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A history of Japanese striptease

Éric Dumont and Vincent Manigot
Translated by Karen Grimwade

Abstracts

Nudity is a cultural phenomenon. If nude bodies were displayed before 1945, shows and entertainment exploiting female nudity as such only appeared under the American Occupation. The analysis of actual and concrete forms of such performances and their evolutions brings out three distinct periods. During the postwar period, representations eroticizing the female body spread widely. From 1947, the displaying of nudity, in the form of tableau vivant, increased in revue shows. It is around the turn of the 1950s that this kind of practice became widespread, with the appearance of theaters devoted to strip shows, especially in Asakusa. These institutions led to a “golden age” of striptease characterized by unbridled creativity, scenic innovations and the establishment of a star system. Initiated in the 1960s, the third period is marked by an intensification of the sexual content and aspects of the performances.

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We are sincerely grateful to Hara Yoshiichi 原芳市, Moriyama Daidō 森山大道, Moriyama Sōhei 森山想平, and the estate of Hirooka Keiichi 広岡敬一 for allowing us to reproduce the images in this article for free.

Original release: Éric Dumont et Vincent Manigot, « Une histoire du striptease japonais », Cipango, 21, 2014, 133‑185, mis en ligne le 26 septembre 2016. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/​cipango/​2230 ; DOI : 10.4000/cipango.2230

1On the face of it, defining striptease does not appear to pose a problem: it is an erotic spectacle in which a performer disrobes. A dancer undresses in public, gradually revealing her naked body on stage. The faces of the watching crowd become animated, registering delight for some, disillusionment or even outrage for others. The distribution of roles within the practice—with women on stage and men in the audience—is intuitively suggested by our everyday experience of life in a phallocratic society and by the place the female body occupies in the erotic imagination. The only remaining question would thus seem to be how the act is perceived, whether or not it is considered art. Which in turn raises the issue of the normative stance taken towards what, for the sake of convenience, we will call “pornography.” In other words, is the society in question for or against it, and above all, to what extent? Any merit there is in studying striptease would thus seem to lie in what it may tell us about the attitude—permissive or intolerant—of a given society in terms of erotic mores. Nevertheless, we believe there is also merit in exploring the forms that striptease has taken throughout its history. Contrary to popular belief, formal variation appears to have been much greater than one might think. While this evolution in form is intimately linked to the evolution in mores, and thus to changing perceptions of striptease, the growing inventiveness of these performances makes them a valid object of study from an artistic point of view.

2It would seem logical to assume that the act of stripping is as old as clothing itself. The Kojiki reports that as far back as the Age of the Gods, Ame no Uzume 天宇受賣 removed her clothing during a dance, provoking general hilarity among the assembled gods and enticing the sun goddess out of her hiding place. Yet it would clearly be anachronistic to claim Ame no Uzume as a pioneer of striptease, whether in Japan or the world at large.

  • 1 Rachel Shteir, Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show (New York: Oxford University Pres (...)
  • 2 In Japan, the history of striptease is clearly interlinked with that of music halls, Asakusa Opera (...)
  • 3 Although sources have difficulty agreeing on a date, it seems likely that the first shows of this (...)
  • 4 See in particular Ozawa Shōichi 小沢昭一, Fukai Toshihiko 深井俊彦 and Nakatani Akira 中谷陽, “Kieru hi, Moe (...)

3The term “striptease” most likely appeared in the early 1930s, or even slightly before according to some sources;1 however, erotic shows that in retrospect could be given such a label no doubt existed earlier. Despite this, little information exists on the advent of the practice, whether in Japan or elsewhere. Although striptease certainly has a prehistory, in this paper we have preferred to focus on its history in order to avoid any confusion over its genealogy.2 The early history of striptease was characterised by the assertion that this was a public performance, in other words, one not confined to a small group of initiates. To our mind, it is the appearance of openly advertised shows and more or less specialist venues accessible to anyone willing to pay that marks the advent of striptease. In this sense, the origins of the practice can be dated back to the late nineteenth century, when stripping emerged for the first time in its established, theatricalised form that was accessible to the widest audience possible. Although it would not be particularly helpful to pinpoint a specific date or event as officially marking its birth, striptease can be said to have emerged in a fairly similar manner in France and the United States, as part of cabaret shows.3 In Japan, the practice appeared only after World War II4 and soon adopted such a variety of forms that it would be extremely difficult to establish one single, definitive definition. Indeed, the term “striptease” refers as much to a set of techniques, a type of act or a genre of show than to specific material conditions, venues, people or professions. It thus encompasses practices and elements that go beyond merely “undressing on stage,” hence the need to describe and problematize its formal manifestations.

  • 5 For example in Tokyo, the Asakusa Rokku‑za 浅草ロック座 (Asakusa Rock‑za), Shiatā Ueno シアター上野 (Ueno The (...)

4Having appeared in Japan shortly after the end of World War II, striptease underwent a number of transformations until the 1970s. This paper proposes to look back at these evolutions, which have been divided into three periods. The first covers the appearance of striptease during the tumultuous postwar period and the attempts made to introduce movement; the second focuses on the transition to a more theatrical model at the cusp of the 1950s, which was accompanied by the creation of venues specialising in striptease; finally, the third period encompasses the various changes undergone by striptease during the 1960s, when the notion of pleasure came to the fore. This schematic periodisation should not be interpreted as suggesting that the 1970s sounded the death knell for the history of striptease. Shows are still being performed in specialist venues to this day.5 Nevertheless, for the moment at least, formal evolution within the industry seems to have reached a limit at the beginning of the 1970s, with no significant changes having been seen since.

  • 6 Satō Makoto 佐藤信, for example, claims to have watched a show featuring a 63-year-old female stripp (...)

5Statistical data concerning the number of venues, their owners, attendance rates and the revenue generated would no doubt have been extremely enlightening; unfortunately it proved impossible to obtain any reliable figures. The disreputable nature of this type of industry is not conducive to the production, much less the official publication, of such documents. Figures relating to striptease dancers—such as their average wage, life expectancy and career length—would also have been of the greatest interest. But here again, aside from a few sporadic anecdotes6 and biographies that often verge on hagiographies, we were unable to locate sufficient data to make any generalisations.

  • 7 See the Tsubouchi Memorial Theater Museum Digital Archives Collection.

