LESBIAN JAPANESE ROMANCE
FUKUJUSOU [aka PHEASANT’S EYES]
Japan. 1935. B&W. Silent. 67 min.
Original Title: Hanamonogatari Fukujusou
This remarkable gay film fell into obscurity for over sixty years, and it was only recovered for the general public in 2009, when it was shown in the Tokio Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and at the Toronto Japanese Tow Wow Film Festival. A romance in the best tradition of ‘secret love’, Fukuhusou is a sympathetic and tender story about the flowering of lesbian love. It is not by chance that ‘Fukujusou’ is the name of a flower (Adonis Ramosa) of a luminous yellow when in bloom. Jiro Kawate’s film was adapted from a novel by the Japanese lesbian writer Nobuko Yoshiya (1896-1973). Fukujusou, also known as Pheasant’s Eyes, tells the story of a young woman and her sister-in-law, as they grow closer, and closer, and closer still, until they find each other. It is interesting that, in Japan, silent films were traditionally shown with a live commentary by a person trained for that purpose, known as a ‘Benji’. Fukujusou is one of the oldest surviving gay feature films in Asia, and this screening is an opportunity to reflect on feelings, aesthetics, and forms of storytelling which may transcend the boundaries of time and culture – think of falling in love, falling for the ‘wrong’ person, or being able to tell our stories.