PART TWO: IN PINKU EIGA , I RAISE MY VALUE AS A MAN
SHOULD I HAVE REALLY COME TO TOKYO?
It’s been four years since I started in the industry – four long years, day after day, playing nothing but tsuukounin (extras) and kirareyaku (victims, red-shirts). Four years of patiently enduring, trying to hold on to the fundamentals passed to me by Arakan sensei. And then finally, NHK TV gave me a chance in a TV drama series. I was going to be OK! I’d ride this wave of momentum, and only get roles that would be talked about on TV and newspapers! I’d get famous in Tokyo and then retire to Kyoto in triumph. I’d get my own tsuki no hito (entourage), and be the most important star at the Kyoto satsueisho! I was brimming with high expectations, walking with my chest out, thinking how good it was that I came to Tokyo. The NHK drama series was over, but no problem: I had sensei’s jimusho to find me another gig.
But when I joined sensei’s jimusho, I had no idea that it was in financial trouble. And so, after a year of no news, their sudden bankruptcy took me by total surprise. Out of the blue, the shachou (boss) called me: “Yamamoto! We’re closing at the end of this month.”
“Huh? What should I do?”
“Go back to your hometown, kid!”
“I can’t do that, sir. After all my hard work?”
“Well, whatever. It’s your choice. Just find somewhere else, because you can’t come to us anymore!”
Just like that, I was marooned – a drifter without an island.
“But shachou, I don’t have any other connections here. I don’t know any other jimusho.”
“You think you got problems, kid? I’m going bankrupt here! I’m the victim. But I like you, so let’s never say never. If you have a fukki (comeback) and get big, maybe I’ll manage you again.”
His answers just made things worse.
I tried to face my problems squarely. I couldn’t go back to Uzumasa, my hometown. I’d be a laughingstock: “Hey, Mr. Big Tokyo star! How’s your career? Over so soon?” I’d rather be unemployed in Tokyo, I told myself. First of all, I’d start looking for another jimusho.
THE BEGINNING OF THE LOWEST POINT: THE MOST VULGAR JOB.
I never thought it would come to this, but I was out of money. I’d need to take a day-job just to meet my living expenses.
I did a lot of stuff, too! Starting in Adachi-ku, I was a construction day-laborer, but those Adachi workers were scary as hell, so I quit pretty quickly. Then I was a cleaner at Akasaka Inn, but the young, wealthy college students who boarded there had these unbelievable, arrogant attitudes, ordering me around like I was their servant. I had to quit that job too, before I became a mass-murderer.
Then I passed out flyers, but somehow just couldn’t stick with it: in the end, I simply couldn’t adjust to the world outside the satsueisho. It seemed every day I was getting farther and farther from my old life, and the jobs were getting worse and worse. I was truly becoming desperate. I was staying in cheap hotels. Every night, I’d come home and turn on the TV, and see my old co-workers, still basking in success. “Ah, I want to go back to that life!”
The only thing giving me the courage to go on was, it would be even more humiliating to return to Uzumasa.
None of the jimusho would return my calls, but I couldn’t just give up and have it end like this. Next month, all my savings would run out. I decided to have more self-discipline. To begin with, I’d structure my time thusly: days would be spent making copies of my resume and passing them out to anyone I knew – . even if they had almost no connections. At this point, I had nothing to lose. At night, unfortunately, I’d have to work at random terrible jobs.
And that’s how I found a job at a pinku salon (a sort of cheap but legal brothel, set up like a bar, where you can get a soft-drink or booze, and then the waitress gives you a blowjob under the table. This sort of semi-public sex-for-hire allows the management to cram way more customers into a small bar, compared to a brothel, where everyone gets a private room and a bed. Also, fellatio-for-pay is not considered prostitution under the law. – ed.) At first, I was the yobikomi (tout), calling out to passers-by.
But the pinku salon was in the entertainment district, so it was not uncommon for me to see some industry people who knew me, walking by. I didn’t want them to see me this way, so I asked the boss for another job. He said I could be a waiter. But soon into my first shift, I learned the waiters had to do hizamadzui (the Japanese custom of getting down on one knee to address the customer or take their order). “What? You seriously expect me to bend my knee every time one of these whores calls me to the customers’ table, as if she was above me? Are you out of your fucking mind?” I started yelling at the boss, lapsing into my kansai dialect. And so I got fired from that, too!
