And kanji with manga
Sunday, February 4, 2018

josou 女装

In Japanese, josou 女装 normally means crossdressing, in the sense of guys wearing "female clothes." The opposite, girls wearing "male clothes," is called dansou 男装, but it's less common in anime.

Koibuchi Kuranosuke 鯉淵蔵之介 crossdresser anime character from Kuragehime 海月姫
Character: Koibuchi Kuranosuke 鯉淵蔵之介
Anime: "Princess Jellyfish," Kuragehime 海月姫 (Episode 2)


The word josou 女装 is written with the kanji for the word "woman," onna 女, and clothing, like in an "attire," ishou 衣装.

You can guess from the meaning of the kanji that josou means "female clothes," and it does, but it's often used to mean crossdressing instead.

By the way, dansou 男装 is the same thing, but with the kanji for the word "man," otoko 男 instead.

A third and less used term, iseisou 異性装, means "different gender clothes," just like isekai 異世界 means "different world," and works as a neutral term for crossdressing.


The word josou can be used as a suru-verb to say "to crossddress." Observe:

  • josou suru
    (For a guy) to crossdress.
  • josou saseru
    To force [a guy] to crossdress. (causative form.)
  • josou saserareru
    (For a guy) to be forced to crossdress. (passive causative form.)

Onnamono 女物

Sometimes characters will say "to crossdress" by saying "wear female clothes" instead. This sounds odd in English, but there are in fact a bunch of Japanese words that can refer to female clothes, for example:

  • onna no fuku 女の服
    A woman's clothes.
    Women's clothes.
  • josei no fuku 女性の服
    josei-fuku 女性服
    Female clothes.
  • josei-you no fuku 女性用の服
    Clothes for women's use.
    Clothes intended for women to use, not men.
  • onnamono 女物
    "Women's things." Anything made for a woman to wear. Includes wristwatches, etc.
  • onnamono no fuku 女物の服
    "Clothes that are women's things." Clothes made for a woman to wear.

So you could say any of this stuff plus the verb "to wear" to have a phrase like:

  • josei-fuku wo kiru 女性服を着る
    To wear women's clothes.

Note, however, that in Japanese when you're talking about wearing shoes, the verb is haku 履く, and any clothes you put on by passing through your legs is haku 穿く, same word written with a different kanji, although people normally just use the first one and ignore the latter, so I'm going to do so too.

Notable examples:

  • panthii wo haku
    To wear panties. (because you put your legs through the panties.)
  • sukaato wo haku
    To wear a skirt. (despite what you may have heard, you don't put them on through your head.)
  • oobaa-nii wo haku
    To wear over-the-knee socks.
    • With this we have a Zettai Ryouiki.
    • *clap clap clap*
    • omedetou おめでとう
  • hai-hiiru wo haku
    To wear high-heels.

Onna no Kakkou 女の格好

Besides saying "to crossdress" by referring to the clothes, it's also possible, in Japanese, to say "to crossdress" by reference to the appearance of a woman.

It's because Japanese is weird like that.

  • kakkou 格好
    Appearance. How someone, or something, looks like.
  • onna no kakkou 女の格好
    A woman's appearance.
    The appearance of a woman.
    How a woman looks.
  • onna no kakkou wo suru 女の格好をする
    To make it the appearance of a woman.
    • To wear an outfit that makes you look like a woman, thereby making your appearance that of a woman.
    • To crossdress.
  • josei no kakkou wo suru 女性の格好をする
    (same thing as above.)
  • joshi no kakkou wo suru 女子の格好をする
    (almost same thing as above.)
    • joshi 女子
      Girl. (generally young.)
    • In an anime set in high school, a guy dressing up as a high school girl is looking like a joshi.
    • See: Joshi-Kousei.

Note that, in anime, a guy that looks like a girl is called an otokonoko 男の娘, a.k.a. a "trap," and he doesn't necessarily crossdresss. Furthermore, if the character literally becomes a woman, as in, his body turns into a woman's, the term is nyotaika 女体化 instead.

The word sugata 姿 is used to refer to someone's "appearance" while they're wearing an outfit. For example:

  • kimono-sugata 着物姿
    Somebody's appearance while wearing a kimono.
    • kimono-sugata de arawareta 着物姿で現れた
      Showed up with a kimono-wearing appearance.
      Showed up wearing a kimono.
  • josou-sugata 女装姿
    Somebody's appearance while crossdressing.

Josou danshi 女装男子

To people that are crossdressing at a certain point in time, or events, etc.:

  • josou dansei 女装男性
    Guys (men) who crossdress.
  • dansou josei 男装女性
    Girls (women) who crossdress.
  • josou danshi 女装男子
    Boys who crossdress.
    • An old man who crossdresses isn't a josou danshi, he's a josou dansei.
  • dansou joshi 男装女子
    Girls who crossdress.
    • Similarly, joshi implies it's someone young, not old.