6Based on these figures, or rather the lack of them, a number of hypotheses can be made. First, that striptease may not yet have truly captured the attention of researchers in the social sciences. Second, that many dancers changed their name several times and that the nature of the world in which they worked (or still work) does not encourage transparency of information. Third, that after turning their backs on the stage many dancers simply returned to “normal” society and anonymity. Given the absence of documentation, we are unable to provide any useful discussion of the general living conditions of striptease dancers. Instead we will present the history of a performing art that cannot be reduced to statistical data, though we are conscious of the limits this places on our discussion. As we will see, many artists—some of whom were famous outside Japan—enjoyed close links with the world of striptease. Regardless of the famous names that gravitated around the industry, and despite its status as a popular art, striptease undeniably counts as one of the first theatrical forms to have explored the body in movement in postwar Japan, long before the ballets of Jikken Kōbō 実験工房 or the Butoh 舞踏 of Hijikata Tatsumi 土方巽. In fact, Hijikata took a close interest in striptease, even choreographing shows during the 1960s.7 Generally speaking, striptease has constantly faced concrete production difficulties and other less technical issues relating to desire and eroticism. The history of striptease thus tells us as much about the history of mores as it does about the history of the performing arts.

The early days of striptease in Japan (1945‑1948)

A novel use of the body: tableaux vivants

  • 8 We do not deny the existence of suggestive—or even explicit—graphic material before 1945. Photogra (...)
  • 9 Named after kasutori shōchū カストリ焼酎, an alcoholic beverage of varying quality—at best mediocre—th (...)
  • 10 The analogy between this type of photo series and striptease is interesting: many others followed, (...)
  • 11 Dower, Embracing Defeat, 149.
  • 12 The film in question was Sasaki Yasushi’s Hatachi no seishun は た ち の 青 春 [Twenty-year-old Youth], (...)

7The immediate postwar period in Japan saw a rapid and massive influx of art forms that used the body in novel ways, raising new questions about corporeality that contrasted with the hygienism that had prevailed until 1945.8 The Americans planted the seeds of an entire popular culture that was epitomised by the magazines known as kasutori zasshi カストリ雑誌.9 These publications were modelled on the pulp magazines that had circulated in the United States for several years. Life magazine, for example, created a scandal in 1937 by trying to boost its sales via an article that would serve as a benchmark for its competitors. Entitled “How to Undress for Your Husband,” it offered a step-by-step guide to undressing for any housewife keen to please her husband.10 Just like the American publications on which they were modelled, kasutori zasshi regularly featured cover pictures of sensual women. In 1946, the magazine Aka to kuro 赤と黒 (The Red and the Black) published a photograph of a semi‑naked woman.11 That same year also saw the first kiss in the history of Japanese film, giving birth to what would soon be known as the seppun eiga 接吻映画 (kissing film).12 By the following year, drawings and paintings of naked or semi‑naked women had become commonplace in such publications. In fact, in the United States in particular, but also in France, photojournalism and pulp magazines merely followed in the wake of Hollywood films, sunbathing (which was increasingly popular) and beauty contests, all of which had banalised certain aspects of nudity. Japan followed a similar path by launching the first Western‑style beauty contest, Miss Ginza, in 1947.

  • 13 The young woman was literally “framed,” just as a painting would be. She posed in the space usuall (...)
  • 14 The gakubuchi nūdo shō can be compared to the tableaux vivants used in particular in 18th‑centur (...)

8However, 1947 was above all the year that saw the birth of what would later be known as “striptease.” In early January, in a small club on the fifth floor of the Teito‑za 帝都座, a theatre affiliated to the Tōhō group, customers could pay twenty yen to watch a new kind of show: the gakubuchi nūdo shō 額縁ヌードショー (picture-frame nude show),13 in which a young woman, scantily dressed rather than actually naked, struck poses in a composition designed to create a kind of tableau vivant (living picture). One such example was Nakamura Emiko 中村笑子, who posed as Botticelli’s Venus, her bosom modestly covered with a cloth. In fact, this particular performance, entitled Vīnasu no tanjō ヴィーナスの誕生 (The Birth of Venus), took its name from Botticelli’s famous painting, suggesting the importance accorded to this act by its producers. Note that the decision to choose the name The Birth of Venus established a curious link between Renaissance eroticism and the naked performances to come.14 On closer inspection, the relationship between early striptease shows and classical art—notably via tableaux vivants—is fairly evident. Aside from the frame surrounding someone who could not yet be called a stripper, it is perhaps man’s absence from the stage that links these two art forms. Man’s absence, just like the woman’s nudity, was in fact incomplete, since his presence was suggested: he was present via the imagination. On the subject of Renaissance art—although this reflection could easily be applied to striptease—the art historian Daniela Hammer‑Tugendhat points out that:

  • 15 Herbert Eisenschenk (director), Le Nu absolu [documentary film] (Austria–France: Arte–Vermeer Film (...)

It may seem unbelievable but art has achieved the feat of making man completely invisible in the sexual act. During the Renaissance, on the rare occasions that the sexual act was represented it was always inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses. This poem recounts an entire series of myths in which a god, in this case Zeus, the king of the gods, takes a mortal lover. To do so, he systematically transforms. With Danae, he takes the form of a golden shower; with Io, a cloud; with Leda, a swan; and with Europa, a bull. In short, everything you can imagine, but he is never himself. In art, this implies a sexual act. It is even the main theme of the artwork, but in fact all we see is a female nude because the man has disappeared in the metamorphosis. The woman embodies, as it were, the sexuality and materiality of the body, while man is associated with the spiritual.15

  • 16 SNNZ, 8: 38‑39.

9The gakubuchi nūdo was the brainchild of Hata Toyokichi 秦豊吉 (1892‑1956). A graduate of Tokyo Imperial University, he worked for Mitsubishi in Berlin between 1917 and 1926. He resigned from his position after returning to Japan and joined the Tōkyō Takarazuka Gekijō 東京宝塚劇場, becoming its manager in 1940.16 Hata continued to work at Tōhō after Japan’s defeat. Despite the difficulties created by the occupation, he saw it as an opportunity to stage a long-standing project: a show inspired by American-style musicals and his memories of the Berlin cabarets of 1918. The Birth of Venus thus contained several elements: dances, songs, conjuring tricks, sketches, and a touch of the erotic in the form of the gakubuchi nūdo. Despite lasting barely a minute, it was just enough time for the audience to notice that the “picture” was breathing. The fact that critics of the era focused entirely on this part of the show, to the exclusion of all else, gives some idea of the considerable impact the nūdo ヌード (nude) made when she arrived on stage, as well as the predominant place this performance would soon occupy.

