Over the next three-weeks Loaded delves into Japan’s underground sex.
We’ve teamed up with journalist Su Zume to investigate Japan’s bizarre sexual underworld. She’s spent the past decade examining the ins-and-outs of Japan’s debauched £10billion-a-year XXX industry, so there’s no better tour guide.
Synchronised orgies. Nurse porn. Teacher porn. Granny porn. Virgin porn. Shit-eaters. Sexual assault porn. And cartoon porn. You name it (or delve into the most depraved depths of your mind and try and imagine it) and the chances are you’ll get all of it – and more – in Japan.
By day, it’s a country regarded by most as one of respectful calm. But by night, behind closed doors, Japan harbours a mind-blowingly kinky underworld, satisfying the very darkest of desires – far from prying eyes.
Ranging from the unbelievable to the downright disturbing, welcome to Japan’s sex underground – frequented by Japanese men and women of all ages, as well as armies of sex tourists, every night of the week.
“It’s not like the audience have a fixation forever. Once you get used to one stimulation, you move on”
Hostess and strip clubs, staying at ‘love hotels’ or getting your rocks off in a dominatrix’s chamber dressed up as a rubber dog – the menu is endless.
All this in a country where the average person has sex just 36 times a year – compared to the global average of 97 – which puts the Japanese bottom of the sex league table.
For many here, porn films are their first port of call for perverse kicks – and it’s big business. Porn sales and streaming make up a hefty chunk of the estimated £10billion a year raked in by sex-related businesses in Japan.
Soft On Demand is one of the country’s largest adult video companies, knocking out more than 1000 titles a year.
Its videos span a wide gamut, from hypnotised women having sex to quiz-show-themed porn flicks.
“Older girls are quite popular. In Japan that means late-twenties”
The company is so successful it’s branched out into selling branded condoms and lubes.
In a rare interview, CEO Chie Sugawara says what sets Japanese porn apart from that in the UK and the US is the attention to detail.
“It’s really meticulous,” he says. “And there are so many different genres: straight-up sex, rape, amateur porn, scat involving urine and excrement, trans porn… There are probably over 100 different genres. So, I think the Japanese have diverse sexual tastes.”
It’s disturbing to think that rape and molestation porn even exists, but it’s a theme that continually comes up when interviewing those in the industry in Japan.
“Another point is, it’s not like the audience have a particular fixation forever,” Sugawara continues. “They change around a lot. For example, people who like schoolgirls might be into nurses the next year. Porn simply provides stimulation, so once you get used to one type of stimulation, you go on to the next.”
So what’s the most popular niche porn on his books?
“Chikan (molestation.) I don’t think it’s OK overseas, but in Japan, it’s a really popular genre.”
“Ropes for beginners are popular, so basically it’s S&M for the inexperienced”
Japan’s alarming production of rape porn is completely at odds with the nation’s crime rates for such crimes, where it ranks amongst the lowest in the world.
Some theories suggest it’s because men have so many sexual outlets that the pressure valve is let off, taking away the dangerous cocktail of lust and frustration.
On the flipside, porn made for women has also proved a significant draw in recent years too. Sugawara continues: “About three years ago, we started making a line of films intended for women called Silk Labo.
“We sold over 10,000 DVDs, it’s selling well. Women don’t go to a shop and buy stuff like guys do, but they will buy it online.
“There are proper storylines, like idealised love stories with improbable meetings and coincidences. Guys who are strikingly attractive, and the DVD cover is discreet, so it’s not embarrassing to buy. We want to embody girls’ desires, and these are the things that sell.”
Sasa Handa is one of the country’s most popular porn stars. Born in Okinawa, she started life as a bikini model before being offered a deal with Soft On Demand to work on porn for a living.
The most popular performers can earn between £1,400 to £3,200 a movie, with former celebrities pocketing even more.
Handa recently retired from the adult movie scene with some 50 flicks under her belt.
“The most expensive toys are the love dolls, which go for 242,000 yen (£1,400)”
“I thought porn was something I’d never do myself, and when I was offered the job I was surprised. But the person who gave me the offer was really persistent and told me they would take care of me until I retired.
