For years, the Japanese equivalent of the “spaghetti kiss” popularized by <i>Lady and the Tramp</i> has been the Pocky kiss. And recently the Internet is filling up with boys using Pocky to work out their homoerotic longings for each other.
What foods do you consider to be most sexy or associate with amorous activity? Oysters? Bananas? Perhaps strawberries dipped in chocolate? How about crumbly, flavorless breadsticks to feverishly jam down your loved one's vacant maw?
That's right. I'm talking about Pocky.
For a few centuries now, Japanese teenagers and office ladies alike have been going apeshit over extremely thin breadsticks dipped in chocolate, a.k.a. Pocky.
First sold in 1966 in Japan, Pocky is a treat that is very popular throughout Asia. It typically comes in packages of 15 stick-like biscuits—pretty much tasteless—that are partially dipped in chocolate. Today there are 300 variations in myriad flavors, including azuki bean, green tea, melon, caramel, black sesame, and beyond. They're pretty good for blowing some time or gouging out the eyes of one's enemies.
What does this have to do with love, romance, and, most importantly, sex? Well, for years now, the Japanese equivalent of the "spaghetti kiss"—you know the age old standby where two dogs come from different ends of the same strand of spaghetti to meet in a kiss—is the Pocky kiss.
Yes, the spaghetti kiss has come a long way since those Dickensian gutter pups from the 1955 film Lady and the Tramp signaled its meteoric rise to prominence. Over the course of the 60 years, the antiquated Hollywood mainstay went through countless bastardizations before making its way to the Land of the Sun. Although there is no real way to say for certain exactly where the Pocky kiss originated, the precursor to the meme that is the spaghetti kiss is probably your safest bet.
The Pocky kiss is now found in anime, YouTube videos, and countless middle school parties throughout Japan and most of Asia.
And while you might not find Pocky, its romantic subculture, and resulting party games like the Pocky kiss to be worth more than a cursory mention—we agree, it's nothing new—there is a new variation on the meme that seems to be sweeping through schools in Japan like the dreaded Tamagotchi did in the '90s.
A group of Pocky enthusiasts have begun to creep up online and elsewhere that are amalgamating their love of the coated biscuit sticks with all things bishōnen and yaoi.
Bishonen—or bishi—means "beautiful boy" and is a cultural thing in Japan. Everything from kabuki theater to glam bands have embraced this emblem of beauty and refinement. And little girls like to go crazy for it too.
Similarly, yaoi means "boy's love" or BL and it is a somewhat pervasive genre of anime and manga in Japan that focuses on romantic relationships between male characters.
See where I'm going here? The Internet is filling up with boys using Pocky to work out their homoerotic longings for each other, much to the pleasure of little girls who are watching from the privacy of their computer-screen lit bedrooms.
In the typical boy-kisses-boy Pocky upload, a group of school-uniform-wearing young men challenge each other to a Pocky kiss. Amid laughter and carousing, two pretty young things chomp away at two ends of a Pocky and share an all-male kiss on the lips. In other videos, girls shriek while pop stars engage in the game. It's becoming a feature on Japanese television.
And these videos are popular. One Pocky boy clip uploaded by Vine user yoh!, has netted a staggering 13,234,072 loops as of this afternoon. There's even a compilation of male-on-male Pocky kisses made on International Pocky Day.
And just in case you wanted to send your mind into a near endless vortex of multicultural existentialism, why not watch two women cosplaying as male characters from a popular anime series, flip the script and seriously swap some Pocky?
Where's this all coming from?
Well, there's a long tradition of homoeroticism in Japanese culture, even though more than half of the Japanese population says that they oppose gay marriage. Monastic same-sex love, or nanshoku relationships, go way back in Buddhist temples and often involved an older partner, or nenja, and a young acolyte. Same sex love has been documented in the samurai tradition, with the relationship being deemed a "brotherhood contract."
So let's just say that the Pocky kisses that are spreading throughout YouTube are the latest in a long and venerable tradition of homoeroticism in Japan. Still, same sex marriage is illegal in Japan and discrimination against gays and lesbians in Japan is still common. So, what gives?
Well, there's only so much one snack food can do in changing attitudes that have been entrenched for generations. But maybe the viral spread of the newfangled version of the Pocky kiss—between boys—will change attitudes as it moves homoeroticism in Japan out of the closet and onto the Internet, where everyone can see it.