  • 17 Several hundred people are said to have crowded around the ticket office daily in order to watch t (...)

10In February 1947, a nineteen-year-old dancer named Kai Miwa 甲斐美和 replaced Nakamura on stage at the Teito‑za. She appeared entirely naked from the waist up in Ru Panteon ル・パンテオン (Le Pantheon), boosting the already considerable success of this show,17 whose run was extended into the following year. The theatre critic Hashimoto Yoshio 橋本与志夫 recalled the event in the following terms:

It was a scene in a show choreographed by Masuda Takashi. When the curtains went up, a cobalt blue projector illuminated an area of the stage where a dancer was posing inside a large frame. Her wonderfully proportioned body, with hips barely covered by a wisp of cloth and ample bosom generously on display, was lit by a pink light which, blending with the cobalt background, created a pale green shadow that extended from the chest to the abdomen. At the sight of this beauty the audience was momentarily struck dumb. The moment lasted for a mere fourteen or fifteen seconds. Four or five for some, thirty for others; the stage returned to darkness in the blink of an eye.

  • 18 Quoted in Ōzasa Yoshio 大笹吉雄, Nihon gendai engeki-shi – Shōwa sengo-hen 日本現代演劇史―昭和戦後篇 [History of J (...)

益田隆振り付けによるレビューの中の一景だった。幕があがると、コバルトブ ルーのライトが舞台一面を照らし、中央の大きな額縁の中で踊り子がポーズを とっている。 わずかに腰のあたりを薄ものでおおっただけで、豊満な乳房をおしげもなくさらした均整のとれた裸体にピンクの照明があたって、バックのコバルトにとけ、乳房から腹部にかけて淡いグリーンの翳をつくっていた。その美しさに一瞬客席は静まりかえった。この間、わずか十四、五秒もあったろうか。四、五秒という人から三十秒はあったという人までいるが、それこそあっという間に舞台を暗転した。18

  • 19 François des Aulnoyes, Histoire et philosophie du striptease, 30‑31; A. Owen Aldridge, “American B (...)
  • 20 It is interesting to note that the occupation authorities had no intention of intervening on this (...)
  • 21 A similar situation existed in England in the 1930s. The Lord Chamberlain authorised tableaux, whi (...)

11Note that while the nudity in these performances was frontal, it was above all stationary and thus respectable. Indeed, in many countries immobility was an obligatory phase in the transition towards moving nudes.19 Tableaux vivants derived their legitimacy from the illustrious artworks they imitated. The model’s immobility was required for the imitation to be successful, and simultaneously provided an effective buffer against censorship. This strategy paid off in the sense that GHQ authorised these “tableaux,”20 but also in the sense that theatres began to present nudes in ever greater numbers.21

The quest to introduce movement

  • 22 Hara Yoshiichi 原芳市, Sutorippu no aru machi – ekizotikku shō no sekai wo tanoshimu ストリップのある街―エキゾ (...)

12The main problem facing striptease during this period was thus the obligation to remain still. At this point in time there were no thoughts of undressing the dancer completely. Lingerie could thus be interpreted as a sign of nudity. In other words, the nudes on stage wore underwear. However, the appeal of seeing a dancer in the flesh, as opposed to a woman in a picture, lay necessarily in her being a living, breathing person and thus required a certain form of movement. Accordingly, models were told to breathe in a conspicuous manner that emphasised the stomach and shoulders, all the while remaining immobile. One of the most inventive solutions came from Masakuni Otsuhiko 正邦乙彦, who devised the buranko shō ブランコ・ショー, or “swing show,” as a way to make the dancer “move without actually moving”: a dancer would pose inside a frame placed on a kind of large swing that was pushed by someone else. The young woman would thus be moving and yet stationary at the same time.22 Note that in such circumstances the stripper’s role consisted more in appealing physically to the audience rather than actually seducing them. Dance and striptease were combined on stage, but in a disconnected manner for the moment.

  • 23 Tanaka Komimasa 田中小実昌, “Sutorippu yōgo shishi” ストリップ用語私史 [My History of Striptease Vocabulary], (...)

13In May 1947, the writer and essayist Tanaka Komimasa 田中小実昌, employed at the time at Tōkyō Forīzu 東京フォリーズ (Tokyo Follies) in Shibuya, hid behind the curtain during a performance by his colleague Ranā Ōsaka ラナー多坂 and unhooked her bra.23 Although the event may have been planned, the enthusiastic reaction it garnered from the public encouraged a repeat performance. While Tanaka’s act may seem trivial, and it matters little, ultimately, if he was the first person to create the impression of a girl undressing on stage, this incident represented a landmark in the history of Japanese striptease. Indeed, stripping is merely the transition from one state to another, so that each state becomes almost transitory in the sense that another, even more desirable one is potentially forthcoming. This transition from the static “state” of the early nude shows to the succession of “steps” associated with stripping marked the appearance of a dramatic tension, which itself opened up a world of expectations.

  • 24 See Ōzasa, Nihon gendai engeki‑shi, 343.
  • 25 Watanabe Akio 渡辺昭夫, “Teito‑za gokai gekijō no ichinen kyūkagetsu” 帝都座五階劇場の一年九ヵ月 [One Year and Ni (...)

14Popular theatre quickly followed suit. In August 1947 the Kūki‑za 空気座 staged an adaptation of Tamura Taijirō’s 田村泰次郎 novel Nikutai no mon 肉体の門 (Gate of Flesh), which follows a group of prostitutes in the ruins of postwar Japan.24 At one point during the play, a protagonist provokes the wrath of her companions for violating the group’s rules and finds herself bound, stripped and whipped at the end of a sham trial. While the nudity seen in Gate of Flesh was not frontal, it was nonetheless real. What is more, it was part of a sequence and included movement. The theme explored on stage foreshadowed the future popularity of sadomasochistic shows. The play was a great success, performed over a thousand times according to Watanabe Akio,25 and was added to the repertoires of several theatres specialising in striptease during the 1950s.

  • 26 Denys Chevalier, Métaphysique du striptease (Paris: J.‑J. Pauvert, 1960), 57‑60.
  • 27 In both cases there was a high number of fragmented families, populations in which women outnumber (...)
  • 28 “Taidan – Nosaka Akiyuki/Wakamatsu Kōji, Sutorippā, yasashisa, Kaihōku” 対談―野 坂昭如・若松孝二ストリッパー・やさ (...)
  • 29 Chevalier, Métaphysique du striptease, 57.

