Transgender people are popping up everywhere in the current Japanese media landscape. Whether it's appearing on variety shows or hawking soft drinks or makeup in TV ads, the current crop of "new-half" celebrities have established themselves in the mainstream in a way that has surprised many onlookers.

One milestone on the road to this prime-time exposure was NTV's variety show "Onee-Mans" (which roughly, and unofficially, translates as "Girly Men"). The show, which featured the supposed "ultra-feminine powers" of onee tarento (girly-men TV celebs) to help straight women attract straight men, held on to a coveted evening slot for some 2½ years from October 2006.

But what does this Japanese appetite for gay and transgender stars mean culturally?