Barazoku (薔薇族?), which ceased publication in October 2004 due to bankruptcy, was one of Japan's oldest and longest running monthly magazines for gay men. The title means "the rose tribe". The magazine was printed in Japanese only, and its last price was ¥1300 per issue.
Itō Bungaku, the magazine's editor since its inception, was not gay.
Gay magazines in Japan, along with much gay culture, are segregated by "type"; most are aimed at an audience with specific interests. A typical issue of Barazoku had approximately 300 pages, including several pages of glossy colour and some black and white photographs of younger, fit men in their late teens and twenties (these photographs were censored in accordance with Japan's rules, which require the obscuring of genitals and pubic hair). Despite the inclusion of pornographic pictures, however, Barazoku was not a pornographic magazine.
The bulk of a typical issue of Barazoku was made up of articles and short stories, advice, how-tos, interviews, news, arts, and community listings. In comparison with other gay magazines like Badi, Barazoku typically had fewer pictures and less manga stories and news, which may have contributed to its demise.
Much of the magazine's revenue came from the "personal ads" - advertisements placed by readers in search of romantic attachments, friends or sex partners. Such advertisements have long been a popular way for gay men to meet each other in Japan, but the advent of the internet, with its free dating sites, also contributed to the magazine's eventual end, especially when such sites became accessible from mobile phones.
Along with the rise in use of the internet and a decrease in paid advertising, Barazoku blamed its demise on the increasing inclusion of gay news in mainstream publications.
Barazoku was Japan's oldest gay magazine, and was in print for 33 years. First published in 1971, Barazoku was known as a trailblazer for other gay publications and a leader in Japanese gay culture, boasting celebrity fans including Akihiro Miwa, a drag queen rumored to have been a lover of famed author Yukio Mishima. During its 33 years, the magazine survived mainstream disapproval, legal injunctions, and numerous arrests of its founder and editor, Bungaku Itō.
Barazoku was the first gay magazine in Asia to be sold at mainstream bookshops, such as Kinokuniya. It became such a cultural phenomenon that its title has entered the mainstream language as a synonym for "gay".
In its early years, the magazine published anonymous work by some of Japan’s most famous poets and authors, and artwork by Goto Mishima. Founder Ito's determination to fight discrimination led the magazine to publish an interview with Japan’s first known AIDS sufferer when the mainstream media refused to address the issue.
The demise of Barazoku may come as a blow to gays in isolated communities in Japan: the magazine's strongest sales came from small, independent bookshops in such areas. According to Ito, "When we told readers that this would be the last issue, I received a letter that just said: 'Your magazine has helped untold numbers of us out of the hell of isolation.'"
- Lewis, Leo and Tim Teeman: "Voice of gay Japan falls silent after 30 years in the pink"
- Mackintosh, Jonathan D. Itō Bungaku and the Solidarity of the Rose Tribes (Barazoku): Stirrings of Homo Solidarity in Early 1970s Japan Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context Issue 12, January 2006
- Barazoku website
- Connell, Ryann (2007-04-20). Iconic gay magazine has revolving door installed in financial closet (English). Mainichi Shimbun. Archived from the original on 2007-05-14. Retrieved on 2007-04-20.
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