But the boss was a good guy. He said, “OK, well if you still want to work here, I got a third job for you.” He took me to the B2 level, a sort of boiler room, where they washed the oshibori (the warm towels that restaurants give the customers in lieu of going to the bathroom to wash their hands). But, this being a pinku salon, our oshibori were all covered with seieki (semen – literally “essential liquid.”). At this job, I had two senpai (senior workers): a dwarf and a mute, respectively.
Dwarf senpai said, “As you can see, I have this appearance. But if you ask the other guy, he’ll tell you all about how to do the job.”
So I asked the other guy, and he said, “A. Uh. Ehh.” That was all he could say. So here I was, cleaning seieki for a dwarf and a mute. Less than a year had passed since I had gotten my big break at NHK.
A few days later, Dwarf senpai said, “Hey you! Don’t fuck around with us. I’m a small guy, but c’mere and look at this!”
His arm was full of irezumi (gang tattoos).
“Hey, that’s pretty scary!”
“Hah! That’s nothing. You should hear this guy’s gangster stories. Scare the pants off ya! Tell the new kid your gangster stories, why don’t ya?”
“A. Uh. Ehh.”
But this time, Dwarf sempai translated for me: “Listen up! He says he’s been married over 100 times.”
I was shocked: “100 times? How? Why?”
“Sham marriages! To these foreign hookers that work here. Mostly Filipinas, but from all over. They marry him, they get a visa. They can earn a living in Japan, and in return, my man here gets a lot of omeko (the more old-school version of manko, or pussy).”
After hearing their amazing stories, I was impressed, and pretty soon, every day after work, me and Dwarf senpai and Mute senpai would go out drinking together.
Even though this was the darkest part of my life, still I worked as hard as I could. Saturdays were especially busy. The oshibori would come back faster than we could send them out. I was busting my ass trying to wash them all, when Dwarf senpai said, “Hey kid! Don’t be so serious. The clients are all drunk anyway. They won’t notice if you don’t wash the seieki -soaked oshibori. We never wash’em when we’re busy. The secret is: folding it up real nice, with the seieki -stains on the inside and the clean side outward.”
And then the customers upstairs would wipe their hands and faces on these oshibori!
I worked at that job for a solid month, but then my face broke out in a terrible rash. What if I got syphilis? What the hell, man? I decided to quit then and there. But the owners were mob-connected, so I couldn’t leave without explanation. I told them that I’d got a job in a small gekidan (theater company) that did shibai for high-school assemblies. The boss took my sudden news pretty calmly, even saying, “Well, if that doesn’t work out, you can come back and wash oshibori any time.”
Even though I’d only been there a month, I arranged to have a farewell party with Dwarf senpai and Mute senpai . They took me to a sushi restaurant, but then they started crying: “We finally made friends with a normal dude and he’s leaving so soon.”
Later, after I started doing pinku eiga , I heard a rumor that Dwarf senpai and Mute senpai had seen it and bragged: “We used to work with that guy!” In fact, that was the worst time of my life, and I don’t like remembering it. But it was great to have some friends like them around to make things more bearable, and I’m very grateful to them. Arigatou gozaimasu.
CHANCE MEETINGS CAN CHANGE A PERSON’S LIFE
After I quit the pinku salon, I really had run out of money. Fortunately, I could persuade an Osaka woman I was dating to move to Tokyo. She got us an apartment and gave me a weekly allowance. I passed the days wandering around, and at night, I used to drown my frustration in osake. It was a time of uneasy smoldering, like a bomb waiting to explode. But it was this lifestyle that led to a life-changing event!
I was in Shinjuku, drinking in a bar in Shonben Yokomichi (‘Piss Alley’), when a gaijin (foreign) man came in. He ordered yakiniku (the nasty parts of a roast chicken on a stick) and began to pour sauce on it. An older guy next to him noticed this, and attempted to warn the gaijin that this was not the way to eat yakiniku: “No, no!” The gaijin seemed happy to be noticed, and soon the two were having a nice chat. Just then, some chinpira (hoodlum) yelled, “Urusai (loud, or irritating)!! Old man, don’t talk to gaijin!” and, for good measure, decided to involve me in the conflict as well:
He turned to me, and said, “This guy hates your urusai bullshit too, right guy?”
Not the best thing to say to a guy who is unemployed and desperate. I stood up, and in my roughest kansai dialect, said “You’re the one who’s urusai! Get the fuck out of here!” The chinpira was quite surprised, and left the bar fast. The gaijin and the older man were really grateful to me, and we all drank together. It turned out that the older man worked for a poruno eiga company. I lost no time in informing him, “Well, I’m an out-of-work yakusha down on his luck!”
