PinkVisitor is a guide to the pink side of Japan including the Japanese sex industry, love hotels, pink salons, pink movies and previously licensed entertainment areas such as Yoshiwara and Tobita.
Love Hotels Hotels of Horniness: Japan’s pay-by-the-hour love nests
To combat the high prices of the traditional inn, or ryokan, love-hotels began springing up in the 1950s, offering an affordable love-nest for rent by the hour. “People of all ages came. I once found a bag full of sex aids in reception, so I phoned up to the couple that had just checked in. I left the bag where it was and strained over the top of the dividing screen to see who would collect it. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a man in his eighties bounding eagerly out of the elevator.”
by Simon Moran
Hihokan Museums, like AV vending machines, are a perennial attraction in Japan
Hihokan these places are not traditional museums as you may have guessed. They are generally bawdy, fun places (often situated in hot-spring resorts) where people come to have a giggle or two at some enlarged male appendage or a particularly inventive position. It’s all good clean fun and part of the less stuffy Japanese attitude to sex in general as compared to the USA.
by Sian Thatcher
Ureshino Sightseeing Museum of Hidden Treasures, Saga Prefecture hihokan
The Ureshino Sightseeing Museum of Hidden Treasures was a hihokan (sex museum) in the onsen resort of Ureshino in Saga Prefecture, Kyushu. Built at a cost of $5m, the museum featured displays of historic dildos and chastity belts, examples of shunga, the erotic woodblock prints that were wildly popular in the Edo Period, and lots of life-size wax figures in various states of undress and activity: there is Superman, curiously with orange hair, copulating in mid air, a prostitute opening the door, a samurai and his lover, a Roman orgy, there are more females than males, usually quite curvacious, bent over in a garden, standing up in a bath, reclining naked on a beach. It’s all quite tame really until you consider that on display are genitals and pubic hair, two things that fell under the censor’s knife in postwar Japan.
Pink Glossary: an A-Z of Eroticism in Japan
AV stands for Adult Video, i.e. pornographic movies, or “stick flicks” as they are sometimes called in Japan. AV is a huge business in Japan, with about 1000 companies producing more than 30 new titles, both legal and illegal, each day!!!
AV is easily available in Japan, and there are even vending machines for them on the street, although as a nod to the protection of minors the display is covered with a photo-sensitive material so it is blacked out during the daylight hours.
In fact AV has a quite high public exposure in Japan, with AV “actresses” regularly appearing on TV and in magazines, and having their own websites and fanzines. Recently Japanese AV actresses have become stars in other Asian countries especially Indonesia with the brighest star being Maria Ozawa better known as Miyabi.
Nudity: A Quick Peek at Nudity and Nakedness in Japan
In contemporary Japanese society nudity occupies a similar position as to that in Western societies, that is to say, the naked human body is considered sexual with the often attendant emotions of embarrassment and shame.
Similar, but with some differences though.
For instance there are absolutely no nudist or topless beaches in Japan, as are common in much of Europe and the U.S.A, and no form of “naturist” culture.
On the other hand, nudity among same-sex groups as in public bathing and at onsens (hot spring resorts) elicits far less uncomfortableness for the Japanese than for many Americans and British for example, and within the Japanese family nudity is far more commonplace.
Thus attitudes to nudity in Japan are far more subtle and nuanced than in the more conservative, traditionally Christian West. Early Western visitors to Japan such as Isabella Bird were shocked by the “lewdness” and “degraded morals” of the Japanese she encountered on her travels.
Handmaiden Pink Salon: Osaka
Osaka is not just on the cutting edge of the sex industry; it is the cutting edge. Anything that becomes a nationwide trend in Japan probably started in the brothels and soaplands and bee jay factories of Namba or Umeda or Kyobashi.
In keeping with that, there are now several establishments dedicated to a trend known locally as “Handmaiden”. As with many things in Japan, the “system” is complicated, perhaps unnecessarily so. People here prefer suffering the confusion of over planning — hence the love of “systems” and “courses” and “plans” — to the horror of the unknown.
