Nobuyoshi Araki is a Japanese artist who unapologetically creates art around a central theme: sex. He has created over 450 books in his lifetime and has an uncanny ability to make anything and everything appear erotic. We interviewed Araki a while back and he seems like on old angry genius who thinks about photography constantly to an obsessive degree, and his outputs shows it. He is about to add another book to his catalog, because Taschen is releasing a limited edition retrospective of his favorite bondage imagery he’s compiled over his storied career. It even comes in its own wooden box, for safe keeping/hiding. Check out the photos of beautiful Japanese women who are tied up and ready above, if that sounds like something you’d be interested in.
The philosopher Ninomiya Kinjiro was born into a poor family in 18-century Japan. He had to work and didn’t have time to study, so he read his books as he worked and became a great man. In his honor, bronze statues depicting him reading and carrying firewood were erected all over the country, mostly in primary schools, but today these are decreasing in number. For some reason, Japanese authorities reckon it’s dangerous to read and walk at the same time.
Photographer: Inbe Kawori Stylist: Sam Voulters Model: Anna Ryon
Japan—the country responsible for cat cafés and impossibly adorable big-eyed cartoon characters—is also home to the Super Wan Wan Dog Circus in Tsukuba City. For more than 50 years, owner Hiroaki Uchida has been rescuing abandoned dogs and training them to perform an assortment of tricks, including balancing on huge plastic balls and walking in a conga line with their front paws on each other’s backs. The canines are so talented they hold three Guinness World Records, including one for jumping rope. And I thought jump rope fucking sucked until I watched the happiest looking pooches I’ve ever seen doing it in unison, and now it’s the only thing I want to watch until I die.
The Aokigahara Forest is the most popular site for suicides in Japan. After the novel Kuroi Jukai was published, in which a young lover commits suicide in the forest, people started taking their own lives there at a rate of 50 to 100 deaths a year. The site holds so many bodies that the Yakuza pays homeless people to sneak into the forest and rob the corpses. The authorities sweep for bodies only on an annual basis, as the forest sits at the base of Mt. Fuji and is too dense to patrol more frequently.
Nina Poppe is a German photographer and curator who published Ama, one of the best photo books of 2011. The images tell the story of contemporary Japanese female pearl divers, aka ama. These women make their living by diving for abalone, a slimy sea snail that produces pearls. The Japanese tradition suggests that this practice may be two millennia old. Even today, an ama dives according to the old ways: without equipment, relying only on lung power. The Japanese believe that the majority of ama are women because of how their bodies differ from men: The fat on a female body is distributed differently than that on men, which ensures that they can stay warmer in colder water. Ama is an extinguishing profession; most of these women are around 60, some are over 80. Nina decided to photograph these women before it was too late, before no ama was diving into the blue anymore and the only one we would have remembered was Kissy Suzukiin James Bond’s You Only Live Twice. So I decided to call Nina and talk about this.
VICE: How long did this book take to shoot and for what lengths of time were you staying with theama? Nina Poppe: In 2010 I went to Japan twice, first in May and then I went back in August and September. On my second travel I stayed on the Island of Ise-Shima with the ama for two weeks.
Was it a struggle getting them to accept you into their community? How did you cope with the language barrier? The language was indeed a big problem. I donʻt speak any Japanese. I always had a little book with me, where I had some basic sentences written down. Who I am, what Iʻm doing, what I want from them… It felt really strange. It was a total loss of communication, as nobody could speak any English on that island. It was a feeling like someone cut my tongue. I was a total stranger with my blond hair and blue eyes. I could feel it everywhere, all the time, which was exhausting. Everybody stared at me, but in a friendly and curious way. Still, after two weeks I ran away from the island, as I had such a need for communication. The good thing about it is that all your senses are very concentrated when you canʻt communicate. Being a woman helped a lot, I think. The ama were very open and friendly with me. I think they didn’t understand what I was doing there, but they took me on their boat and let me into their huts. It felt that the ama are very open toward other women, and they were maternal with me. I could have been their daughter.
At what age do these women start diving? How deep do they go, and for how long at a time? Most of them start early, as a teenager. They dive up to 30 meters deep without equipment. They dive two times a day for exactly an hour and a half at fixed times. They are underwater for about 2 minutes, and do this up to 60 times in one diving session. The frequency makes it so hard.
How long into his life can a man keep fucking? Here in Japan, there is one brave grandpa who is using his own body to answer that question. His name is Shigeo Tokuda and he is a 74-year-old porn performer. He often stars in movies staged in old-age homes—like, as in “gramps fucks his hot little nurse”—which frankly we have no clue who would want to watch, save for the morbid chuckles factor.
Regardless, we headed over to meet this geriatric pussy master and ask him questions about his ancient cock.
Vice: Please tell us how long you’ve been working as a porn star and how many films you’ve been in.
Shigeo Tokuda: I’ve been doing this for 14 and a half years, and I’ve been in around 250 films so far. That said, there’s only been a handful, maybe 10 percent, where I’ve starred one-on-one with an actress. Usually I’m in a supporting role. But all of them are adult films. I’ve never acted in any other genre.
What sort of roles do you play?
I’m over 70 years old, so I don’t necessarily have sex in all of my films. I often don’t do anything sexual myself at all, like for example if I’m playing an authority figure like a father forcing his child to have sex with some other guy. Lately I’m also starring as the main actor in a porn series set in a senior-care home. The girl that I’m costarring with might play my son’s wife, a daughter of a relative that I happen to be looking after, or a helper at one of the care homes. I shoot about one episode of this series per month. The other day I played a ceramic artist. He was very strange, totally obsessed with women. He’s a professional craftsman, but all he thinks about is girls.
In the second episode, Picture Perfect travels to Tokyo, Japan where we meet up with Canadian photographer Donald Weber to discuss his ongoing documentation of life in Chernobyl, his interest in power roles, and his photographic practice.
We then go with Weber inside the buffer zone at Fukushima, where the eerie silence mirrors that at Chernobyl, and follow him as he attempts to document the unfolding nuclear crisis.