15Striptease thus arrived in Japan with the Americans and the circumstances surrounding its emergence strikingly resemble those that heralded the birth of the first striptease shows in the United States a century earlier, between the 1820s and the 1860s, during the migration westwards,26 long before it reached the cities in its theatricalised form.27 Various Japanese authors stress the role of striptease, or rather the venues devoted to it, as a “neutral” freedom zone, abolishing disparities and differences in social status. These shows and the venues that staged them provided a place, a moment, where people could escape the worries of the time, as suggested by the term commonly used to refer to them, riberaru shō リベラル・ショー (liberal shows).28 Consequently, while the erotic nature of these shows is undeniable—and whatever motivated the Americans’ hands-off approach to them—it is probable, as notes Denys Chevalier, that striptease reflected as much “the vague desire of most people to regain a normal social life”29 as it did a simple night of bawdy fun. It is no doubt in this sense that we should interpret the following comment by Ozawa Shōichi 小沢昭一:

Now that over twenty years have passed since the war ended, to the question of how striptease has influenced us I can reply that it allowed us—we whose homes had been destroyed by air raids and who lived day and night in shelters—to have a taste of freedom, at least at its beginnings.

  • 30 Ozawa Shōichi 小沢昭一, “Misōde misenai no ga ōgi – Ōnen no mei-sutorippā, Hirose Motomi san” 見そう (...)

戦後、二十数年、ストリップがわれわれに与えてくれた影響というか、とにかく、空襲で家がやかれ、明けても暮れても防空壕に入って暮らしていたぼくらに、素晴らしい開放感を味わわせてくれたんですからね、当初は30

  • 31 With the exception of certain ero guro (erotic grotesque) magazines from the 1920s‑1930s that were (...)
  • 32 Mark McLelland states that after the war the government strongly encouraged the three “s”—sport, s (...)

16We might add that in contrast to the war years, when sex education and erotic publications were virtually non‑existent,31 the immediate postwar period saw eroticism spread and became more democratic.32

The golden age of striptease (late 1940s and the 1950s)

The appearance of strip clubs

  • 33 The term “strip show” (sutorippu shō ストリップ・ショウ) was used for the first time in 1948 by Masakuni  (...)
  • 34 Striptease was so popular that it was used in a variety of occasions, some of them quite unexpecte (...)

17In 1948 it became possible to speak of striptease thanks to the creation of specialised venues, known as sutorippu gekijō ストリップ劇場 (striptease theatres), like the Tokiwa‑za 常盤座 and Rokku‑za ロック座 in Asakusa.33 Having previously been rather isolated in number, nude shows grew exponentially and began to attract spectators from a variety of backgrounds, quickly transforming striptease from a curiosity into a phenomenon.34 Interestingly, striptease soon drew the attention of leading artists like the printmaker Munakata Shikō 棟方志功 and the writer Nagai Kafū 永井荷風. Nagai wrote the following in his diary on 1 June 1948:

This afternoon: backstage at the Daito‑za in Asakusa park. There was a rumour that nude dance shows would be temporarily banned, but they merely grew in popularity and now three theatres—Tokiwa‑za, Rokku‑za and Daito‑za—are in competition. Today at the Daito‑za I watched a woman in a kimono take off her red belt and even her nagajuban [garment worn under the kimono] while dancing.

  • 35 Nagai Kafū 永 井 荷 風, Danchōtei nichijō 断 腸 亭 日 乗 [Danchōtei Diary] (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten 岩波書店, (...)

午後浅草公園大都座楽屋。裸体舞踊一時禁止の噂ありしがその後ますます盛にて常磐座ロック座大都座の三座競ひてこれを演じつつあり。今日見たる大都座にては日本服きたる女踊りながら赤きしごきを解き長襦袢をぬぐところまで見せる。35

  • 36 OS is an abbreviation of Ōsaka sutorippu 大阪ストリップ (Osaka strip).
  • 37 Ozawa, Fukai and Nakatani, “Kieru hi, Moeru honō,” 99.

18The opening of such theatres marks an important step in the history of striptease. Previously, the gakubuchi shō had merely been an offshoot of music hall, the preserve of establishments that had existed since the 1930s and trained both dancers and theatre directors. The shift to smaller venues enabled music shows to evolve towards burlesque, thereby popularising the genre. Between 1948 and 1951 striptease theatres opened around Japan, including the famous Ōsaka Kujō OS Gekijō 大阪九条OS劇場 in Osaka36 and the Asakusa Furansu‑za 浅草フランス座 in Tokyo, both of which have since closed. In Tokyo alone, fourteen striptease establishments existed during this period37.

  • 38 John Huston’s 1958 film The Barbarian and the Geisha, in which Fujiwara starred under her real nam (...)
  • 39 Hashimoto Yoshio 橋本与志夫, “Natsukashi no sutā tachi” 懐かしのスターたち [The Stars of Yesteryear], Shingeki (...)
  • 40 Kami no yō na nikutai da 神のような肉体だ; SNNZ, 8:38.

19With new stages came new faces. The late 1940s and early 1950s coincided with a sharp increase in the success of striptease shows and the appearance of a host of stars within the genre: Heren (Helen) Taki ヘレン滝, Hirose Motomi ヒロセ元美, Jipushī Rōzu ジプシー・ローズ (Gypsy Rose), and Hanī Roi ハニー・ロイ, to name but a few. Certain dancers saw their fame reach beyond the theatre doors and a few even enjoyed international careers. Two such examples are Fujiwara Midori 藤 原 み ど り, who starred in a Hollywood film with John Wayne,38 and Sono Harumi 園はるみ, who made a name for herself as a singer in the United States before continuing her career in Japan.39 Striptease also gained recognition from the world of art. Nagai Kafū 永井荷風 married Merī Matsubara メリー松原 and Munakata Shikō liked to say that Gypsy Rose had “the body of a goddess”40. Let us not overestimate, however, the benefits such recognition had for the stripper’s career. Although striptease did not exist in a vacuum, dancers clearly made a name for themselves within the limits of this sphere, through their onstage performances. Their names were frequently associated with a specific technique or a unique type of performance they alone offered. In some ways strippers were inseparable from their art; they were identified with it. Any mention of Hirose Motomi, for example, was regularly accompanied by a reference to her famous fan dance (ファンダンス), described by Tanaka in the following terms:

In the early days of striptease, the fan dance performed by Hirose Motomi—said to have recently returned from Shanghai—was very sexy. She would wave large, feather‑adorned fans up and down in front of her body. A fan would glide over her, revealing increasing amounts of skin below the navel, and just as we were about to glimpse between her thighs, another fan would arrive to slowly cover her. In those days strippers were not completely naked from the waist down; they wore butterflies [triangular underwear] or pants. But with her large fans she concealed herself while providing furtive glimpses, so that she truly appeared to be naked.

