• Japanese: 陰間 (kagema)

Kagema were young male prostitutes, often closely associated with the kabuki theater, during the Edo period.

Many kagema were teenage kabuki actors (wakashû, who had not yet come-of-age and become adults) who were still in training, and generally remained in the background of kabuki scenes, or even off-stage, "in the shadows" (kage no ma). They were something of a continuation of the early 17th century tradition of wakashû kabuki, in which actors performed on stage during the day, and entertained clients at night; after the 1650s, most actors no longer engaged in prostitution, but this one category of younger (wakashû) actors, the kagema, continued to do so. Unconnected to the pleasure quarters (brothel districts) where officially licensed female (and some male) prostitutes operated, the kagema were generally hired via the shibai jaya (theater teahouses); these were also known as kagema jaya (kagema teahouses) or kodomoya ("child houses").

Male prostitutes generally do not appear in official economic records the way female prostitutes do, and discussions about their moral impact upon communities centered on rather different concerns.[1]

Some number of female prostitutes also dressed as young men (i.e. as wakashu or kagema) in order to serve clients to whom that aesthetic appealed. These women were known as kagema onna ("kagema women") or as wakashû jôrô (young-male female-prostitutes).


  • Joshua Mostow, "Wakashu as a Third Gender and Gender Ambiguity through the Edo Period," in Mostow and Asato Ikeda (eds.), A Third Gender, Royal Ontario Museum (2016), 19-39.
  1. Amy Stanley, "Introduction," Selling Women: Prostitution, Markets, and the Household in Early Modern Japan, UC Press (2012), 15-16.