Books by Nicholas Bornoff

Released: May 9, 1991

An exhaustive, 479-page foray into Japan's modern sex customs that fluctuates between a scholarly history and a ``nasty travelogue'' of kinky rituals characteristic of the country's ``water trade.'' Bornoff, a British free-lance journalist, lived for 11 years in Tokyo during the late 1970's and 80's. Through interviews with and anecdotes about housewives, businessmen, psychologists, artists, prostitutes, and porn stars, Bornoff explores Japan's troubled national and racial character. A mutating economy, escalating divorce rate, female independence, rising crime, and an ethic that puts corporation over family have left Japan, says Bornoff, in a ``peculiar limbo'' where religious and patriarchal traditions are moribund. Yesterday's samurai is today's ``salaryman''an emasculated workaholic whose atavistic lust for militarism and misogyny can be sated only within the ``bordello architecture'' of ``love hotels,'' geisha houses, sex museums, strip parlors, and multiscreen blue movie palaces. Bornoff stresses ``the Japanese preference for the artificial over the real'' to showcase this consumer paradise where six merges with high-tech and Shinto meets Disney. Going beyond adult sleaze, Bornoff also exposes the sadomasochistic motifs in video games, comic books, and prime-time TV variety shows, not to mention the role of ultranationalist right-wing factions bolstering the pornography trade. Meanwhile, he atones for the book's excessive length by being witty, enlightening, and stunning with his wealth of references and perspectives. Bornoff's only weakness occurs in the first half, when he loses himself in ancient phallic festivals and Tantric trysts and doesn't sufficiently integrate the discussion into his central thesis on the here and now. Despite some uneven narrative, then, a delightful, weird and invaluable document with the informative and cynical charm of a good Mondo movie. (Eight-page photo insertnot seen.) Read full book review >