  • 41 Tanaka Komimasa 田 中 小 実 昌, Vīnasu no ekubo  Tanaka Komimasa sakuhinshū ヴィーナスのえくぼ―田中小実昌作品集 [Ve (...)

ストリップの初期のころの上海がえりといわれたヒロセ元美のファンダンスは、まことに色っぽかった。大きな羽根かざりのついた扇を、からだの前で相互にゆらゆら、上下にうごかす。ひとつの扇がからだの上をすべって、素肌が大きくひろがっていき、おヘソの下、太腿のあそこがのぞきかけた瞬間、べつの扇がゆっくりかぶさってくる。そのころのストリッパーは、下はすっぽんのボトムレスではなく、バタフライかパンティをはいていたが、大きな扇で、ちらちらじらしながらかくしてると、まるで、あそこになんにもはいていてないみたいだった41

A striptease icon: Gypsy Rose

  • 42 Alongside Osaka and Tokyo, Fukuoka is one of the three “historical cities” for striptease in Japan (...)
  • 43 Amari ni mo shigekiteki dearu あまりにも刺激的である; SNNZ, 8:39.

20Let us focus for a moment on the career of Gypsy Rose, probably the most emblematic of Japan’s nude dancers. Born Shimizu Toshiko 志水敏子 in Fukuoka Prefecture in 1934,42 she arrived in Tokyo with a travelling theatre company providing entertainment for American servicemen. Masakuni Otsuhiko worked at the Tokiwa‑za at the time and was looking for a dancer to replace Helen Taki, the theatre’s star, whose penchant for alcohol was jeopardizing the theatre’s shows. When Masakuni discovered Shimizu she was just sixteen years old. She danced on stage at the Tokiwa‑za for the first time in June 1950, dressed in school uniform. Masakuni, who by this time was her agent, suggested she take the stage name Gypsy Rose, no doubt in tribute to the famous American burlesque dancer, Gypsy Rose Lee. She soon became famous as Japan’s top performer of the grind (a suggestive circular movement of the hips). She became a household name in 1952 when police banned the grind she performed in Arabian Naito アラビアン・ナイト (The Arabian Nights) on the grounds that it “aroused too much excitement”!43

  • 44 Aramata Hiroshi 荒俣宏 notes several cases of suicide or premature death through overdose, alcohol ab (...)
  • 45 He provides the notable example of a girl who did not leave her workplace for a single day in thre (...)

21The exotic charm of Gypsy Rose and scandalous reputation of her grinding led to her signing a two-year contract with the Nichigeki Myūjikku Hōru 日劇ミュージックホール (Nichigeki Music Hall). She sank into alcoholism at the end of her contract and continued to perform on a freelance basis. She then turned her back on stripping permanently in 1965 and opened a snack‑bar in Yamaguchi Prefecture with Masakuni. She died two years later at the age of thirty‑two. Few strippers achieved such levels of fame, but many experienced a similarly tragic demise44 due to the difficult working conditions associated with the profession. Tanaka Komimasa 田中小実昌 reported, for example, that strippers often ate poorly and infrequently, worked extensively (three or four performances per day) and virtually all year round. They almost never left their place of work, which doubled as their home, and they lived an isolated existence cut off from the world.45 Their life expectancy was seriously curtailed by such conditions.

Theatre management

  • 46 Note that most of these establishments were very modest in size. The Japanese illustrator and essa (...)
  • 47 Inoue Hisashi 井上ひさし, “Asakusa Furansu‑za wa kigeki no gakkō data” 浅草フランス座は喜劇の学校だった [Asakusa Fura (...)
  • 48 Generally speaking, the majority of girls coming to striptease already had a solid background in d (...)
  • 49 Inoue, Asakusa Furansu-za no jikan, 13.

22How exactly were Japanese striptease theatres run? Asakusa offers an interesting window onto the question. As the historical entertainment district of Tokyo, boasting an amusement park, temples, cinemas, theatres, restaurants and bars, Asakusa had no less than five striptease theatres during the late 1940s and 1950s, and competition between them was fierce.46 The proximity of Asakusa to the pleasure district Yoshiwara 吉原 ensured a relatively stable number of visitors to the area until Yoshiwara was dismantled in 1958. Strip shows in those days lasted for about two hours, which consisted of one hour of sketches and one hour of stripping. Of course, the shows could alternate between the two elements, but generally speaking comedy preceded stripping, just as in American burlesque. On average, the theatres presented three shows a day, 365 days of the year. According to Inoue Hisashi 井上ひさし, the Furansu‑za had over fifty employees in 1956,47 including twenty‑four female dancers, two male dancers, six musicians, ten or so comics and a technical crew of just under ten. The paltry basic wage and lack of health insurance made for harsh employment conditions. This is particularly true given the stringent qualification requirements, with most of the dancers having been trained at the Shōchiku Kageki Dan 松竹歌劇団 (SKD), one of Japan’s most important revue companies.48 Within the Furansu‑za the girls were divided into three categories: those who showed nothing—the normal dancers (futsū no odoriko 普通の踊り子); those who were topless—the semi‑nudes (seminūdo セミ・ ヌード); and finally the nudes (nūdo ヌード), whose salary, as Inoue liked to say, was “as high as their underwear is far from the navel.”49 The nude dancer’s uniform in the 1950s consisted of a butterfly (batafurai バタフライ) and spangles (supankōru スパンコール) worn on her breasts to conceal the nipple, just as in American burlesque.

  • 50 The term himo is evocative since in the world of prostitution it can also refer to a pimp.

23When striptease moved from large music hall‑type venues to the more modest, light entertainment theatres, a change occurred in working conditions, notably in recruitment practices. Whereas previously many dancers had been employed directly by the company, striptease-theatre girls tended to use an intermediary agent or himo 紐. This allowed the theatres to change their headline acts more often and enabled strippers to perform for different audiences, thereby potentially increasing their renown. Using an intermediary obviously represented extra costs for the dancer but it also gave her a certain amount of security. Note incidentally that the dancer’s agent was often, as in the case of Gypsy Rose, her lover.50

  • 51 See the Tsubouchi Memorial Theater Museum Digital Archives Collection. We are grateful to Jonathan (...)
  • 52 Recall that in the West too, particularly in literature and striptease, eroticism often went hand (...)

