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Cultural Exchange: A Japanese porn star at 76

He used to be a travel agent. Now Shigeo Tokuda is a big star in Japan's emerging adult-movie genre known as 'elder-porn.'

March 06, 2011|By John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Tokyo — At the seemingly fragile age of 76, his story is the stuff of Hollywood legend (Well, maybe the seamier side of the San Fernando Valley), a tale made more outlandish because it happened to a buttoned-down salary man in hyper-conservative Japan.

For years, a Tokyo grandfather kept a dirty little secret from his family. Longtime travel agent Shigeo Tokuda, who resembles countless older men who ride the Tokyo subway each day, admitted to his wife and daughter that he sometimes performed cameos in small-budget films.

But what this senior citizen didn't say was that those scenes, often staged in would-be retirement homes, involved getting naked with actresses young enough to be his granddaughter. Since he was "discovered" in 1996, Tokuda has emerged as a major player in Japan's emerging adult movie genre known as "elder porn." He says he has appeared in more than 350 films such as "Prohibited Nursing" and "Maniac Training of Lolitas." In these scripts, Tokuda always gets the girl.

The films play upon well-documented Japanese male fantasies. In each, Tokuda plays a gray-haired master of sex who teaches his ways to an assortment of young nurses and secretaries. Whips and sex aides often factor in the plotlines.

"I'm a role model for a lot of men," he says. "I do my best."

In 2006, Tokuda's life took a somewhat psychedelic plot twist when his grown daughter intercepted a fax describing an upcoming scene he'd been asked to perform. She and her mother confronted Tokuda, who uses only his stage name in the press.

There wasn't the lawyer-dialing and plate-throwing that would take place in many American households. Think controlled, perhaps repressed, anger. "My daughter complained that this wasn't a very nice job to do," he recalls. "My wife worried about my health. She said I was getting old and that this work must be difficult on me physically."

Nowadays, Tokuda makes an average of one film a week, earning up to $500 a day. "I told them that I didn't have shame over this type of job," he says, "but that I'd try to be more conservative in the future."

"Elder-porn" is a burgeoning industry in a nation that features the world's oldest population and ranks second (behind the U.S.) in the personal consumption of pornography. Japan is also ranked one of the most sexless societies on the planet. A recent study also ranked Japanese couples as among the world's most sexless.

Industry executives say proceeds from elder porn — mostly featuring older men and younger women — have doubled in recent years to represent nearly one-fifth of Japan's $1-billion-a-year adult film business.

Recently, Tokuda sat down at the offices of an adult film company to discuss life as one of Japan's most veteran porn stars. Dressed in a blazer and casual shirt, he's a slight man — about 5-foot-3, 140 pounds — who wears dentures and has a small but meandering Mikhail Gorbachev-type scar atop his balding head.

The Tokyo native was working in the travel promotion industry when he became a fan of order-in room porn flicks. Too shy to frequent adult movie stores, he tracked down the producers of his favorite DVDs. "At 59, I secretly hoped they would offer me some sort of senior discount," he recalls.

Tokuda befriended the firm's producers, one of whom made him a proposition over drinks: Tokuda had a "lascivious" face and was invited to try his hand at adult films.

In his first scene, filmmakers reduced the number of extras so Tokuda would feel less uncomfortable getting naked. His shyness quickly vanished along with his clothes, and he began slipping away from out-of-office travel company meetings to play porn actor. But after a 2005 stroke (not on the set, he says), he was moved to a desk job by his travel agency.

With no opportunity to slip out unnoticed, he retired — not from porn but from the travel industry. The rest, as they say, is Japanese porn history. Tokuda is now a brand name, with many projects bearing the Shigeo Tokuda moniker. A recent installment in his "Forbidden Elderly Care" series has been advertised with such slogans as "Don't Be Ashamed of Getting Old!" and "Lust Is Medicine."

Tokuda isn't sure whether he's Japan's oldest male porn actor, but he acknowledges that a few of his biggest competitors — one 90, the other in his 70s — have recently passed away.

He's even recognized in public, such as the night two men followed him into a restaurant restroom to ask for his autograph. Tokuda later invited them for a drink with him and his wife. "It's not that I'm proud, but it feels nice to be useful," he says. "My wife is glad that at my age I've still got someplace to go."

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john.glionna@latimes.com

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