Without hesitating, he responded,” Well, if you’re willing to do poruno, welcome to our company! Can you come to the jimusho tomorrow?”
I was well past the point of being able to turn down poruno. What’s more, it had been so long since I’d stood in front of a camera that even the thought of poruno made me feel grateful. The older man went on, “You won’t regret it. My kao kikunda (to have connections – literally, ‘My face is effective!’). I can probably get you shuyaku (starring role) right off the bat.”
I was so happy about this. The very next day, I showed up at the jimusho (office) and he introduced me to the staff and kantoku (directors). One kantoku asked me, “Hey kid, can you karami (literally: ‘get entwined with’) on camera?” Of course, in the jidaigeki business, karami means ‘fight scene’, so I told him, “I’m an expert at karami! I can karami with a katana, I can karami with roushakubou (wooden staff), I can even karami with shuriken!” The kantoku looked at each other and said, “Who the fuck is this guy? He’s crazy, but he’s funny. We can use him!”
MY PINKU EIGA DEBUT
Then they showed me the daihon (script) for an eiga called KOBAN NIKKI: CHICAN VS. HENTAI (Police Station Case File: Train-groper vs. Pervert, 1982, director Miura Shinji)
and told, “You’ll play the hentai. Incidentally, the hentai is the shuyaku. This film will show in the same theatres where Ishihara Yuujirou and Kobayashi Akira’s movies play, and your name will be on the poster, not theirs! That is, if you take the job.” Of course, I said yes. I’d finally be returning to the screen.
Not in the way I’d imagined it, but still.
I know most people think of me as a poruno guy, but honestly my whole poruno career started because of this one random incident in the bar! I never had any intention to do it. In my oobeya days, I never had any interest in, or any contempt for poruno. And if I hadn’t been in that particular bar on that particular night, I might have died of old age before ever trying it.
But it wasn’t a perfectly smooth transition: sometimes my jidaigeki habits caused problems on the poruno set. Like when I was undressing a lady, I’d unthinkingly yell an ‘attacking samurai’ phrase like “Don’t fight back!” But instead of being scolded, the kantoku found my random samurai-isms amusing and fresh, so he kept them in the final cut.
KOBAN NIKKI came to theatres double-billed with the much-better-known Morita Yoshimitu’s film, THE LYING STRIPPER. This ensured Koban Nikki a big audience, and was a great debut for myself. People who’d seen my engi (acting style) said, “Well, this guy’s not like the other poruno actors! He’s got a funny, fresh style!”
At that time, there were only five or six pinku eiga companies: Shintouhou, Ookura, Million Films (later re-named Joy Park), Kyoukaku Eiga , and so on. In such a small scene, word travels fast, and soon I was getting offers from all studios.
At that time, the pinku eiga industry was booming, so I could see my name in newspapers and magazines, as well as big posters. And there were a lot more poruno theatres than these days, some with my name in letters as tall as my whole body! You can bet I was stoked!
Little by little, people began to recognize me on the street. And I had money – enough to put food on the table, at least. Compared to my ‘day-job’ period, life had done a complete turnaround.
MANY MEMORIES OF INAO MINORU, THE KANTOKU
Fukamachi was the heir to the throne of Yamamoto Shinya, the original king of pinku eiga , and creator of the famous CHIKAN DENSHA (train molester) franchise, among other ensho komedii (erotic comedy) movies. Fukamachi might have been crazy, but he sure was funny sometimes. Let me try to narrow it down to just a few of the best stories. . .
At that time (early ‘80s), synchro filming (shooting sound and pictures together) was still the standard, so you had to be super quiet on the set. You couldn’t even sneeze! Afureko (short for ‘after-recording’) was just starting to come into vogue for pinku eiga , but I was still so set in my old ways that I’d never talk during shooting.
Fukamachi, on the other hand, couldn’t stop talking, even when shooting. If anything, he was urusai (really loud, annoying). He must have figured it was OK since his voice wasn’t being recorded. But it was so distracting! Like a horde of cicadas buzzing in your ear. Even during the nureba (literally ‘wet and sticky place’) Fukamachi was yelling advice constantly: “You! Turn this way! You! Feel her oppai (titty) with your left hand! I said LEFT!”
Regular performers, like Kubo Shinji, had adapted to Fukamachi’s behavior so well that – even with a mouth full of oppai – they’d yell back at him, “Shut the fuck up and let me work!”
