learning about Japanese erotic films, one important word that you must
understand for the purpose of our topic is shibari. Shibari
(meaning "to tie" in English) is a Japanese style of sexual bondage (duh!).
Kinbaku relates more to the word "bondage", so Kinbaku-bi
means "beautiful bondage". It involves tying up a willing individual
in intricate patterns, usually with several pieces of thin rope. Shibari
differs from Western bondage practices in that, instead of just restraining
the partner and whipping his/her ass, etc., the latter individual gains
pleasure from being put under the strain of the ropes, with some choice
squeezing of breasts and genitals. The visual aesthetics of the bound
person's position are also important: it is claimed that Japanese bondage
is notorious for its use of inventive and complicated asymmetric positions
in the goal of heightening the psychological impact.
Note that some of the techniques of shibari originated with old military restraint techniques (called Hojojutsu), which resulted in safer modern sexual bondage practices, with great care taken to avoid needless and permanent injury. Bondage as a sexual activity first came noticeable in Japan around the late Edo period (established during 1603-1867), perhaps as a probable result of Western influences. Closer to us, in the 1960s, a tradition of bondage as a form of performance art developed in Japan. Thus, when sex became more permissive in Japanese screens in the early ‘70s, motion pictures with bondage themes (called Best SM pink) were offered to an eager public, already aware of other popular trends, that of the rape fantasy films or even the delinquent girls films. With intriguing translation of titles like Wife to be Sacrificed, Rope Hell, Beautiful Teacher in Torture Hell or Wife in Mourning: Public-Shaved Rope Slave, well, you get the picture…
The Queen of Japanese S&M remains, of course, Naomi Tani. While her age was undetermined for some time, it's now known that she was born on October 12, 1948. Her beauty will remain immortal in her impressive cinematic œuvre, as here was an actress who completely devoted herself to the shibari art, to the point of retiring in 1979, not wanting to disappoint her fans by eventually showing her ageing face and body. We'll devote deserved space right here to Ms. Tani.
On a post dated December 26, 2007 on the Cult Sirens blog, I talked briefly about the major Japanese film studios making a turning point in their schedules to include the production of erotic films, mainly for lucrative purposes. These films were called Roman Porno or Pink Films, softcore affairs that are still highly regarded by fans to this day. The popularity of DVD in recent years was a blessing for the discovery of titles that were only whispered about in some circles or never being seen outside Japan. The Nikkatsu Studio Roman Porno era (around 1971 to 1982) is regarded as some sort of Golden Age for quality products.
Tani played in the best Roman Porno S&M films during that time. After
moving to Tokyo at the age of 18, she began acting after a magazine
photo shoot. Wouldn't you know that this led to an offer to act in films.
She took the name tani, which is a Japanese nickname similar
to the word "cleavage". Beginning work for small studios, Naomi played
in many genres, employed in comedies, dramas, etc. Still in 1967 and at
a tender age, she made her first S&M scene in an episode for Memoirs
Of A Modern Female Doctor and her first starring role the same
year in the same kind of story in Female Bodies in a Brutal Scenario,
as a prostitute tortured by criminals.
Inspired by major pink films directors at the time, Naomi began to make a considerable impression in the movie community. She met and befriended legendary S&M author Oniroku Dan, which resulted in mutual inspiration and paved the ground for future cinematic masterpieces. As early as 1968, Naomi was featured in Playboy magazine, for a Girls of the Orient pictorial in the December issue. Not even yet working for any major studios and barely 21, she was already known as the Queen of Pink. Her beautiful long hair, perfect pale skin, big chest and gorgeous face were of course selling point; her devotion and dedication to acting out realistic bondage scenes were also not lost on the public.
In 1972, she played a supporting role in a Nikkatsu production, but left the studio for the time being. In fact, she herself directed two motion pictures based on the writings of her friend Oniroku Dan, with the telling titles of Sex Killer and Starved Sex Beast, an unprecedented feat for a young Japanese woman in these times. It was on the condition of using one of Dan's story that Naomi returned to Nikkatsu, eventually filming the classic Flower and Snake (whose remake we discussed back in September 2007). The result was a classy show that became a point of reference for that kind of script, even if director Masaru Konuma and his screenwriter Yozo Tanaka didn't always see eye to eye with star Naomi Tani and novelist Oniroku Dan. Still, Naomi's performance as a wife trained to be sexually submissive is astonishing. The movie was released in June 1974 to favourable reviews and Nikkatsu was on a roll after some difficult years.
The same year, Naomi reunited with Konuma and Tanaka for Wife to be Sacrificed, maybe the most important production in the genre and a film still appreciated world wide more than 30 years later. Naomi plays a woman abducted by her former husband who subjects her to all kinds of humiliation and twisted bondage games in a isolated cabin. Of course, she becomes addicted to these treatments. I had the opportunity to catch this movie at the FanTasia Festival in 1999 and was completely amazed.
Sometimes nicknamed Black Rose, Naomi continued to work with top directors in prestigious projects. She performed all of her own scenes and seemingly never complained once, enduring difficult positions when being tied up, suspended and more often than not yelled at and abused by performers faithful to their roles as thugs. A perfectionist, she wanted her scenes to be “cruel and beautiful”. She fled from the rays of the sun, preferring to keep her skin as pale as possible for the display of reddish rope marks. Ladies and gentlemen, that IS dedication!
1979's Rope and Skin was her retirement film, as she stopped work at the very height of popularity. At 31 years old, she didn't want to disappoint her fans in seeing an ageing face and body… Soon after, Naomi released a musical album. She enjoyed the good life before being hit by a car in 1981, resulting in a long rehabilitation and a painful divorce in 1984. She now owns a restaurant and a video store specializing in tasteful erotic films!
Asian cinema began to be more well known in the mid-90s and Naomi Tani was to be discovered by new fans around the world, to her own astonishment and semi-embarrassment. In 2000, she took part in the documentary Sadistic and Masochistic, which celebrates the career of director Masaru Konuma, responsible for Naomi's most celebrated work.
Now just try to find pictures with no nudity to illustrate this article! Just try! I'm almost ashamed that I couldn't to justice to Naomi's beauty and grace, as I only can use some pitifully cropped images to include in this article. Surely you can do your own research. Seeing a Naomi Tani motion picture is a guaranteed sensual pleasure. In my view, she remains one of the Top Ten intriguing and beautiful female movie star of all time.
A complete filmography of Naomi Tani is yet to be compiled. The tip of the iceberg that you will find on the right of your screen is a sometimes clumsy translations of titles that can boggle the mind. This list is far from being perfect and surely contains mistakes, but it can give a general idea of Naomi's output.