Specifically in anime, you'd have:

  • josou kyara 女装キャラ
    Crossdressing (male) character.

And of course you can put josou before anything and it will mean it's a guy crossdressing somehow. And if you put dansou it's a girl crossdressing. You get it.

  • josou meido 女装メイド
    Crossdressing maid.

Josoko 女装子

When referring to people that actually crossdress all the time, the terms change. One such term is:

  • josoko 女装子
    Crossdresser. (guy who crossdresses.)

Note that this word is read as joso-ko じょそこ, not josou-ko じょそうこ like the rest. It refers to a crossdresser for a hobby, or profession, and it works just like the words odori-ko 踊り子, "dancer." For details, see how ko 子 works in Japanese. Similar words include:

  • josouka 女装家
    • The ka 家 implies it's their craft.
    • This term is less common than josoko. Both terms often refer to people who work as crossdressers, like TV personalities, etc.
  • josousha 女装者
    Crossdresser. (the sha 者 just means "person" and doesn't imply anything. This term is more generic and way less common.)

The next terms you're probably never going to see in anime, but since they have to do with crossdressers I thought I may as well write them here.

  • AG (ei-jii エイ・ジー)
    ootogainefiria オートガイネフィリア
    • This refers to the "male crossdressing fetish," or a reason why crossdresssers exist.
    • The following word is a less used synonym:
      Self-female-ization-sexual-attraction. (literally.)

There are also terms to refer to the intervals of time in which a crossdresser is crossdressing, a perhaps assuming a female persona, to to the time they aren't. They are:

  • A面 (eemen エー・メン)
    Side-A (in music).
    The crossdressing side of a josoko,
  • B面 (biimen ビー・メン)
    The non-crossdressing side of a josoko.
    • Example: his B-side is a shop clerk, when he's not crossdressing, he is a shop clerk.

Josou Seme 女装攻め

The term josou seme 女装攻め means basically "crossdressing top" in gay fiction.

To elaborate: seme and uke mean more-or-less "top" and "bottom" when it comes to fiction (see tachi, neko タチ, ネコ for real people), and josou seme is one type of seme.

Since most manga-related gay fiction, BL, yaoi, is made and consumed by girls with perverted imaginations, the fujoshi 腐女子, who happen to be straight, not gay, they end up heteronormalizing gay relationships such that a guy who dresses up like a girl is "the girl" in the relationship: he's the bottom, uke, most of the time.

The word josou-seme is used when that's not the case: the guy crossdressing isn't the bottom, but the top, despite dressing up like a girl he takes the role of "the guy" in the ship.

  • seme ga josou shiteiru bii-eru, fumuke sakuhin
    BL, fujoshi-targeted artwork [in which] the seme is crossdressing.

Crossdressing in Anime

If you have watched too much anime you may have noticed that there's a lot of crossdressing in anime for some reason. But why? Why guys crossdress so much in anime? And girls, too, to a lesser extent?

The first and foremost reason is fanservice.

This may sound weird since fanservice is often about awkward underwear shots out of nowhere, low camera angles, and girls clothes getting ripped off randomly, but hear me out.

Fanservice can be fanservice for basically any kind of moe. Some people consider crossdressing moe. In particular, fujoshi, girls into gay shipping, consider crossdressing moe. So most crossdressing scenes you'll find in anime are put there for them.

This is just like how authors sometimes put a random tsundere character just because. For many, that may sound like just a trope, for some, tsundere characters suck, but to a few people tsundere are moe, so it's there for them.


For reference, some anime crossdressing tropes and examples of crossdressing in anime.

School Culture Festival

In anime, sometimes a school has a "culture festival," bunkasai 文化祭, in which characters end up crossdressing for some reason.

Utsumi Shou 内海将, Takarada Rikka 宝多六花, and Hibiki Yuuta 響裕太 crossdressing from anime SSSS Gridman.
Characters, left to right: Utsumi Shou 内海将, Takarada Rikka 宝多六花, Hibiki Yuuta 響裕太
Anime: SSSS Gridman (Episode 8)

If you've seen your fair share of anime, it's very likely you've already seen a male character in a french maid costume in a school culture festival episode. If you have seen too much anime, it's possible that every time there's a culture festival episode you already half-expect someone to end up crossdressing, since it's so recurring.

Daimon Kaito 大門カイト crossdressing from anime Phi Brain.
Character: Daimon Kaito 大門カイト
Anime: Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle ファイ・ブレイン 神のパズル (Episode 9)

Surprisingly, there's actually a reason why this trope is so common: crossdressing events are a real thing in Japan.

