An interview with pink movie star and director Chisa Hasegawa

We came across an interesting interview with pink movie actress Chisa Hasegawa (長谷川千紗) in the excellent Substack newsletter Tokyo Calling. Here are some highlights.

As regular readers will know well, pink movies (pinku eiga) are softcore porn or sexploitation films that were immensely popular in Japan in the 1960s and 1970s, but were decimated by the rise of hardcore adult video in the 1980s and 1990s (as chronicled in The Naked Director). Nonetheless, the industry is still going, surviving thanks to the dedication of certain performers and producers, and eking out a tiny margin from screenings at a handful of specialist theaters (like the famous Ueno Okura Theater) and from DVD/Blu-ray sales/rentals.

In fact, pink movies even underwent a kind of mini revival recently with the production of several new features by high-profile directors.

Since mainstream Japanese cinema, dominated as it is by the production committee system that tries to please everyone involved, is risk-adverse and relatively rarely has sex scenes, pink films were often the best way to see famous actresses in the buff (recent case in point: Kumi Takiuchi).

Under 40 pink films were made last year (mostly by OP Eiga), which is a fraction of the industry’s heyday, but not too shabby considering hardcore porn is only a click away and even non-porn independent cinema in Japan is struggling.

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The 40-year-old (and very comely jukujo) Hasegawa has appeared in numerous features and is also now directs. Over her career, she’s worked with directors both young and old.

“Older directors treat love scenes as a sort of fan service,” she says. “There’s the story on one side, and then, every ten minutes, they drop a sex scene to make the audience happy. Younger directors, on the other hand, tend to treat the love scenes as an integral part of the plot. There must be a reason to have sex at that particular moment.”

Though a veteran of the industry now, she initially experienced some issues with the, ahem, more technical side of things.

“Nude scenes in indie movies come quite natural because they are part of the story development; they are there for a reason. But pink films are all about sex. They have plots, of course, but a lot of fans only care for the naughty scenes. So the camera often comes up close, under your skirt. It can be quite embarrassing.”

More problematically, though this is softcore porn and so simulated unlike JAV, there is still the same problem of not showing genitalia — and thus running afoul of Japanese censorship laws.

“During the many nude scenes, actresses have to wear a thong, which is something I never wear in daily life,” she says. “But because in Japan showing pubic hair is forbidden, you must be very careful when you shoot a film. When I started appearing in pink films, I knew nothing of these things. One day, we were doing one of these scenes, and the director suddenly screamed, ‘Cut!’ He came to me and said, ‘Why didn’t you shave properly? Get rid of that hair, and be quick because everybody is waiting for you. We can’t afford to waste precious time!’ I was shocked. I remember thinking, what the hell am I doing here?! I spent years refining my acting…for this?! Now I’m okay, but there was a time when I didn’t really enjoy the love scenes.”

In the interview, she also discusses the use of maebari genital guards to protect hygiene and ensure there’s no danger of breaching obscenity laws. But there can be problems when the actors get erections!

She shared some intriguing insights about the audiences for pink movies today. Did you know that sexploitation cinemas are popular places for gay cruising?

“They don’t care about what’s being shown. They just buy a ticket and do their thing in the dark. And gays are not the only ones looking for sex. Let’s say that an unaccompanied woman runs the risk of being molested.”

All this (simulated) sex and nudity must be lucrative, right? Hardly. Despite being the lead and having the most credits in a year for a single actress, Hasegawa only takes home ¥50,000 a day, despite the grueling hours involved. Since shoots are shot over three days, it works out at a mere ¥150,000 per movie. She did six films last year, so she has to do a part-time office job to make ends meet. Not exactly the glamorous life of an actor!

A sexploitation star quietly working a few days each week in an unassuming office in between shoots? It almost sounds like the plot of a pink film! Truth is sometimes indeed stranger than fiction.

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