What’s more, Fukamachi was notorious for always changing the daihon. We’d be en route to the set, when he’d notice it was nice weather, so he’d yell, “Pass me the daihon! We’re making the restaurant scene into a picnic!” Take this fuckin’ bus to the park!!
Jokantoku (assistant director)! Get me a chabudai (low table used for serving tea) on the double!”
“That’s not in the script, sir!”
“Asshole! I’m the director here! Get one! And don’t bring me a metal table or a folding table! Only chabudai!” Fukamachi was always giving the poor jokantoku these kinds of preposterous orders.
“But where should I buy it?”
“Do I look like a fucking table salesman? Figure it out, wise guy! What are you still here for?”
Preposterous, isn’t he? But the jokantoku just said, ”Hai, I understand,” and left. I was amazed that Fukamachi had pulled off such a stunt.
Another story, from when v-cinema (straight-to-videotape movies) was starting to become big. (squeaky clean pop idol) Nishimura Tomomi starred in a v-cinema yakuza movie called GOKUDO MONOGATARI (A gangster’s story)
Since Fukamachi was directing, he brought a mostly pinku eiga crew to shoot the film: almost everyone besides Nishimura was poruno veterans.
Also, Fukamachi was unique: a kantoku who refused to do ishouawase (choosing the wardrobe for the characters). “Just ishouawase yourselves already!” he’d say, without ever explaining what he wanted us to wear. “Can’t you see I’m reading my fucking book? I have no idea what you’re supposed to wear. I’m a kantoku, not a dress salesman. Do it yourself, you lazy asses!”
“But if you don’t ishouawase with us, we don’t know if our costumes are in character or not,” we’d protest.
“Are you going to tell me how to do my job, now? Ishouawase is boring, and I won’t do it.”
We finally dragged him to the ishouawase place, but now he couldn’t be bothered to learn the name of the shuyaku (main character)!
“Hey kid! I have no idea who you are. And even if you tell me, I’ll probably forget. But look here, kid. You’re wearing a green shirt. That’s your costume. So if I have to talk to you, I’ll yell ‘Greeeen’ and you’ll come running. Got it, Green? OK, end of ishouawase! Screw you guys, I’m going home.”
As you can imagine, the shuyaku was pretty miffed, but darned if he didn’t show up the next day wearing green. He did this the next day, and the third day as well, and suddenly on the fourth day, Fukamachi got mad at him: “Hey kid! You’re a man, aren’t you? Yet you’re wearing green every damn day. Don’t you have a change of clothes? Read the daihon, kid! Your character wouldn’t wear green every day. What’s the matter with you?”
“But you said you said green was my costume –even my name was Green!” retorted the shuyaku.
“Well, that’s what you get for believing what I say! Stop doing that!” replied Fukamachi.
Another time, when we were rokehan (location hunting), and spotted a likely house, a big mansion, he said, “OK, let’s stop here and negotiate with the owners.” They said we could shoot there, but some of the staff thought the house was a bit too normal looking. “Maybe we should make a fake name-plate for the mansion, with some yakuza gang’s logo. More zazz!”
“Naw, who needs it. Let’s not cause them trouble,” said Fukamachi.
But then, when it was time for shooting, he got mad: “Let’s make this a yakuza mansion! Don’t you have some nameplate we can put up?!?”
“But sir, didn’t you say when we were rokehan that you didn’t want a nameplate?”
“There you go, believing everything I say!”
Here’s another episode – one in which I was directly involved. The starlet, it seemed, had never made a pinku eiga before, and had no acting experience. I told her, “Well, why don’t we do it for real (most pinku eiga had simulated intercourse), and then your shibai (acting) will seem perfectly realistic.”
Fukamachi: “Ryuu-chan, really do it!” or something like that.
Then, when we were down to our last minute of film, he said, “Hey Ryuu-chan, you have one minute to cum!”
Another time: even though it was a pinku eiga , for some reason they had me dressed like Charlie Chaplain. I went to the bathroom for a second, and when I returned, the whole crew had taken off without me. I didn’t even have my wallet – it was in my real pants. Apparently Fukamachi said, “Well, if anyone can find his way all the way to Chiba by himself with no money, it’s Ryuu-chan!”
With no other options, I went to the nearby police station and borrowed train-fare from the cops! But riding a public train dressed as Chaplain was no picnic – I was very embarrassed, even though I was a pro actor. When I finally dragged myself back to our Chiba headquarters, Fukamachi said, “What are you so worked up about? You got here, didn’t you?”
I was like, WTF?!?
