Kitakyushu: Hub for Boys' Love (BL) Culture in Japan - Must Visit?

Kitakyushu: Hub for Boys' Love (BL) Culture in Japan - Must Visit?

watched Dear Kitakyushu?

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In October 2023, Kitakyushu, a city in Japan's Fukuoka Prefecture, played host to the filming of the Thai BL (Boys' Love) movie "Dear Kitakyushu." Supported by the Kitakyushu Film Commission, the movie was shot at about ten locations within the city, showcasing its scenic and urban landscapes. The film had its world premiere on December 14, 2023, at the Kitakyushu International Film Festival, highlighting the city's growing prominence in the BL genre.


Understanding BL and Its Origins in Japan


BL, or Boys' Love, is a genre of fictional media that portrays romantic and sometimes sexual relationships between male characters. It primarily targets a female audience and has a significant following both in Japan and internationally. The term "BL" originated in 1991 when a publishing company used "BOY'S LOVE COMIC(ボーイズラブコミック)" as a marketing phrase. Fans of BL, particularly women, are sometimes referred to as "fujoshi/腐女子" a term that translates to "rotten girls," indicating their deep, often enthusiastic engagement with the BL genre.


Another term for BL in Japan is "yaoi," often abbreviated to "801," which stands for "yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi" (no climax, no punchline, no meaning). This phrase reflects the early yaoi manga's focus on depicting scenes that the author desired to draw, often emphasizing male-male romantic or sexual relationships without a structured plot. While BL and yaoi are sometimes used interchangeably, yaoi is often more explicit in its depiction of sexual content.


(FYI: In addition to BL and yaoi, Japanese media sometimes references other genres with numeric designations, such as "893," which refers to yakuza (Japanese organized crime). The number 893 is derived from a traditional Japanese card game where the numbers 8 (ya), 9 (ku), and 3 (sa) are considered an unlucky hand, thus symbolizing the outlaw status of yakuza members. This cultural code underscores the distinctiveness of BL and yaoi within the broader spectrum of Japanese entertainment and the specificity of numeric symbols in conveying genre content.)


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BL Culture in Modern Japan


BL culture has deep roots in Japan and has been gaining international recognition. The genre encompasses various media forms, including manga, anime, novels, and live-action dramas. In 2023, one of the notable BL dramas was "Kimi ni wa Todokanai/君には届かない" (I Cannot Reach You), which aired on TBS. Starring Kentaro Maeda and Yuto Kashiwagi from the idol group Chotokkyu, the drama is based on Mika's manga of the same name. It tells the story of Yamato, a handsome and popular high school student, and Kakeru, his ordinary yet cheerful childhood friend. The series focuses on their evolving relationship and the unspoken feelings between them.



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The adaptation received widespread acclaim despite the common skepticism surrounding live-action versions of beloved manga. Fans praised the actors' chemistry and the faithful portrayal of the manga's delicate emotional landscape. Positive comments online highlighted the drama's ability to capture the pure and heartwarming essence of the characters' relationship.


Kitakyushu's Role in BL Media


Kitakyushu's significance in the BL world was further cemented with the production of "Dear Kitakyushu," a Thai BL film shot in the city. The movie centers on a Thai man who visits Japan for work and meets a Japanese man, leading to a deepening romantic relationship. Key filming locations included the iconic Wakato Bridge, Tomie no Hana, Tanga Market, and The Steel House, providing a rich backdrop for the film's narrative.


During the premiere at the Kitakyushu International Film Festival, the city’s mayor, Kazuhisa Takeuchi, expressed his vision of establishing Kitakyushu as a central hub for BL works. His declaration was met with enthusiastic applause from the audience, signaling strong support for the city's new cultural direction. The event featured a stage greeting by the film's cast and crew, including director David, producer Oh, lead actor Mark Siwat, and Japanese co-stars Souta Uemura and Mikiyo Nakajima. They shared their experiences and thoughts on the project, emphasizing the heartfelt themes and the significance of the filming locations.


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Expanding BL Culture: Events and Tourism


Kitakyushu's growing association with BL culture is not limited to film productions. The city has been actively promoting itself as a destination for BL fans. For instance, in February 2024, actors Mark Siwat and Souta Uemura visited Kitakyushu for a pilgrimage tour video shoot, exploring the film's various shooting locations and local gourmet spots. They even tried on flamboyant local costumes, adding a touch of local color to the promotional activities.


Such events not only boost local tourism but also foster a deeper connection between fans and the places featured in their favorite BL media. Kitakyushu's efforts to brand itself as a BL-friendly city reflect a broader trend of leveraging pop culture for tourism and cultural exchange.


BL Shopping and Consumption in Japan


Are you travelling to Japan? Are you a big BL fan? Ever heard of BL cafe?


For those interested in purchasing BL works, Japan offers a variety of options both online and in physical stores. Some of the notable BL Dojinshi (self made comic) physical event and online platforms include:


- J Garden: A specialized store for BL manga and related merchandise.

Schedule: Held twice a year (planned for March-April and October-November)

Location: Tokyo Big Sight (Koto Ward)

Scale:1,500 circles invited

Organizer: J.GARDEN Executive Office, 3-9-6-3F Higashi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo 170-0013

Event Cooperation: COMITIA Executive Committee


- Comicomi Studio: Run by Chuo shoten in Kawaguchi, Saitama. Offers a wide range of BL comics and doujinshi.

- Animate: A popular store with branches nationwide, known for its extensive selection of BL and anime merchandise.

- Toranoana: Another popular store with branches nationwide.

- Chiru Chiru (Horin Love Books): Run by Torico with manga events, branches in Singapore, Taiwan etc. Another well-known online store catering to BL fans.


Physical stores such as Lashinban in Kobe Sannomiya, and nationwide chains like Toranoana and Animate, also provide a comprehensive selection of BL works. Animate, in particular, is noted for its slightly lower prices compared to other stores, making it a popular choice among fans.


The Future of BL in Kitakyushu


Kitakyushu's foray into the BL genre through projects like "Dear Kitakyushu" marks the beginning of a potentially long and fruitful association with BL culture. As the city continues to attract BL productions and related events, it is poised to become a central hub for BL enthusiasts. This development not only boosts the local economy but also enhances cultural exchange and understanding through the universal themes of love and relationship portrayed in BL works.


By embracing and promoting BL culture, Kitakyushu is setting a precedent for other cities, demonstrating the potential of pop culture to foster community engagement and international recognition. As BL continues to gain popularity worldwide, Kitakyushu's strategic positioning as a welcoming and supportive environment for BL media will likely attract more fans and creators, solidifying its status as a pivotal location in the global BL landscape.


Source: FBS news

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