That's right, In Real Life™, in real-life schools, in real-life school culture festivals, there are real-life crossdressing maid cafes, which explains why they also exist so often in anime.

Now, while this makes anime less confusing, it does make Japan even more confusing. I mean, why does this exist in real life? I don't know where you live, but where I live, when I was in high school there were no such events involving crossdressing and stuff. What's up with that?

Well, it's probably because of the culture and history of Japan, specifically, the kabuki 歌舞伎.

Around the early 17th century, onna-kabuki 女歌舞伎 was a kind of show performed by women that was associated with prostitution. The government intervened and banned women from performing kabuki, resulting in men crossdressing performing kabuki in place of the women, which would then be called yarou-kabuki 野郎歌舞伎 instead.

Even today, kabuki exists, still traditionally performed with only men, and one crossdressing man performing the "female role," oyama 女形.

You Look Good in it!

One blatant type of crossdressing fanservice, that's rather complex but still a trope nonetheless, is when girls somehow convince a guy to wear female clothes, and then after he wears it, they say it suits them, he look good in it.

Character: Ayasaki Hayate 綾崎ハヤテ
Anime: Hayate no Gotoku! ハヤテのごとく! (Episode 8)

After the girl manages to get the guy in girls clothes, there's a chance she'll take a photo of him crossdressing to use for research purposes.

Anime: Hayate no Gotoku! ハヤテのごとく! (Episode 8)

And, of course, he won't like that at all, because crossdressing is embarrassing, and he doesn't want this embarrassing event of his life to be permanently recorded for posterity, or that photographic proof of it remains such that other people may end up seeing him wearing girls' clothes.

Anime: Hayate no Gotoku! ハヤテのごとく! (Episode 8)

As far as anime is concerned, other characters are rarely bothered by a crossdressing character, and never mock him for it either. Usually, the girls will love it. Which kind of makes the guy's worries pointless, if you think about it.

Anime: Hayate no Gotoku! ハヤテのごとく! (Episode 8)

A sub-trope is when the guy looks surprisingly and disturbingly good wearing girls' clothes.

Character: Ayasaki Hayate 綾崎ハヤテ
Anime: Hayate no Gotoku! ハヤテのごとく! (Episode 8)

Which in turns makes the girls pause to reflect about the monster they have created.

Anime: Hayate no Gotoku! ハヤテのごとく! (Episode 8)

Now, I know what you're thinking: "come on, that's not a trope, look at how specific all that stuff is. That only ever happened in Hayate no Gotoku!"

So, to prove that it is, in fact, a trope, a second example.

A guy stains his clothes on something. A girl tells him he should change clothes. He says he brought no other clothes. And then, a couple of benevolent girls come up with a genius idea.

Anime: Steins;Gate 0 (Special)

Which is, of course, making him crossdress. Because the only alternative to a stain is a full fox-girl maid costume.

Urushibara Ruka 漆原るか, crossdressing as a fox girl.
Character: Urushibara Ruka 漆原るか
Anime: Steins;Gate 0 (Special, Stitch)

They gaze upon their creation and shock themselves.

Anime: Steins;Gate 0 (Special)

The guy feels embarrassed.

Anime: Steins;Gate 0 (Special)

Which makes you ask: wait a second, if he's wearing those clothes, he had to put on those clothes. How did he never stop to think, while changing clothes, that he was going to feel embarrassed looking that way? He had plenty of time to not do this. It's not like in one instant he was wearing his normal clothes, and the other instant he was wearing a skirt.

Anyway, one of the girls starts taking photos, this time with her cellphone.

Anime: Steins;Gate 0 (Special)

Which is basically the same thing that happened in Hayate no Gotoku.

This same scenario occurs in dozens of anime, so it's very much a trope at this point. Note that it's normally a girl, or a bunch of girls, convincing a guy to crossdress, but there are also instances of guys convincing an idiot another guy to crossdress.

Characters: Tabata Hidenori 田畑ヒデノリ (left), Tanaka Yoshitake 田中ヨシタケ (top), Tadakuni タダクニ (bottom)
Anime: "Daily Lives of High School Boys," Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou 男子高校生の日常 (Episode 1)

Disguised as a Girl

In some more serious anime, when characters need to infiltrate into the enemy base or something like that, sometimes some genius comes up with the idea of having a guy disguised as a girl, crossdressing, do it. After all, nobody would think the girl is actually the protagonist in disguise!

You know, because you couldn't have just worn a fake mustache or some more normal disguise—oh no!—you have to look like an entire other gender in order to become unidentifiable. In some cases you could argue that you didn't even need to disguise anyone as anything and there was a better plan available, but crossdressing was chosen nonetheless.

For example, wearing a dress:

Character: Ciel Phantomhive, Shieru Fantomuhaibu シエル・ファントムハイヴ
Anime: "Black Butler," Kuroshitsuji 黒執事 (Episode 4)

To infiltrate a party.