He couldn’t have been farther from the usual image of a kantoku. When a new actor asked him, “How should I portray my character?” he replied, “Don’t ask me, I don’t know! Just get it done!”
Is that what a director says?!?!
Sometimes people would call him Anchan (“Elder Brother” – a general term for an older guy) and he’d say, “I’m not your damn Anchan! I’m Yoshida!” Then he’d turn around and tell some other guy, “I don’t know your name, so I’ll call you Anchan. If someone is important, I’ll bother learning their name. But not you, Anchan!”
I could go on.
But let’s just say this about Fukamachi: whether you think he was selfish, or you like his uninhibited nature, either way he embodied the personality of a pinku eiga kantoku. What’s more, he made filming fun on the set, and there was a method to his madness. Also he had a personal magnetism, he was always surrounded by people. A real humanitarian!
THE LEGENDARY MINSHUKU OF KOUFU
In our studio, we joke about “The Koufu Incident.” This involved a kantoku much like Fukamachi. One time, this kantoku said, “We’re always shooting in studios in Chiba, it’s boring! Let’s find another location!” Thus, we found a minshuku (cheap traditional inn) in Koufu to shoot at.
“Mr. kantoku, are you sure it’s ok? You did tell ‘em you’re shooting a pinku eiga , right?”
“Oh yeah. No problem. Don’t worry about it. Worry about your acting! Leave the rest to me.”
So we came to Koufu, and the owner’s whole family – to say nothing of the crowd of curious onlookers – was waiting to greet us, all standing under a big banner, printed with: “Welcome big-city movie team!” And they all applauded when we arrived!
We all felt uneasy about this awkward state of affairs. “Mr. kantoku, are you sure there’s no misunderstanding?”
“Looks like there is!” he admitted.
Then: “What are we scheduled to shoot this morning?”
“The nureba (sex scene), sir”
“Let’s not do that. Let’s start with, uh, the shibai (acting).”
We shot shibai the whole day, but the townspeople were constantly watching us, so we couldn’t shoot the nureba. The townspeople even brought us lots of hand-made food.
Then: “OK, what are we scheduled to shoot after dinner?”
“The nureba, sir.”
“No way!! We can’t shoot that today.”
“But the joyuu (actress) is only scheduled for one day!”
Mr. director was in trouble. . . He turned to the cast and crew: ”OK everyone, don’t go home just yet. We’re going to pretend to quit for the day, and after all the towns-people have gone home, we’ll shoot the nureba in the middle of the night.”
Then, to the assembled natives, “OK folks, we’ve finished for today. Thanks for your support, but we’ve got to get to bed. We look forward to seeing you again tomorrow!”
And that’s how we shot the nureba!
But next morning, the natives’ demeanor had changed abruptly from enthusiasm to hostility: someone must have peeped the satsuei (shooting). The landlady came out s said, “I’d like a word with the jokantoku (assistant director).”
By the way, the jokantoku was Mr. Sese Keiku , who had worked on such films as Kansen Rettou.
After ten minutes with the landlady, Sese came running back to us, hollering “Everyone pack up and get the fuck out right now!” Right on his heels was the old landlady, who was throwing our own equipment at him! “You people! Liars! You’re making ero (erotic) eiga !”
It was way past the point where we could explain that she was damaging expensive lighting equipment and ask her to stop. So Sese just bellowed, “Look at what you’re doing! We came all the way here to use your minshuku! We won’t stand by while you and your filthy crew perpetrate crimes on us!!” and we all escaped to our bus. On the way back, Mr. director mused, “Maybe Chiba is best, after all.”
You think so, asshole?!?!?
THE MACHISMO OF KANTOKU
Fukamachi was a larger-than-life director: selfish, arbitrary, but also charismatic: loved and admired by those around him. I have so many examples of his powerful charisma. Every year, Wakamatsu and other prominent members of ‘pinku eiga society’ held a big end-of-year party. And they asked Fukumachi to say a few words.
“This party was a good one! I met some old friends, I added some members to my tsukiai (entourage). Honestly, I can say it was good times. But now, wait a second! I want everyone to remember this: We all gathered in one place, but there are some people who should be here but couldn’t make it. Brothers in arms. People who quit the biz for certain circumstances, people who passed away. Let’s not forget our brothers tonight. Everyone stand and raise your glasses.” With that, he turned his gaze heavenward and said, “Everyone, (in heaven, that is), I know you can see us! Cheer up – if you can be patient, we’ll arrive there ourselves before long! But while we’re here, doing our labors, lend us your strength. We’ll meet again someday!”