24The 1950s also saw shifts in terminology. The terms nūdo ヌード (nude) and sutorippā ストリッパー (stripper) definitively replaced the previously used hadakasan 裸さん (naked girl) and odoriko 踊 り 子 (dancing girl). A similar pattern was observed in the titles given to shows. The 1952 programme for the Nichigeki featured titles—most of them derived from English—that seem to have been plucked directly from an American film: Tōkyō no Ivu 東京のイヴ (Tokyo Eve), Rabu hābā ラブ・ ハーバー (Love Harbor), Janguru ravu ジャングルラヴ (Jungle Love), Randebū ランデブー (Rendez‑vous), and Sanmā sukyandaru サンマースキャンダル (Summer Scandal), to name but a few.51 This penchant for exoticism and foreign‑sounding titles was also visible in the names of dancers, for example Helen Taki, Grace Matsubara, Marie Shinjū, and Pearl Hamada. Everything suggests that this was a trend specific to the period, itself characterised by a sense of freedom and by the American occupation. It culminated in the appearance in 1953 of the gaijin nūdo shō 外人ヌードショー (foreigner nude shows), performed by actual Westerners, and kinpatsu sutorippu 金髪ストリップ (blond striptease), performed by Japanese girls wearing blond wigs.52

Scenic innovations

  • 53 The various sources disagree on the date but it would seem that these shows appeared in Japan betw (...)
  • 54 Hirooka Keiichi 広岡敬一, Sutorippu bojō  Asakusa, Yoshiwara romanesuku ストリップ慕情―浅草・吉原ロマネスク [Nostalg (...)

25One of the most notable innovations to occur in striptease was the appearance of bathing shows (nyūyoku shō 入浴ショー), which had been a huge hit in the West at the beginning of the century53. A bath (or simple tub) was placed on stage and filled with warm water, whereby a young woman would undress and take a bath. Part of the popularity of these performances stemmed from their familiar, banal and yet erotic nature, in that they heightened the sense of intimacy between the stripper and the audience. The nyūyoku shō were a first step towards shows in which customers were no longer just passive spectators but took a more active role in their own pleasure. Aside from the fun that could be had with bubbles, this type of show also enabled a certain form of interaction, since spectators could pay extra to soap the bather’s back or heat up the water by blowing on the embers and thus observe the actress at closer quarters.54 In July 1951 the Asakusa‑za 浅草座 and the Bijin‑za 美人座, both located in Asakusa, developed competing shows featuring a Japanese bathtub for one and a Western bath for the other.

  • 55 Ibid.

26Another new type of act was the rittai sutorippu 立体ストリップ (or “raised striptease”), involving a curved ladder placed over the audience. Spectators had to look up to watch the dancers climbing and striking poses that provided glimpses of select parts of their anatomy.55

27Having been created in the mid‑1950s, it was essentially towards the end of this decade that bed shows (beddo shō ベッド・ショー) became an established presence. Requiring nothing more than a bed and a stripper on stage, the rudimentary nature of this show partly explains why it became so widespread. The stripper would get into bed and then—and herein lay the show’s novelty—openly take great pleasure in being there. Despite the apparent simplicity of the basic framework, it enabled infinite variations. The performer could pretend to touch herself under the sheets, feign making love with a pillow, use props, or call on a male or female partner. The popularity of bed shows no doubt stemmed from their racy nature and their transgression of previously taboo limits. However, it is also significant that dancers became more easily interchangeable: the choreography for a bed show was much simpler than for a solo dance and the number of performances could be increased. The appearance of the bed show marked a shift from a “non‑figurative” or suggestive style of dance to one that was overtly mimetic. The dancer became an actress. Striptease shows evolved in the 1960s to place increasing emphasis on the simulation of sex. This contrasted with the playfully seductive stripping that had previously been the norm and also marked the beginning of what those nostalgic for the early days consider the decline of striptease. Henceforth, other more sexually explicit acts would appear.

From pleasing spectacle to spectacular pleasure: stripping and sex shows (1960s and 1970s)

From burlesque to sex shows

  • 56 Kitano Takeshi 北野武, Asakusa Kid (Paris: Le Serpent à Plumes, “Motifs” collection, 2001).

28The gradual disappearance of comics from the striptease theatres of Asakusa in the late 1950s can be explained by the “unfair competition” they faced from dancers. And the imbalance this caused in the structure of striptease shows can be interpreted as a trend towards greater licentiousness. Nevertheless, competition came from another source in the form of television, which by 1958 was already a standard fixture in the average Japanese home. The comic Atsumi Kiyoshi 渥美清, for example, who made a name for himself at the Furansu‑za in 1955, moved to NHK in 1961 before trying his hand at film and becoming, in 1969, Tora‑san 寅さん, the well-known hero of the film series Otoko wa tsurai yo 男はつらいよ (It’s Tough Being a Man). The booming television market absorbed a large number of comics from the world of striptease, offering them a more comfortable situation with higher wages and the potential to reach incomparable levels of fame. Given the unstable working conditions in striptease theatres, as described by Kitano Takeshi 北野武 in his autobiographical novel Asakusa Kid,56 television was clearly an upward move for comics.

  • 57 In the fight against prostitution the closure of Yoshiwara turned out to be incomplete: it was onl (...)

29The changes taking place on the striptease‑theatre scene coincided with a slow decline in Asakusa’s popularity. This period also saw the closure of the Yoshiwara pleasure district on 31 March 1958. While this event, alongside other factors linked to urbanisation, undeniably affected the number of visitors to Asakusa, it does not seem to have had any notable impact on the evolution of striptease shows. Although the skin trade was not the only lucrative activity in Yoshiwara, its closure seems to us to be indisputably part of a wider backlash against prostitution.57 However, this movement spared striptease theatres. It is important to note here that, despite its disreputable nature and close proximity to Yoshiwara, striptease was not associated at the time with prostitution. Certainly, detailed descriptions of strippers’ living conditions are few and far between, inviting all kinds of hypotheses. We have already mentioned the agent’s role and the isolated existence the girls led. Were the lives of strippers any more enviable than those of prostitutes? Whatever the truth may be, there is a fundamental difference between the two, namely the staged nature of striptease. Aside from its voyeuristic dimension, there is a difference in the way that desire is satisfied. Unlike prostitution, which is performative in the sense that the sexual act is consumed, a striptease show is merely a theatrical pretence. Chevalier remarks that:

  • 58 Chevalier, Métaphysique du striptease, 107‑108.

