‘Sil­ver porn’ high­lights fifty shades of gray­ing in Ja­pan


Dressed in a ki­mono and kneel­ing silently on a tatami mat floor, 61-year-old Ya­sue Tomita looks as if she might be about to per­form a Ja­panese tea cer­e­mony — in­stead she’s de­but­ing as a porn actress.

Flut­ter­ing her eye­lashes de­murely as the cam­eras pre­pare to roll, Tomita is proof that in Ja­pan’s gray­ing so­ci­ety you’re never too old to chase your dreams, how­ever racy or un­ortho­dox.

She has also be­come part of a flour­ish­ing niche mar­ket in Ja­pan: “sil­ver porn” — stretch­ing the lim­its of eroti­cism among the el­derly and over­turn­ing so­cial norms in a coun­try where peo­ple are ex­pected to grow old grace­fully.

Love, too, is not con­fined to the young, say Ja­pan’s grow­ing army of pen­sion­ers ex­plor­ing their de­sires in more con­ven­tional ways, with dat­ing agen­cies for the el­derly re­port­ing in­creas­ingly brisk busi­ness.

Tomita con­fessed to be­ing “a bit rusty” but made no apolo­gies for her ram­bunc­tious lust for life, or her de­ci­sion to put aside her knit­ting and cro­chet and launch into a ca­reer mak­ing X-rated movies.

“I like my hand­i­crafts but I wanted to try my hand at this, while my body still works,” she told AFP be­fore film­ing be­gan.

“I do like sex, and this is my last chance be­fore I get too old. I’m very ner­vous. I won­der if I should re­ally do it, es­pe­cially in front of so many peo­ple, but ev­ery­one should fol­low their dream.

“I just hope I can keep up,” added Tomita, who used to work in a fac­tory man­u­fac­tur­ing car parts and reg­is­tered for an agency in Ja­pan’s boom­ing “adult video” (AV) in­dus­try with her daugh­ter.

“We ap­plied through the In­ter­net to­gether. I got of­fered a job first, which sur­prised her a bit.”

For­bid­den Plea­sures

In aging Ja­pan, around 32 mil­lion peo­ple — a quar­ter of the pop­u­la­tion — are 65 or over. Thanks to a low birthrate and grow­ing longevity, that pro­por­tion is ex­pected to rise to 40 per­cent by 2060.

With statis­tics like that, it’s no sur­prise that geronto-porn is big busi­ness.

Adult movies rake in about US$20 bil­lion a year, and those fea­tur­ing unashamedly wrinkly men and women ac­count for be­tween 20 and 30 per­cent of that mar­ket, in­dus­try in­sid­ers say. Sales have rock­eted over the past decade as more of Ja­pan’s perky se­niors cel­e­brate their mojo.

Though not for the faint­hearted, the genre took off thanks largely to now-80-year-old Shi­geo Tokuda, the twin­kle-toed king of grand­dad porn, who has peeled off for hun­dreds of hard­core flicks with ti­tles such as “For­bid­den El­derly Care” and “Manic Train­ing of Loli­tas.”

Pornog­ra­phy be­came widely avail­able in Ja­pan in the 1900s, with sev­en­teenth cen­tury Edo­era wood­block erotic prints be­ing many peo­ple’s first in­tro­duc­tion to the genre.

At­ti­tudes to­wards sex are less prud­ish than in other parts of the world and fun-lov­ing fer­til­ity fes­ti­vals, where gi­ant wooden phal­luses are joy­fully car­ried around towns, take place an­nu­ally in parts of Ja­pan.

“Ev­ery­one has dif­fer­ent sex­ual tastes or fetishes,” said direc­tor Fu­mi­aki Kimura. “El­derly porn has be­come very popular over the past 10 years or so. Older cou­ples watch to­gether be­cause they can feel a con­nec­tion, a sense of close­ness or fa­mil­iar­ity, be­ing the same age.

“It’s like a for­bid­den plea­sure,” he added. “Young peo­ple watch it be­cause they’re fed up with the regular stuff — what­ever turns you on. You do hear about ac­tors tak­ing Vi­a­gra, but that can be danger­ous for the older guys.”

Tokuda, who beds ac­tresses young enough to be his grand­daugh­ter, also co-starred with Fu­jiko Ito, just two years his ju­nior, the pair frol­ick­ing in hot springs or on tatamis with Ito in a ki­mono.

Nat­suko Kayama, 44, a porn star with 25 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in the in­dus­try, told AFP she wanted to out­last the old­est swingers in town.

“I’d love to be the old­est AV actress,” she laughed. “I want to break the record if I can — if I last that long.”

Love, Ac­tu­ally

Far away from the steamy film sets, oth­ers en­ter­ing the au­tumn of their lives are sim­ply in­ter­ested in find­ing com­pan­ion­ship, per­haps af­ter los­ing or leav­ing their first long-term part­ner.

But with habits set, it isn’t al­ways easy to meet some­one, and many turn to one of hun­dreds of match­mak­ing ser­vices cater­ing to older clien­tele, such as the AiSe­nior com­pany, which boasts a to­tal of 6,000 reg­is­tered mem­bers, some in their 90s.

Later life dat­ing hit the head­lines last year with the grisly case of the “Black Widow” — 68-yearold Chisako Kakehi, who was ar­rested in Novem­ber ac­cused of mur­der­ing her sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian fourth hus­band with cyanide.

Plac­ing ad­verts for an “un­at­tached el­derly man with as­sets,” she was said to have amassed mil­lions of dol­lars in in­sur­ance and other pay­outs over 10 years as a re­sult of the death of a string of spouses and lovers.

Most el­derly daters, hap­pily, have far more felic­i­tous sto­ries to tell.

Yo­suke Komori, 66, and his 57- year- old wife Mut­suko met through an­other dat­ing agency. Both pre­vi­ously mar­ried, they wed four years ago and still hold hands like smit­ten teenagers.

“I think a healthy sex life is an added bonus of mar­riage,” said Mut­suko, who got mar­ried in a dar­ingly short dress, to the hor­ror of her daugh­ters.

“I think per­haps my hus­band is suf­fi­ciently con­fi­dent in that depart­ment. But the most im­por­tant thing in a re­la­tion­ship is mu­tual un­der­stand­ing.”

For bash­ful Yo­suke, it was never only about the phys­i­cal side of things.

“I feel most contented when she is happy,” he said sheep­ishly. “I don’t want to sound soppy, but I just want to make her smile. What’s im­por­tant is love, ac­tu­ally.”


Ya­sue Tomita, 61, sits on a tatami floor while pos­ing for a pho­tog­ra­pher as she makes her de­but as a porn actress at a stu­dio in Tsu­ru­gashima, Saitama pre­fec­ture, on March 17.

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