Another time, when I was directing my first gay porn, he showed up unannounced. “Mr. Fukamachi!” I said, delighted, “Did you come to see me?” “No, kid! You’re a kantoku now. I came to see the quality of your work.
It was interesting. You can really do that, aren’t you? Does this mean you’re going to retire from being a haiyuu (actor)? Please, keep acting in my videos – if you don’t, I’ll be in trouble!”
I said, “Do you want to come to the wrap party?” “No, no. It’s your film – I’ll let you be the center of attention today!”
You know what? I really like Fukamachi. He’s ridiculous, but he’s the ultimate pinku eiga kantoku, a real outlaw! He can make a great eiga on zero budget. Even now, I wish I could kantoku like him!
THE ‘NEW PORUNO’ OF TOUKATSU – IS EVERYONE NUTS??
A new company was founded – appropriately called Toukatsu New Poruno. It wasn’t started by a single film-maker. It was one of the many cases of a major ippanna company, wishing to cash in on the poruno trend, and creating a pinku subsidiary. The shachou (boss) of Toukatsu was Mr. Yagi. For some reason, this corporate guy took an interest in cinema: first he founded the ‘pinku eiga ’ (soft-core) company called Nikkatsu Roman Poruno, and now he’d decided to start a hard-core company as well, it seemed. This was around 199X (censored by author- ed.).
To ensure the success of his venture, he teamed up with a certain ‘family’ who was in the haikyu (poruno-distribution) business, and was soon making around four films a month. And he insisted on naming all the films himself! A real micro-manager, even though he ran several large companies. He even insisted that the joyuu (female stars) be shozoku (affiliates – in this case it seems to mean he was their manager) and senzoku (under exclusive contract to his studio).
At that time, most of us were using 35mm Vista Vision film, but Toukatsu still used the old-school, very wide Cinema Scope film, as if they were making kaijuu (giant monster) films or something!
Normally, poruno would have a sneak preview at some place like Touei Kagaku or Touyou Genzousho, but since Toukatsu had big-time haikyuu (distribution), as well as corporate connections, Mr. Yagi could do his sneak preview at ritzy theaters in Ginza. Of course, Yagi would come, but since he owned big-time corporations and respectable eiga companies, he’d only show up right as the movie started, and stay way in the back – he was powerful, but he liked to stay inzen (control from behind the scenes).
On one of these sneak previews, the kantoku left one of the canisters of film back at the studio! He turned white with fear. Everyone had come out to see the preview, but they had to halt it halfway through. Such a blunder was unheard-of!
By the way, the shuen joyuu (lead female star)of that eiga was nicknamed “crazy” , but all those Toukatsu people are crazy.
At the time he founded Kyoukatsu, Mr. Yagi was already fairly old, and soon became ill. After his death, the studio ceased to exist. Unfortunately, none of the eiga were re-released as videos, and not even one of the Toukatsu starlets were able to find any other jimusho to continue their careers. I was only able to do one pinku eiga at Toukatsu, but it was a really interesting one: Kung-fu Porn. Bruce Lee, Intercourse Version. But no copies remain of that – even though it was so awesome. Hell, I can’t even remember the title myself!
“SEX WARS”: THE SPECIAL-EFFECTS PORUNO OF THE CENTURY THAT GOT SHELVED.
There was a poruno called TOKUSATSU SEKKSU WAAZU DAIRANKOU (Special Effects Sex Wars Giant Orgy), an ambitious project, unprecedented in scope, which wound up being shelved indefinitely because of. . . some circumstances! It was a Shintouhou Films production (now known as Yoshitomo Media Productions) and directed by Kasami Masahiro. I’d known Kasami since he was a jokantoku for Fukamachi, so we came up together in the industry. In fact, I’d worked on his directorial debut eiga . We were part of the same kumi (clique). Like mine, his specialty was erotic comedy, although Kasami’s commitment to being a comedian all the time made him difficult to deal with sometimes.
The story starts when he told me, “Ryuu-chan, I want to do an Ultraman-style eiga ! You’ll be a member of Science Patrol, known as “Corn Ranger” – and hold up a corn-shaped vibrator to transform. The heroine will be Anal Ranger. You must save earth from abnormal aliens who have come to eat all our kintama (balls). When the aliens eat the Earth womens’ manko (pussy) eaten, this causes them to transform – into Ultra Blow-Up-Dolls. And only the Womb Defense Force can stop them! Are you listening to me? I’m pitching a very important film here, at least listen in a serious way! In order to thwart the invasion, the Japanese leaders hold an emergency meeting. Although we can’t afford the suits, let alone the actors, for such a big meeting. We’ll just use the news footage of the diet (congress). Grab a few shots of (then-prime minister) Takeshita while we’re at it! Overdub a voice saying, ‘What are we going to do about the Aliens from Planet Ball-eater?’”