Many coffee shops in Tokyo’s Akihabara or Osaka’s Denden Town — neighborhoods with high concentrations of electronics, software and computer shops and, ergo, geeks (otaku) – now feature waitresses dressed as “maidens” or 21st century dominatrix. The look is part goth, part fluffy lace, all cute. Just like mother or older sister would have it — a firm hand boys, enjoy.
Japanese Pink Magazines: Naitai
Japan’s pink industry is well-known for its variety, creativity, and sheer size. It has been documented in many books in English, such as Pink Samurai by Nicholas Bornoff and most recently Pink Box by Joan Sinclair.
For those who can read Japanese, there is another window into this slightly hidden but nearly omnipresent world: pink salon guides, published as monthly magazines on sale in convenience stores and book shops throughout Japan. These magazines include Manzoku (“Satisfaction”) and Naitai, to name but two of many. They have regional issues and vary in price from about 390 yen ($5) to glossy magazines that sell for as much as 900 yen ($10).
Books on Pink Japan: plus DVDs
Buy books and DVDs on Pink Japan: choose from a wide and growing selection of books, manga, magazines and DVDs from Japan and the USA. View Japanese manga, erotica, ero-guru, gay manga, gravure, idols, Japanese anime, images by Araki, novels by Amy Yamada, Pink Samurai by Nicholas Bonhoff, Japan’s Sex Trade by Peter Constantine, Pink Box by Joan Sinclair, secrets, geisha, maids, nudes, comics, calendars, short stories & novellas, soft pink, hard pink and books on the history and background of the gigantic Japanese pink entertainment industry from the Edo Period pleasure quarters of Yoshiwara to the present day flesh pots of Tokyo’s Kabukicho.
A short walk from Kyoto Station, not far from the historic Toji Temple, is a temple of another sort: DX Toji. DX Toji is located on a quiet, residential street in what was once a slum, and today remains a poor and somewhat neglected part of Kyoto city where Koreans and Japan’s traditional underclass, the Burakumin, live.
The DX theater is dedicated to the fine art of the strip tease. Join us for an evening of staring at bare naked flesh in a less than salubrious Kyoto locale frequented by everyone from university professors to local politicians.
Read an interview with Joan Sinclair, author and photographer of Pink Box. Joan Sinclair feminist, journalist, lawyer, photographer, and former English teacher talks about her work on Japan’s ubiquitous sex industry, Pink Box: Inside Japan’s Sex Clubs.
In Japan the archetypes for sex clubs come from manga; the aesthetics are similar to manga, the heroes reflect adult manga. These kinds of clubs in a way adhere to cultural norms, but they are more a sanctioned playground where men can be boys, can break the rules while still sticking within the norms and strictures of Japanese society. Japan is a society shaped by Buddhist-Shinto mores which don’t condemn a more open sexuality. It is a hard-working and tightly wound society paired with a manga-driven sexuality. Combine these elements with loose law enforcement and the result is a very wild and robust sex industry.
Of all of the “mysteries” of the East and Japan, perhaps none is so puzzling as the institution the hostess bar. In any city in Japan, hundreds if not thousands of hostess bars are open for business every night of the week, all year round. They are usually concentrated in nightlife areas such as Ginza and Shinjuku (Tokyo), Umeda and Namba (Osaka), Kiyamachi and Gion (Kyoto), Sakae (Nagoya), Susukino (Sapporo), and so on – but they are literally everywhere.
Like the experience to be had with the more exotic Geisha, the sex is implied but almost never offered at a hostess bar. Another similarity is the scripted feel of the experience, as the paying gentleman is pampered, flattered, charged and then sent on his way.
Sooner or later visitors or residents of Japan will stumble over that particularly Japanese sex film genre called pinku eiga. Pink movies are soft core productions generally shot on 35mm celluloid and made for pink theater screenings. There’s plenty of boobs and butts but no genitals at all, the public display of the latter is still prohibited in Japan.
