Love Hotels Are Not Meeting Rooms. #MeToo doesn’t take off in Japan’s Hollywood

I’m a female actor in Tokyo. I thought I was safe from the filth of Hollywood, safe here in “innocent” Japan. But the truth is that Japan’s entertainment business is full of Harvey Weinstein-like individuals. Here is my first-hand experience.

In December 2016 I responded to a casting via a Foreign Actors facebook page. After some discussions with the director, Mr. X,  online and on the phone, we had a meeting in Ikebukero. The meeting was casual, but professional, discussing only matters pertaining to acting and film. After the meeting he requested I send him some photos of my body which were necessary for him to overlay a fake tattoo for the character. I sent only semi-nudes, and I didnt think this was particularly unusual (as a former photographer, I made these sort of requests of my models on occasion).

“Let’s meet at a love hotel. Everybody does it.”

A few days later he wrote, “I want to date with you. If you agree, 70% final you are in my project.” I was very shocked by this! But being polite and professional I explained that I do not mix business with pleasure, and “for now I prefer to keep a professional relationship.” He responded that it, “is necessary”. Necessary? He explained that Japanese actresses never question it, they want to have “good communication” with their director. At that point the conversation ended, and over the next year he would send me an occasional “hello, how are you” messages. I obliged, but the conversations never went anywhere. I ignored his messages for a few months, even the message in July 2017 asking to meet me. Last December, I decided to reply to his “good morning” message. His reply was, “I actually wanna meet…I like u”. I responded politely, “I would like to work with you professionally, but I have a boyfriend.”

Like this was going to stop him? No.

He replied, “its ok, but we can make relations.” “Relations”? I asked. Who says that? He replied, “relations. Of course we will work together”. 

The conversation ended there, until two weeks ago, when he wrote that he was starting work on a new project, and if I wanted to meet him. I thought about it, and felt that after all this time he still wants to work with me, then okay I’ll meet him to discuss the project. We discussed dates/times to meet over a few days, and he then wrote that he has a location for us to meet. He then sends me the address and photo of a love hotel. I couldn’t believe it! When I asked him, just to clarify,  “Is this a love hotel?”

His only response was, “Problem?”

I laughed with disgust and told him there was no way I was going to any love hotel. He said, “Everybody is doing that, I thought you understood me.”

“Hey can you send me some naked pictures…for the tattoo overlay shots?”

The gall of the director is incredible.  But all I could think about was that he said in defence of himself, “Everybody is doing that”. Really? Are there really actresses doing this regularly? This disgusted me even more. After sharing this conversation with the community of foreign actors, I was enlightened about the darker side of the Japanese film industry. I am both saddened and appalled. Many have reached out to me, sharing their sick, sad stories. This needs to be shared, awareness is needed here, too.  The #Metoo movement started in Hollywood in the US. I wish it would strike a spark in Japan’s entertainment industry as well. 

–Ilana

Editor’s note: There may be readers of this blog who will snigger that Ilana hadn’t caught on to the seedier side of Japan’s entertainment industry (芸能界) much earlier but she’s not alone. Many newcomers to Japan only see the country as a safe, polite, and pleasant little island nation until they start working. 

The Rise & Fall Of Japanese Xmas: Please Bring Back The Sex & Money & Carnal Pleasures

“Those were the days” is a phrase a woman must never utter once she hits 40 as it makes her seem unnecessarily outdated. But there are times when one is called upon to bend this golden rule, and state – clearly and plainly – that those WERE the days. Hell, yes.

Has the Sexy Spirit of Japanese Xmas Been Lost Forever? (At least you can still order appropriate attire).