Considered solely from an erotological point of view, the eroticism of the striptease act is absolutely independent of its two phases: undressing and sexual pantomime. Consequently, nudity is less an erotic expression per se as it is an opening to an erotic eventuality… Incidentally, by denying the offer made, or rather its consequences, the stripper increases the value of her initial proposition. In this sense she perfectly embodies the traditional notion of eroticism, and not prostitution, where there is no retraction of the offer.58

30Although Chevalier sees striptease as an expression of the male desire to dominate women, he also states that for men it is nothing more than a pious hope. The novelist Michèle Perrein goes as far as seeing striptease as a triumph for women:

  • 59 Quoted in “Une enquête sur le striptease,” [An Investigation into Striptease] in Le Surréalisme, m (...)

I do not consider striptease demeaning for women because it magnifies their sole moment of triumph, where they exert their sheer power over men, without ever letting them become the master.59

  • 60 Jasper Sharp, Behind the Pink Curtain: The Complete History of Japanese Sex Cinema (Godalming: FAB (...)
  • 61 Takechi Tetsuji 武智鉄二, “Sutorippu no kachi tankan” ストリップの価値転換 [Changes in the Value of Striptease] (...)

31Nevertheless, the boundaries between striptease and prostitution would become increasingly blurred. In fact, since the late 1950s we have seen a pervasion—a trivialisation some might say—of sex‑related issues. Films and magazines present ever more risqué images and this trend was merely confirmed in the mid‑1960s by the appearance of pinku eiga ピンク映画 (pink films).60 Although this phenomenon is indissociably linked to the commodification of sex by the mass media, it is also closely connected to the rise of an anti-establishment sentiment. One of the pioneers in this matter, the theatre director Takechi Tetsuji 武智鉄二, collaborated with the world of striptease and even staged a nude Noh performance at the Nichigeki in 1956. Takechi was convinced at the time of the subversive power of the obscene and its ability to overturn the bourgeois order. It was with this in mind that he decided to film Hakujitsumu 白日夢 (Daydream), released by Shōchiku in 1964.61 Filmmakers such as Imamura Shōhei 今村昌平, Ōshima Nagisa 大島渚 and Wakamatsu Kōji 若松孝二 frequently explored the themes of desire, eroticism and sex in their work. As for the major film studios, essentially Tōei and Nikkatsu, they waited until the 1970s before taking the plunge.

  • 62 Jean Baudrillard, Seduction, trans. Brian Singer (Montreal: New World Perspectives, 2001), 75.

32Just like the film industry, striptease was confronted with the challenge of defying the censors, although the issue of ideology was less present. Indeed, while desire is born of prohibition—or rather the nonsensical nature of prohibition62—the definition of what was prohibited was constantly being challenged, inciting strip clubs in particular to engage in a race to push the boundaries. The early 1960s saw Kansai sutorippu 関西ストリップ (striptease from the Kansai region) flourish, with the name suggesting that shows in this region had taken on some kind of idiosyncratic local colour. The subject is poorly documented and the only account we were able to find dates from 1964 and appeared in the French periodical Arts. In this article, which provides readers in search of exoticism with a whole host of insulting and racist clichés—not to mention a hint of misogyny—Jean‑Clarence Lambert describes the striptease shows and toruko he witnessed in the Kansai region:

  • 63 N.D.T. Pâtes-la-Lune was a brand of pasta whose mascot was a moon‑like character with a flat and r (...)
  • 64 Jean‑Clarence Lambert, “Images choisies d’un Japon sordide et magnifique” [Selected Images from a (...)

[It was] a “turku,” meaning a Turkish bath… My operator appeared… She was devoid of physical charm, just like the majority of her compatriots. No ankles, short legs and barely any waist. And her breasts? Where do these girls hide their breasts? And that “pâtes-la-Lune”63 face, almost eyeless and with no eyebrows or nose… I must also mention the “skin‑shows” and “nude‑shows” that can be seen in Kyoto (Kyoto—traditionally the most refined city in Yamato!)… These are cheap strip shows that end with the young woman (usually ugly and without charm) completely exposing herself. The final pose is struck in the middle of the stage, the body thrust back, legs spread wide, “worse than naked.” From the front row it feels like a lesson in internal anatomy.64

  • 65 Shiota Masaru 塩 田 勝 (ed.), Ryūkōgo ingo jiten 流行語 ・ 隠語辞典 [Dictionary of Popular Speech and Slang (...)

33The expression Kansai sutorippu itself seems only to have been used in the Tokyo region, and in fact, the term was rapidly rivalled by zen-suto 全スト (full strip), which featured nudity that would be considered complete even by current standards. It was then replaced by the term tokudashi 特出し, an abbreviation of tokubetsu shutsuen 特別出演 (special performance). Originally performed by a guest stripper, hence the term “special,” these shows soon came to involve the systematic exhibiting of the strippers’ genitals, removing any doubt as to the meaning we should attribute to this “special performance.”65

  • 66 A mystery surrounds Ichijō Sayuri’s birth. Depending on the sources, she is said to have been bor (...)
  • 67 Sugiura Seiken 杉浦正健, “Ichijō Sayuri igo no Ichijō Sayuri – Saiban kiroku wo moto ni kangaeru” 一条 (...)
  • 68 Ogura Takayasu 小倉孝保, Shodai Ichijō Sayuri densetsu  Kamagasaki ni chitta bara 初代一条さゆり伝説―釡ヶ崎に散ったハ (...)

