Photograph from Pink Box (Abrams Books). � Joan Sinclair
Another satisfied customer...

Pink Paradise

This past Sunday afternoon prior to climbing in the car for the six hour trek back to P-town, I enjoyed a satisfying nosh at Little Tokyo's Curry House at Weller Court, then waddled over to the Kinokinuya Japanese book store, one of my must-stops whenever I'm in La-la Land.

Bought a couple of calendars for the coming year, and a tome or two, including this monograph Pink Box, by San Francisco photographer/lawyer Joan Sinclair. The folio documents Japan's floating world, so to speak, of fuzoku, the commercial sex industry. The Japanese, being mostly non-practicing Buddhists and Shinto by tradition, are blissfully free of that odious Christian concept of sin. Particularly as it applies to their own sex lives. As a result, Japan's red-light districts are honeycombed hideouts of ecstasy, with seemingly endless menus of kink.

Joan Sinclair is a woman after my own heart. Intrigued by the so-called "pink" realm of fuzoku during her sojourn in a Tokyo suburb as an English teacher, she returned to Japan eight years later to document a sexual demimonde mostly off-limits to curious foreign women, unless those curious foreign gals are seeking employment. She persisted against the suspicions of hostesses and brothel owners, and the cultural barricades set in her path by same. The result is one part photojournalism, one part E.J. Bellocq.

Sinclair's book exposes fukozu's gleeful cosplay (costume play) where women dress as nurses, manga characters, elevator attendants, secretaries, police officers, etc., often in surroundings made to mimic lifts, doctor's offices, classrooms, subway compartments, and so on. Fellas can "make out" with a girl in a movie theater setting, or literally be babied by a "mommy" in waiting. They can live out the film Pillow Book and write traditional Japanese calligraphy on beautiful nude femmes, or play in a tub filled with green gel and various nubile attendants.

For the ladies, there are "host bars," with hot boys lighting their ciggies and making them feel special. Geeky salary men can stop off while heading home to "fall in love" for an hour or so with a pair of fat chicks. Of if you need a work out, a dominatrix will wrestle or box you in a regulation boxing ring. There seems to be something for everyone. Infinite variety. Regulated by the government and run with a firm hand by the yakuza.

"I think men are universally perverted," observes one customer in the book. "It's just that in Japan we do something about it."

Thus speaks an older and far wiser culture...

(Read more about Joan Sinclair's book at her site

PS: Here ends the El Lay "travelogue," at least till the next time I'm visiting the City of Angels.


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