“My first shoot was near Lake Sagami at a really beautiful studio. It was an ‘image’ shoot, like the stylised fashion shoots, so it was beautiful.
“This was in 1996. I wasn’t nervous until the male actor appeared, then I thought, ‘Gosh, this really is porn!’ I felt the reality of it.”
Handa found having a director telling her how to have sex made it easier, as she didn’t have to reveal her true self to the millions of viewers.
As with most Japanese porn stars, Handa’s genitals were pixilated, in what insiders refer to as “the last bastion” of the industry. Some viewers hate it, others love the “mosaics” because they’re so used to them they now class them as erotic.
Handa adds: “For me, it’s a lot easier if the director tells me what to do at each step, because if the director says ‘Do it how you like it’, people will think that is really how I have sex, and that’s embarrassing. So if I get told what to do it’s a lot easier.”
Baba Shigeru is one of Japan’s most prolific porn directors who began working in the industry when ‘Nampa’ porn was exploding on to the Japanese scene.
“Even when humans are at breaking point, sex is important”
Nampa sees amateur girls picked up off the streets and offered the chance to have sex for cash. It’s where America got the idea for BangBus.
In his time shooting porn, Shigeru has become renowned for his domination and sexual assault scenes.
He says his most popular niches are “cute girls and boobs” and there’s also a new trend for older women starting to catch on. “In Japan that means late-twenties,” he adds.
Despite an apparent blindness to sexual taboos, Shigeru says there’s still porn practices that can shock in Japan.
“Overseas, anal sex is standard. But in Japan, that is considered to be quite hardcore,” he reveals. “Girl-boy sex scenes are the most popular, then next is anal, then S&M, then trans fetishism.”
DVDs such as Shigeru’s are traditionally stocked in backstreet stores across the country, but the popularity of such adult material has grown so large that a sex department store called M’s has opened in Tokyo to cater for all manner of fetish demands. Shoppers can get up to 30 per cent discounts if they agree to pose for a photo with whatever they’ve bought.
M’s marketing boss ‘Miss Fujino’ took us on a tour and revealed the store offers plenty of entry-level fetish clobber for the uninitiated.
“Ropes for beginners are popular, as well as eye masks and earplugs, so basically it’s S&M for the inexperienced,” she says. “With sex toys for women, the smaller sizes fit Japanese women better so they are the best selling, and the popular ones are the not so aggressive looking ones.
“When they get more experienced with toys, they might try something larger. The staff at M’s try out the products, so we know how to pitch them to our customers.”
One of the most popular items flying off the shelves in recent years has been the Tenga – a male sex toy, or “masturbation cup”, which comes in seven styles from “rolling head” to “soft tube”.
Another of their most popular items are “Dutch Wives”, or sex dolls. Ms. Fujino says: “We sell various Dutch Wives, and we have one that is transparent. It has no face or skin colour, it is just clear and they have names like Risa and Ai.
“They’re surprisingly popular, I guess because the lack of identity on the dolls helps people’s imaginations. Some people collect them.
“Orient Dolls is a famous love doll company which has its own photo book. There are costumes for the dolls and we also have an aroma spray with the scent of a woman. The most expensive toys are the love dolls, which go for 242,000 yen (£1,400), but we only sell around six a year.”
So is there are a link between the general economic climate and what sells? Japan was hit by an earthquake in Tohoku in 2011, which had a large impact on a lot of businesses.
But a veteran porn industry expert who calls himself ‘Bara’ believes the industry’s sales have stayed solid during disaster-time because it continues to offer people an escape into a world where they can bring their freakiest fantasies to life – as long as it’s done discreetly.
“I think there’s a balancing out,” he muses. “When there was the earthquake in Tohoku we really sold well.
“I think there was just nothing to do. We really thought the shops in Tohoku would go out of business but there was a lot of interest.
“Even when humans are at breaking point, sex is important.”
Want more? Read Part II of Japan’s sex underground.