Books / Reviews | ESSENTIAL READING FOR JAPANOPHILES

'Pink Samurai': Resolving the paradoxes of Japan's appetite for sex

by Stephen Mansfield

Contributing Writer

With a title like this, it is surprising the book did not sell more copies when it was first published in 1991, but Bornoff’s study, at over 700-pages, will disappoint readers expecting instant titillation. Scholarly in the depth of its research methods and the sheer scope of its coverage, the author explores the means and instruments for achieving erotic pleasure in Japan. The mechanisms for carnal fulfillment may have been adjusted to accommodate new tastes, but they remain largely intact.

Pink Samurai: The Pursuit and Politics of Sex in Japan, by Nicholas Bornoff,
719 pages
HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS, Nonfiction.

Meticulously explaining the stage sets, props and services provided by the sex trade in Japan — the violent porno manga; adult video market; suggestive late-night TV; the function of present-day geisha; the historical embodiment of the sensual in the form of Edo Period (1603-1868) courtesans; ancient, still faithfully honored fertility rites; sex cults; strip joints; and the patronage of love hotels — the author finds time, and space, to deliberate on family life, marriage and love in a society defined as both conservative and permissive.

Early Western visitors may have been susceptible to the presumed allure of a compliant East, but the author, while acknowledging that a degree of sexual innocence still exists, insists that, if Japan is an Eden, it is a garden rigged with trip wires, contaminated plants, perilous paths and its very own mandatory serpent.

It would be a spoiler to reveal how Bornoff resolves these paradoxes, the reward for reading this book resting in his deft resolution of the dichotomy between “the pleasure principle and propriety,” but he does so, and brilliantly.

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