When the eiga came out, it pushed the envelope too far – the Prime Minister in a pinku eiga , talking about chinko (dicks) from outer space and so on. In the time it took the audience to gasp, it was banned. The film critics were outraged as well. But, in the end, the Censorship Hearing Committee declared that since we didn’t show any kyokubu (genitals , literally ‘local parts’), they had to let us show it.
Of course, the federal censors confiscated the film as well, but the kantoku – out on a limb, as ever – had illegally already dubbed it to video. The resulting uravideo (illegal porn – usually sex that shows un-mosaiced genitals) became one of the most expensive of all time: the sex scenes were even more perverse than the politics!
I spent a nice afternoon on Tokyo’s Tama river, filming the public, out-door sex scenes with Anus Ranger, using my manko-eating to transform her into Ultra Blow-up-Doll. Did I mention the way Ultra-Blow-Up-Doll turns back into Anus Ranger? Seiiki! (semen). The old men out walking their dogs by the river were also photographing us. It really was a doozy of a film – plagued with outrageous problems but fun to make.
THE TRASH EIGA THAT THE WORLD DEMANDS
Takao Nakano (aka the John Waters of Japan) got famous back in the early days of adult video with his hit CRYSTAL EIZOU, and now he’s more known for doing cat-fighting. But actually, he too had his start as a jokantoku (assistant director) for pinku eiga !
Mr. Igawa, the then-producer for Shintouhou Films, invited Nakano to direct and eiga for them. Of course Nakano said yes, but he was such an eiga maniac (film nerd) that his thought process was like this: “Shintouhou makes me think of Emperor Meiji, which makes me think of Arakan, which makes me think of Yamamoto!” Thusly, he called me: “Ryuuji! Long time no see. I’m making a pinku eiga for Shintouhou, and I want you to play the role of Arakan! The story is like this: every time you have sex, you turn into a different historical figure: Arakan, the Emperor Meiji, or a Kurama Tengu, and so forth.”
I thought it sounded a little tasteless, but for now, I said, “OK, let’s do it.” The movie, incidentally, was to be titled JOTAI SUBERIMAKI CHITAI (the Spiral Inside a Woman’s Body).
The day before shooting, I had a fever of 39 degrees! I guess Arakan was cursing me for doing a poruno parody of him. . . or maybe the Tengu was cursing me too!
Pinku eiga and erotic comedies had given Japan kind of a bad reputation internationally, but the “cult film” nerds in the West loved it! Nakano, always one to turn lemons into lemonade, entered the film in the European “International Film Festival,” in the “trash cinema” category. This, he informed me, was a contest for the title of, worst film in the world!
Apparently the whole world was demanding worse and worse films . . . After he came back from Europe, he told me, “Ryuuji- you should be glad. We won!” Be glad? I was heart-broken. Not only was I in the world’s worst film, but I was the star! Incidentally, you foreigners can pick that film up from Uplink DVD.
THE SUNSET OF PINKU EIGA
Around this time, the world of pinku eiga was going through big changes. First of all, society wanted new mediums: video. People didn’t demand b-movies anymore, and magazines like Pia stopped printing announcements of our new ink eiga releases. Of course, good old City Roads still promoted us, but City Roads itself was almost out of business.
At the same time, all of the fanzines of pinku eiga went bust: Eiga Castle, With The Eiga , Eiga Guide. . . all of them! In other words, we had no way to promote our new releases or even announce them to people! Simultaneously, theatres themselves were closing rapidly, especially around the Chuo (central Tokyo) train line. Even in Kabukichou, sin city itself, they were folding. Only one in ten remained – our whole industry had lost momentum across the board.
As a result, the budgets and gyara (‘guarantee’ = wages) plunged, causing a vicious circle of declining product and demand. This was, unfortunately, right after I’d gotten re-married and had children, trying to lay the foundations of my life. I still loved movies, but love of movies wouldn’t pay the bills. I began to think about quitting the pinku eiga business.
Until now, the only people who did AV (adult video – the original Japanese text, incidentally, uses the English letters ‘AV’ rather than the more whimsical ‘adaruto bideo’) were people un-connected to pinku eiga , or at best, people who were peripheral to AV but not good enough to make it at pinku eiga . But now, the tables had turned, and more and more of the brightest pinku eiga workers were turning to AV. Should I join them?
