Santa brought me a special gift this year in the form of Tokyo Lucky Hole by Nobuyoshi Araki and published by TASCHEN. If you don’t know anything about Araki then I’ll find it difficult to begin: Araki is a leading figure in Japanese erotic, bondage, pornography and art photography. His obsession for pushing the limits, the trademark round dark glasses and a boundless energy for sexual exploration have made him possibly the most recognisable face in the erotic genre. This book, created between 1983-1985, offers the reader over 800 photographs created behind the doors of Tokyo’s vibrant sex industry.
Araki was joined on these forays by Akira Suei, editor-in-chief of the monthly magazine Photo Age. The magazine featured mainly Araki’s work and pushed the boundaries of what was allowed in a Japanese publication of the era. When pubic hairs were made illegal in photographs they pushed back by shaving the models’ pussies. When their pussies were required to be covered in ink, Araki and Suei had the pubic hair manually inked onto the photographs. When underwear was required by law, the tactic was to use transparent material.
Akihito Yasumi, author of the first essay at the beginning of Tokyo Lucky Hole, describes Araki and Suei as “the pre-eminent ‘tag team’ in the World of Japanese publishing.” They were sometimes voyeurs; at other times participants.
I found Suei’s essay the most interesting based on the evolution of the Japanese sex industry over that time: from the first no-panties coffee shop in 1978 through to The New Amusement Business Control and Improvement Act in February, 1985. There was a thriving spirit of entrepreneurial innovation between competing business models as girls who were amateurs entered the industry. Girls were there for fun; managers were there as much for the kudos of being cutting edge as for the potential profits the industry offered. Examples included, a cafe with one-way glass floors and pantiless waitresses; premises where men lay down inside coffins with holes for open access by hostesses’ hands and a side business of fortune telling; and there was an apartment that recreated the fantasy of a commuter train expressly targeted at perverts. And then there was Lucky Hole.
At Lucky Hole the customer entered a curtained cubicle, held a handrail and placed his penis through a hole in the plywood barrier. He wore headphones and looked at pictures of actresses’ faces on the wall. A woman massaged the penis from the other side. Suei writes,
When he heard the sexy voice of a woman through headphones, the scattered assaults on his senses of sight, hearing, and touch were synthesized inside his head. This was sex created by imaginative power.Akira Suei, from The Lucky Hole as the Black Hole
What I really enjoy about Tokyo Lucky Hole is Araki’s abundance of images. It doesn’t leave me wanting more; it does make me want to leave it promiscuously on the coffee table where it probably shouldn’t reside. Tokyo Lucky Hole is a book of pornography, documentary, art and social commentary. Pure Araki. And it’s well made, opulent and robust. A beautiful Christmas present from my lover and best friend.