Yaoi fans are unified by a common interest in Japan as a country and its culture. This paper suggests that yaoi acts as an available cultural model representing Japaneseness. By attending to yaoi manga fan activities this paper contributes to the relatively new debate regarding the relationships and activities of yaoi fans rather than an exclusive reader-text approach. Gender and sexuality has been a major focus of yaoi manga research but online discussions do not always focus on fans’ identifications with sexuality, either the characters’ or their own. This paper proposes that Japanese culture is a key element to yaoi fans’ community participation. The fans’ understanding and interpretation of Japan is presented in a five stage process. Japan and Japanese culture has come into existence through the fans’ interpretations and discussions of yaoi manga content as well as wider Japanese culture. As a result, fans filter what they know and trust through stereotypes, their own beliefs, and the information given by others. The fandom’s interpretation is on the whole distinct from a reading of Japan as a complex identity or place without any single authentic narrative. Rather Japan is found in a process of interaction and explanation amongst fans. By showing how Japan and Japaneseness can be articulated and understood online this work provides an alternative to the binaries of particularism and universalism when considering broader issues such as community in fandom studies. It demonstrates that there can be a theoretical model situated between the real Japan and the virtual thus successfully transgressing essentialism.
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