A Visit to Fuzoku Shiryokan (Abnormal Museum)
If you would like to see a very interesting and graphic representation of what's been happening around here since March 11, go here. Be patient. It takes awhile for things to really get going.
Every aftershock focuses the mind. Breathing becomes shallow or simply dispensed with. The brain trashes every thought but one: harmless aftershock ... or hell on earth?
Even before March 11, I thought that living in Tokyo was like being on Death Row, just with better odds. Considering how long it takes to execute someone in Japan, I'm not so sure about that last part.
The choice is clear. Get out of Dodge or stick around and take your chances. I'm staying put so I figured as long as I'm going to be here, I might as well get out of the house and do something useful. So I went to the Abnormal Museum (aka the Sex Museum or SM Museum) 風俗資料館.
I'd heard a lot about this place over the years but this was the first time I'd been (thanks to the kindness of an associate who happens to be a member).
A glimpse of bondage in an otherwise mainstream pink film
The museum (library might be a better word) is located in the Iidabashi section of Tokyo, not far at all from Shinjuku on the Chuo-Sobu line. It only takes about three minutes to walk there from the station. It is located in a high rise, one of those tall and narrow structures you see all over the place. When I was standing outside having a smoke, I wondered how, at the time of the quake, the building hadn't crashed into the ones on either side -- that's how close they are.
I wasn't in a tall building myself, but I've heard stories of the swaying which was enough to make some people sea sick.
These kinds of buildings are so narrow, one office occupies one floor. I didn't take any photos inside. To get an idea what it looks like, go here.
Just like a regular library, you can get photocopies made at 50 yen per. That's where the photos accompanying this post came from.
Movie mag pics of the 1964 film Gate of Flesh
From the outside, you wouldn't know anything unusual had happened but a lot of valuable periodicals inside the Abnormal Museum ended up on the floor. At the time of my visit, a couple of fellows came in to have a look around and to see about fastening the shelves containing thousands of magazines, books, binders, discs, etc., more securely to the wall. Fortunately, nothing was lost of this fabulous archive.
Everything had been picked up and put back neatly in its place by the time I arrived. Vast collections of magazines like Kitan Club, SM King, SM Fan, SM Select, Uramado and so on, lined the walls from floor to ceiling.
The museum also has a secret stash of very valuable works by Ito Seiu. They have special events from time to time when they'll put these on display -- or they'll show old film reels from the 60s and 70s; black and white oddities silently recalling a bygone era. They haven't even been digitized. You watch them accompanied by the familiar racket of a film projector clacking along at 18 frames per second.
There is a place for watching DVDs. Just remember, this is a library, not one of those jerk-off joints with private rooms and lots of tissues. Keep your hands where the staff can see 'em.
The goal of the Abnormal Museum isn't to titillate. It's there to preserve; to rescue and to archive the history of SM in Japan. If it weren't for the Abnormal Museum, these works might be completely lost or, at best, scattered across the land in the dens and attics of hundreds of disconnected and anonymous collectors.
Just a few members were there at the time of my visit early on a Friday afternoon. Most of them were older, one having a look at some movies at the DVD station, others milling around the magazine shelves. My associate was there doing serious research.
On the right, one of the films about Ito Seiu, produced by Nikkatsu, starring Miyashita Junko
I managed to find a collection of old movie magazines nonchalantly bearing witness to the sheer volume of pink films that had been produced in their heyday. I flipped through these issues in amazement. Just how many of these did they make? If you've ever seen an old US publication called Adam Film World, then you have a pretty good idea what these mags are like. And like Adam Film World, there was the occasional glimpse of naked and bound women appearing in films I never knew existed.
Some of these lovely ladies are now gone. And some are grannies.
I took a look at many of the classic SM magazines mentioned above. I also found a ton of miscellaneous artwork and old black and white photos in thick binders. These looked like someone's scrapbook, put together over decades of devoted cutting and pasting.
There was a small section of Western material, some magazines from House of Milan and material from artists such as John Willie and Eric Stanton. Judging from the old magazines, those artists were quite popular in Japan back in the day.
Left, Rope and Flesh, starring Tani Naomi
But I found myself going back to the movie mags. It was like traveling through time. When these magazines were published, the movies they were covering had just recently been released.
One of the magazines had the goods on one of the three known films documenting the life of Ito Seiu. The first of these films came out in 1966 and the screenplay was written by the then-unknown Dan Oniroku. The English title would be something like, "The End of Abnormality". According to my associate, this film is now gone. No more. Extinct.
Another Seiu movie was produced by Nikkatsu in 1977 and that's the one whose photos are reproduced in this post. Its English title can be roughly translated as "Torture Based on Secret Book Beautiful Dancer". This is probably an awful translation. I'm taking it from two sources. The Japanese (romaji) is, "Hakkin-bon Bijin Ranbu Yori, Semeru!" This one starred the beautiful Miyashita Junko.
The third one came out in 2002 and was produced by Shochiku. Its title is "Oyou". Oyou was one of Ito's wives and models.
The last two are still available. I saw the Nikkatsu version years ago. Time for another viewing. I haven't seen the Shochiku one. Need to check this one out.
Needless to say, I'm grateful the SM Museum came through the earthquake without losing any of their precious artifacts. But what about next time? The super quake was in Tohoku. The Kanto quake is still overdue. It could happen years from now, or it could happen tonight. And it wouldn't take a M9.0 under Tokyo to seriously mess things up.
Which got me to thinking. In the overall scheme of things, the efforts of Fuzoku Shiryokan are in vain. They are merely postponing the inevitable. All they can do is keep their precious documents intact for as long as possible. But someday, despite their best efforts, they will be gone. It might happen in the next big quake, or it might take a little longer. Either way, it's a lost cause. So why even try?
Perhaps the answer can be found in the north of Japan. Everything is broken. Everything. The most precious things are gone, never to return. So why even try? I think I know the answer. And so probably do you.