The films do, however tell actual stories; and many of the directors active in the genre crossed over to mainstream cinema. Read a review of a new book on the subject: Behind The Pink Curtain: The Complete History of Japanese Sex Cinema.
As you would expect from a work on sex movies, Pink Curtain features a generous amount of film stills, depicting plenty of the hotter moments in the respective flicks.
In the U.S. and in most Western European countries, home video and urban clean-up campaigns had put most pink movie haunts out of business by the late 1990s. In Japan, however, you can still find old-style pink film theaters, running real celluloid in classic 35mm format. Though not as numerous as they once were in their heyday of the anything-goes 1970s and 80s, there are about 130 pink theaters still in operation in Japan today.
In the early 1970s, Nikkatsu, Japan’s oldest film studio, opened a four-screen movie house at this address. Back then the company had just switched to roman porno (couple-oriented “romantic porn”) to secure its survival and only Nikkatsu films were screened. The location soon became known as the Porno Building, with sex movies endlessly grinding away on all floors. Osaka’s Doyama-cho near Umeda is still a pink home to both long-running gay and straight sex theaters showing new and previous releases.
Shunga wood block prints presented the real and the artistically imagined sex life of Edo Period Japan. Those pictures are known under the name shunga (which translates to “Spring Pictures”). Shunga were produced by the same artists who also worked in other fields of ukiyo-e. Some of the most famous shunga were drawn for example by Hokusai when he took a break from studying Mount Fuji from all angles.
On the other hand, no artists are known today who produced exclusively shunga. Shunga were not the work of specialized pornographers. Sex was considered a natural part of life in Edo Japan and the production of erotic images reflected this point of view.
Yoshiwara, located in what is now Senzoku 4-chome in Taito-ku in north eastern Tokyo, is what remains of the famous Edo Period pleasure quarter or yukaku. Nowadays, Yoshiwara is still in the business of offering sexual services at over 100 soaplands in the district. Prostitution was not officially made illegal in Japan until 1958 and the old ways of Yoshiwara came to an end. Today, men wearing surgical masks are driven in vans from nearby stations to the various soaplands where prices range up from 20,000 ($200) to 50,000 ($500) for around two hours of erotic entertainment. Some establishments welcome foreign clients, though by no means all.
The Tobita Shichi red light district in Osaka still works very much in the same way as the old Edo Period Yoshiwara entertainment area in Tokyo did. Here, the sex businesses still openly display their working girls to casually strolling, potential customers. Tobita Shinj is the biggest red light district in western Japan and is located about a seven minute walk from the Dobutsuenmae subway station on the Midosuji subway line.
Delivery Health, or deriheru in Japanese shorthand, translates to sex delivery service or, in more polite words, escort service. This is how it works: trawl the net or leaf through the back pages of Japanese porn magazines and look out for advertisements by Delivery Health agencies. Putting デリバリーヘルス into Google will net you about 880,000 hits. Not all of them are agencies but there are quite a few in the opening pages. Accordingly, the services also leave (almost) nothing to be desired. With one big exception: full intercourse. No legal agency will offer it. The prostitution laws are very strict in that regard.
The Kanamara Matsuri at Kanayama Shrine in Kawasaki city, just south of Tokyo, displays a direct and honest approach to celebrating human sexuality. No symbolic eggs and bunnies here but the real thing. The center of attention at the festival is the human phallus — plain and simple. In the early 1600’s, the area surrounding the shrine was a pleasure quarter, a prostitution district. Local ladies of the night prayed at the shrine to the steel penis in the hope of keeping venereal diseases at bay.
Tokyo Pink Guide is a very entertaining read, covering with great humor the extensive personal research by the author, covering a great variety of commercial sex outlets right after Japan’s economic bubble burst. At that time, suddenly, some previously Japanese-only establishments felt compelled to open their services to foreigners as well – and the author was all too happy to explore as many of them as he could.