendary fisherman.

#3rdGender (at Royal Ontario Museum)

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