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Japanese porn pix find sexxxesses.

TOKYO When it comes to Japanese movies, think of legendary director Akira Kurosawa, but also think pink.

The land that gave birth to Kurosawa is also home to a strong porn industry known as "Pink Eiga" or "pink movie sector."

For three decades, the pink movie sector has out-produced Japan's major studios and provided an avenue for new directors to make their mark.

Several of Japan's mainstream directors, such as Masayuki Suo, who gained world attention for his film "Shall We Dance," got their start by making skin flicks.

The porn industry has been in decline in recent years due to the advent of the video recorder and a booming market for sex films on videocassette. But even with the decline, about one in 11 movie theaters in Japan specializes in adult films, while skin flicks rival live-action movies and animation in numbers of films produced each year.

In 1997, there were 611 movies released in Japan, 333 of them foreign films. Of the remainder, the major studios released 78 films, compared with 100 for the pink movie production companies. The other films were released by independent companies, according to the Motion Picture Assn. of Japan.

Despite the fever with which Japanese men packed porn houses about 20 years ago, the country has a bizarre set of laws regarding the sex industry.

Movies cannot show genitalia, which means a blob, or now a digitally enhanced fog, is superimposed over the center of attention. While movie censors watched for offending members peeking out onscreen, governments such as Tokyo Metropolitan authorities allowed teenage prostitution until 1997.

During peak years in the 1970s and early 1980s, the pink movie sector was producing over 250 films a year, while making it difficult for directors such as Kurosawa to get funding for their movie projects.

Major studios Shochiku and Toei started subsidiary firms to make porn films, and major studio Nikatsu shifted its production to the skin flick industry.

"Pink movies started in the 1950s, and over the years ingrained themselves into a major part of the Japanese movie industry," says critic Tokitoshi Shiota, a movie aficionado who specializes in the pink industry.

In the days before video, pink moviehouses sprang up across the country. Sex was the main theme, but the films had to be topical and imaginative in order to keep the fans coming back.

"During the heyday of pink movies, there would have been a rush to make parodies of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, but now that the audience for the films has dwindled, there is less competition among the movie producers," Shiota says.

The leading producer of adult movies in Japan is Okura Film Co., which operates out of an office in Tokyo's posh Ginza district and has just seven people who are directly involved in production.

Last year, Okura made 36 films, but in its peak years in the 1970s, it was turning out as many as eight films a month. Most of the films, such as its 1972 film "Sex Guerrilla," are about 70 minutes long, and theatergoers are usually served a diet of triple features for the entry fee,

Okura was founded in 1947 and started making porn films in 1963 with its offering "Sexual Market."

The company has been able to withstand the shrinkage in the porn market by keeping its production costs down to about $29,000-$33,000 per film. Its parent company also operates adult moviehouses across the country.

"Young people do not go to see our movies. If they want to see a sex film, they will rent it on video," says Okura official Fumiaki Sakurai. "A film such as `Titanic' will get the younger viewers, while it seems we get the geriatric crowd."

Sakurai says Okura and the other main porn houses in Japan, Shin Nihon Eizo and Shin Toho, will scrape by in a dwindling market because there will always be consumers for their movies in Japan's massive sex industry.

Even though no new adult movie theaters are being built in the country, a number of theater operators are willing to convert their theaters to porn houses instead of going bankrupt, he said.

Okura has one of the most prolific directors in Japanese movie history in its lineup. Satoru Kobayahi started making adult movies when he was 23, and the 67-year-old director now has over 700 films to his credit. He is the biggest name in the industry.

Among the directors who made the jump from pink movies to the mainstream include Koji Watanabe, Yojiro Takita, Genji Nakamura, Banmei Takahashi and Seiji Izumi.

Women's fights groups have had little impact in decreasing the nation's appetite for adult films, but the video revolution has eaten into the pink movie market.

At the start of the 1980s, when video was in its infancy, there were 500 adult movie theaters in Japan and about 15 main production companies in the pink movie sector. The number of theaters now stands at about 150, and the number of main production houses is at three.

"It seems like the only people who are going to see pink movies these days are old men who do not know how to work the VCR at home," critic Shiota says.
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Title Annotation:adult film industry thrives in Japan
Author:HERSKOVITZ, JON
Publication:Variety
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Nov 30, 1998
Words:869
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