Anime: "Black Butler," Kuroshitsuji 黒執事 (Episode 4)

It's not always a dress, though, because it could totally look out of place depending in where you're trying to infiltrate. For example, if it's a bar in a hotel:

Anime: "Assassination Classroom," Ansatsu Kyoushitsu 暗殺教室 (Episode 20)

Then, obviously, dressing up like this would make more sense:

Character: Shiota Nagisa 潮田渚
Anime: "Assassination Classroom," Ansatsu Kyoushitsu 暗殺教室 (Episode 20)

Alias, Fake Name

Characters who crossdress often have a special name for their crossdressing forms, an alias. This is normally a fake name used when in disguise, when they're embarrassed and don't want anybody to know their true identity, and so on.

If there is never an opportunity for them to name themselves in the manga or anime, canonically, the fans of the work will eventually come up with a name for them. Multiple aliases are also possible.

For example, in Baka to Test, the first time Akihisa 昭久 crossdresses, his class names "her" Aki-chan アキちゃん. The second time, when he entries a contest, the name chosen was Akiko 秋子. Note that, in Japanese, ko 子 is a common suffix for names of girls. You'll see that a number of made-up girl form names just replaced the end with ko 子 in this same fashion.

Character: Yoshii Akihisa 吉井明久, Yoshii Akiko 吉井秋子
Anime: Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu ~Matsuri~ バカとテストと召喚獣 ~祭~ (Episode 1)

In Gintama 銀魂, Katsura 桂, also known as Zura ヅラ, becomes Zurako ヅラ子, and Gintoki 銀時, for having a "perm" hair, paama パーマ, becomes Paako パー子.

In Sword Art Online, for example, there's an arc where Kirigaya Kazuto, whose virtual name is Kirito, ends up with an avatar that looks like a girl. The avatar was named Kiriko by the fandom.[キリ子 -, 2019-02-19]

Character Kazuto Kirigaya from Sword Art Online II and his girl-looking Gun Gale Online avatar Kiriko

Girl Form Admirer

No matter what trope is the cause of a character crossdressing, the effect of them crossdressing is the same: they look like a girl. This has a secondary effect: some poor dude is going to seem them in their temporary and circumstantial girl form and mistake them for an actual girl.

Anime: Hayate no Gotoku! ハヤテのごとく! (Episode 8)

That poor dude will fall in love at first sight with this "girl" he just met. Probably in one of the trope occasions above. And then he'll never see her ever again. But he will spend episodes and episodes in search for his heroine and true love, which is actually a guy.

Anime: "Assassination Classroom," Ansatsu Kyoushitsu 暗殺教室 (Episode 20)

In some cases, the poor dude actually knows the "girl," or rather, guy he fell in love with it. They're classmates or something. And he'll tell that guy about this beautiful girl he met and stuff like that, making the whole thing even more awkward.

Characters: Yoshii Akihisa 吉井明久, Aki-chan アキちゃん (left), Kubo Toshimitsu 久保 利光 (right)
Anime: Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu ~Matsuri~ バカとテストと召喚獣 ~祭~ (Episode 1)


Again, regardless of how the guy ended up crossdresssing in first place, there's a chance some evil character is going to take a photo of him that way and use it as blackmail.

Anime: "Assassination Classroom," Ansatsu Kyoushitsu 暗殺教室 (Episode 20)

Commonly, this is accompanied by phrases like "if you want this photo erased, do everything I say." Conversely, sometimes it's the victim that begs for the other character to erase the evidence, famously saying the magic words:

  • nandemo shimasu kara
    [I'll] do anything, so [please delete the photo.]
    • Yes, "anything."

An outstandingly bad move, as any person used to web comics featuring a guy finding a lamp from which comes a genie that grants wishes would know. Just like there's no rule that says you can't wish for more wishes—or wish for more geniuses, even—an offer without safeguards like that may end up resulting in the evil guy ordering the victim to do something even more embarrassing, and then taking a photo of it, making the whole scenario reminiscent of the epic battle between Hercules and the Hydra.

Of course, there are cases where the blackmail is more specific. For example:

Anime: Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu ~Matsuri~ バカとテストと召喚獣 ~祭~ (Episode 2)
  • Context: in a tournament, Sakamoto blackmails Nemoto into surrending the match using a book full of photos of Nemoto crossdressing.
  • wakatta Sakamoto, kousan suru!
    kono shiai wa omae-tachi no kachi de ii!
    dakara, sono shashin wa...!

    I got it, Sakamoto, I'll surrender!
    I'm fine with this match being a win by you two! (I agree to your terms.)
    So, about those photos...! (give them to me so I can destroy it!)

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