The term originated in Japanese manga and Internet culture in the 2000s, but the concept reflects a broad range of earlier traditions and examples of male drag-wearing in Japan, such as onnagata in kabuki theater, and in the career of cross-dressing entertainer Akihiro Miwa. Otokonoko is a play on the word 男の子, also pronounced otokonoko and meaning "boy". Its popularity increased around 2009, with the rise of dedicated maid cafés, fashion stores, cosmetic products, and a range of popular media in the otaku culture. It is often combined with the cosplay of female fictional characters by men.
By extension, otokonoko is also a genre of media and fiction about cross-dressing men, aimed at a male audience. It is part of the spectrum of shōnen entertainment (targeted at young boys) and seinen entertainment (targeted at young men), and often contains erotic or romantic elements. Otokonoko characters have also begun to appear in mainstream Japanese popular entertainment such as manga, anime and video games.
- Ashcraft, Brian (26 May 2011). "What Is Japan's Fetish This Week? Male Daughters". Kotaku. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
- Clegg, Cara (7 June 2014). "Japan slowly begins to openly discuss crossdressing men in heterosexual relationships". SoraNews24. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
- "OTOKONOKO : DES GARÇONS TROP MIGNONNES". Vice. 8 August 2013. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
- 森友, ひい子 (2 June 2014). "「男の娘」「女装子」と呼ばれる人々 "中性化受け入れ"円満な夫婦の鍵 〈週刊朝日〉". AERA dot. (アエラドット) (in Japanese). Retrieved 14 March 2018.