One is referring to the Japanese Christmas, of course. Back in the day, or the 1990s to early 2000s to be exact, Christmas was drenched in two things: sex and money. In Tokyo especially, there were shopping couples sightings as early as the last week of October (Halloween wasn’t yet huge back then), browsing the aisles of Tiffany’s and Miu-Miu, the girls sighing in ecstasy over their wish list items while their dates nodded and inwardly did some calculations as to what all this was going to cost them. A quick round-up of the salient spending points: dinner in a swank restaurant followed by a night at a hotel, where the exchange of gifts will lead to carnal delights and a morning-after confirmation that yes! this girl was indeed going to be the official girlfriend. On average, the sum total ranged between 100,000 and 150,000 yen. I know of guy after guy who went into debt, just to splurge on a woman who was likely to ditch him before Valentines Day came around, not two months later. Of course, no one mentioned or was interested in the fact that Christmas marked the celebratory birth of a baby called Jesus, who spent his first night in this world swaddled in rags and laying in a manger.

Back in the day, or the 1990s to early 2000s to be exact, Christmas was drenched in two things: sex and money.

Okay, so the Japanese were clueless about the significance of western religious. Still, the fevered anticipation of it all, the sheer, heady delight of champagne and room service and red strap sandals elaborately wrapped in gorgeous chiffon paper! But don’t think the girls rested on their arses while the men worked overtime and scrambled for cash. Women had to spend too, on hair salons and lymph drainage treatments and pedicures, not to mention the all-important issue of the Christmas dress. Take the case of my friend Rika, whose most triumphant Christmas was in 2000 when she invested in a facial, a massage and a Chanel dress but skipped the lingerie entirely and squeezed four dates into a single Christmas Eve. This by the way, worked for her and a lot of others because in Japan, the 23rd is a holiday (the Emperor’s b-day) and that’s when most people do their Christmas thing, which makes everything extra hectic. C-Eve is a regular day – everyone has to show up for work so it’s quieter and easier to get reservations and space appointments.

After 2008 however, the Christmas-scape altered perceptibly and 3.11 changed it completely. People started talking about ‘kizuna (bonding)’ and ‘kazoku (family),’ two words which have since become embedded in the collective psychology – and they sure ain’t got nothing to do with doing naughty things in hotel rooms. The Christmas season is now pretty much about corporate drinking parties called “bonenkai,’ and otherwise rushing to get work done in time to take New Year’s off – a traditional Japanese event firmly entrenched in the family (again). The only people shopping at Miu Miu these days are those who speak Chinese. Ditto for people with reservations in four star hotels. As for fancy dinners, few Japanese could afford them anymore and the ones that do are not in couples – they’re co-workers in groups of three and four and mostly of the same sex.

Have we lost our capacity for ridiculousness, our carpe diem mentality and taste for sexual pleasures? One hates to admit it, but the answer seems to lean toward a loud ‘yes.’ A big problem is the aging thing. Japan is turning gray at breakneck speed and now everyone seems to be middle-aged or older – too mature to go overboard on just about anything. The remaining younger populace is far too worried about the future and saddled with pension funds and insurance payments to splurge on girlfriends, even if they existed. Women for their part, are wary of relationships that lead nowhere and with the emergence of the “sefure (sex friend),” there’s no excuse for spending a yen more than is absolutely necessary on what is after all, a moderately fun distraction. As a 20-something boy at work told me the other day, “Sex is such a chore. I’d just rather go to bed with my phone and play games until I fall asleep.”

Call me a patriot, because I broke down in tears. What is this nation coming to?

Ah yes, those were the days. To think that 25 year old women were once called “Christmas Cake,” because the cakes on sale after Christmas Eve were past it and over-the-hill and on the brink of eternal spinsterhood. Yes, it was rampant sexism but it was a fun, harmless brand of sexism compared to the stuff our current PM likes to peddle and which by the way, has turned things real sour between the men and women of Japan. And who does any dating these days? More Japanese women are forgoing the ritual completely, to tie the knot at 35 and older (that’s IF they decide marriage is on the agenda). Against this dismal backdrop, no one is likely to wear a Chanel dress with no underwear for Christmas.

So, join me in a wistful toast for the good old days.

Cheers!