Just then, the annual pinku eiga festival, Zoom Up Eiga Matsuri (festival), had its awards ceremony. And I won best actor for my starring role in JOTAI SUBERIMAKI CHITAI. “Well, then,” I said to myself. “If I’m retiring, it’s best to do it now, on a high note!”
The AV industry was booming all over the world, and what’s more, I was getting a lot of offers. In the end, even if it’s hard-core porn, to a haiyuu (actor), being seen by a lot of people is the most important thing. I mean, I could make the best, most artistic eiga ever, but if no one saw it, what would be the point? That would be the loneliest thing I could imagine.
MY DIRECTORIAL DEBUT WAS ALSO MY RETIREMENT!
Right when the pinku eiga industry was in decline, Shintouhou Pictures asked me to kantoku (direct) an AV for them. But, I had no real desire to kantoku so I told them boldly, “Well, if I also get the lead role, and freedom to make any plots, that’s the only way I’ll take the assignment.” And the plot I chose was not simple by any means – it was really out there!
It had three sub-plots, each very different. One story was about a grandmother, another about a quadriplegic, and the third about a homo.
The first two were immediately rejected. The homo segment was ok, provided that they used a beautiful trans-sexual. But I wanted the homo to be a more normal, blue-collar middle-aged man type. In the end, I proposed a compromise: a she-male! Although long a genre in youpin (western porn), she-male porn was yet unknown in Japan. So it was that, in 1988, I not only made the first shemale AV in Japan, but Shintouhou launched a whole sub-label – called “Eve” – dedicated to shemale AV. Incidentally, the original Eve was a “new half” from Nishi-azabu’s famous Puchi Theatre.
The film also generated some interest from the gay community, and that resulted in an offer to kantoku a gay AV. Until then, the so-called “gay cinema” was basically boy-meets-girl love stories, but with two men. I wanted to do a real homo AV – something exclusive and boundary-breaking, not make something which had already been made.
But if I was going to go ‘real homo’, first I’d have to learn more about them. First stop was Shinjuku’s 2-chome neighborhood. But, disappointingly, it was mostly just another entertainment district, with many straight people milling around. I wanted to submerge myself in an all-male, all-gay world. But, at a 2-chome bookstore, I found a promising tome: “Map of Men Streets.”
It was like a Pia magazine – but instead of promoting new films or concerts, it promoted the latest public sex and cruising spots! These, it turned out were called hattenba zones, my first time to hear this term. I went to see for myself, but these mysterious ‘zones’ were just public parks and toilets.
“Well, that’s pretty funny! Let’s use that for the theme of the eiga !”
And that’s how HATTENBA LOVE STORY was made – with me as shuen (lead role) and kantoku! It was a big hit in the AV world. Thinking about it now, I’m glad I made it. Bits of that eiga became the building blocks of the emerging gay AV industry!
By the way, the theaters that specialize in gay poruno are really special places. Guys go there to cruise each other while watching films about cruising! The same guys come every day, and fellows are always pairing up and leaving in the middle of the films, then coming back in the middle of the film.
So you have to make a film that is enjoyable even if people enter in the middle of the story, you have to make your gay poruno so that even if guys come every day they won’t get sick of it. Also, regular pinku movies cost 1500 yen, but if you go to the gay bath-house, you can see one for 300 yen, and it’s “no cut” – on a loop all day, stay for as long as you want.
So even though it’s poruno, the requirements to make a profitable, watchable film under those conditions are very strict.
At any rate, I helped influence the development of gay pinku eiga;I started my kantoku career with a cinematic milestone, so I thought, “Hey, why not retire from pinku eiga altogether, and go hardcore?” Ishii Motomasa –co-star of HATTENBA LOVE STORY and popular gay pinku star, wanted to retire. But first, he wanted me to kantoku one final film for him. But pinku eiga business was so bad, I told him that he’d have to finance it at his own expense. And, amazingly, he did. The title was NEW HATTENBA LOVE STORY. And we wanted to create another game-changing milestone of gay eiga history. Just then, a jimusho asked to manage me. It looked like my luck was turning around again – rescued from the sinking ship of pinku eiga and put on top of the cresting wave of AV.
I was one of the lucky ones.
Stay tuned for PART THREE: REBIRTH OF YAMAMOTO RYUUJI AS AN AV DANYU !!