34Few theatres openly advertised such shows, which brings us to the thorny issue of where striptease stands with regards the Japanese penal code, in particular articles 174 and 175. Article 174 applies to strippers and penalises public indecency, while article 175 prohibits the distribution and sale of obscene material and targets venue owners. Accordingly, in order to take action the law must prove that something actually is obscene. Unfortunately audience members, theatre owners and strippers are not always cooperative and evidence often has to be obtained through police infiltration. With a few rare exceptions, the only official trace we found of tokudashi is limited to indictments, trials and sentences. The case of Ichijō Sayuri 一条さゆり (1929/1937‑1997)66 is one relatively well-documented example.67 She was accused of public indecency on nine occasions between 1963 and 1971, and was finally taken in for questioning by Osaka police during her farewell tour in 1972. Sentenced to four months in prison, she appealed but her sentence was upheld by the Osaka court. Ichijō subsequently took her case to the Supreme Court and in January 1975 was handed a six‑month mandatory jail term. Her entanglements with the law attracted the support and sympathy of diverse political groups, notably feminists.68 Indeed, the line of defence she adopted set her apart from other strippers. Instead of pleading an accident or a careless mistake, Ichijō argued for freedom of expression and her trial followed in the illustrious tradition of those who have pitted the world of art against censorship. Certainly, when a performance is sanctioned with a prison sentence, the question of freedom of expression necessarily arises. Yet this argument had never been used before in the world of striptease, where such blatant transgression contrasted with the previously adopted tactic of seeking loopholes, as symbolised by Masahiko’s swing.

From theatricalised seduction to seductive artifice

  • 69 Jean Baudrillard, Seduction, 76.

35As performers evolved from dancers into actresses, marking the end of the golden age of striptease, a change occurred in the way that shows were devised: instead of the theatricalised seduction of the early days there was a shift towards performances that actively sought to seduce, towards a seductive artifice presented as entertainment. Attraction and seduction, to borrow Baudrillard’s terms, are born not of “a signified desire, but [of] the beauty of an artifice”.69 Creating an appearance of naivety and nonchalance was crucial if the act was to seduce and fascinate. Generalising somewhat, we could say that the equilibrium of these shows depended largely on this feigned ingenuousness. The success of the nyūyoku shō lay in their naive banality. During the 1950s, props such as bubble bath, fans and balloons served mainly as a means of playfully concealing what the performer wished to leave to the imagination. This brings to mind the well‑known story of the first Parisian striptease being caused by a flea, when a dancer on stage inadvertently removed all her clothing in her zeal to find it. In other words, artifice that is overly obvious leaves less room for the imagination. Beginning in the 1960s, the nature of nude shows changed as the seduction they offered went from being merely suggested to being handed to audiences on a plate. As an example, Hirooka wrote the following description of a performance by Ichijō Sayuri in Funabashi in 1971:

She undressed to music then waved the flames of a bunch of candles over her naked body. Drops of melted wax trickled down onto her skin, making it look as though she was really burning it. Holding her breath to withstand the heat, her expression soon changed from one of torture to one of joy. Feeling her way down between her thighs with one finger, she rubbed the joint between her exposed folds and transparent drops began to flow; her entire body shook violently and her sharp cries pierced the air.

曲に合わせながら衣装を脱ぐと、束ねた百目蝋燭の炎で裸をあぶる。溶けた蝋が雫になって肌に滴り落ち、そのあたりの肌を焦がすかのよう。息を詰めながら熱さに耐える彼女の表情は、やがて地獄の責め苦から喜悦に変わった。片手の指が股のあいだを探り、剥き出しの襞の合わせ目に蠢かすと、その場所から透明な雫が溢れ、全身を細かく激しい振動が襲って、鋭い悲鳴が彼女の喉からほとばしる。

  • 70 Tengu are a type of legendary creature with long, erect noses that had phallic connotations long b (...)
  • 71 The illustrator Onozawa San’ichi おのざわさんいち provides an interesting overview in “E de miru sutoripp (...)
  • 72 These shows bring to mind the short story by Alphonse Allais in which a bored raja asks a young gi (...)
  • 73 This practice had already been used during certain nyūyoku shō. Audience members who had soaped (...)

36Generally speaking, striptease theatres diverged from burlesque in the 1960s by eliminating the comedy acts and intensifying the sexual nature of the nude performances. Strip shows came to involve exposing the genitals in some way on stage, with bed shows giving way to so‑called Tengu beddo 天狗ベッド, where the nose of a Tengu70 mask served as a sex toy. The majority of solo acts featured some form of masturbation and the vagina took on a pivotal role. Before long there were performances offering customers the opportunity to actually auscultate the female genitals.71 Known as furu ōpun フル・オープン (“full open” in reference to the spreading of the legs), these shows were a novelty in that they were less about voyeurism (in the sense of a surreptitious glance or stolen look at a forbidden image) than about diving into someone else’s body, even going so far as to employ gynaecological instruments in acts where the eye went beyond the limits of the real to examine a hyperrealist sexual organ.72 Note, however, that the use of instruments allowing more detailed observation was not in itself an innovation.73 The novelty of furu ōpun lay in their overtly exhibitionist nature. The stripper showed more than she concealed.

  • 74 The word comes from inverting the syllables of mana ita まな板, meaning chopping board. The inversion (...)

37The growing importance of showing the genitals on stage, whether in an anatomical or a masturbatory form, coincided with the transformation of striptease into sex shows, which in turn led to the appearance of shows involving multiple partners. While it is difficult to establish a timeline, it seems that the sadomasochistic shows (zankoku shō 残酷ショー, “cruel shows”) that were popular during the 1960s played a pioneering role. As for shows staging sexual relations, “lesbian shows” (resubian shō レスビアン・ショー) preceded their heterosexual counterparts, the shirokuro shō 白黒ショー (“black and white shows”). In 1972, performances of the sexual act became increasingly participatory as audience members were invited up on stage to use various props during namaita shō ナマ板ショー74. Just like the bed show, sexuality on stage can take any number of forms. Throughout the 1970s, for example, strip clubs introduced daburu shirokuro shō W白黒ショー featuring four people, and gaijin manaita shō 外人マナ板ショー performed by foreigners. Since then there have been no notable evolutions in striptease and documentation on the subject becomes increasingly scarce as we approach the 1990s.

Conclusion: elements for a stripology

  • 75 Ozawa, Fukai, Nakatani, “Kieru hi, Moeru honō – Sengo sutorippu-shi,” 102. In France, just before (...)

38Tableaux vivants, liberal shows, striptease theatres, bed shows, “special performances” and namaita: the multiple transformations of Japanese striptease throughout its history have provoked diverse reactions from commentators, notably nostalgia and a tendency to predict the decline of this performing art.75 Certainly, in most cases the changes have proved permanent and in principle nude shows never return to the well‑worn models of the past. The burlesque shows of Asakusa, the gakubuchi, nyūyoku, and kinpatsu nūdo have all truly been consigned to the pages of history. In a sense, striptease theatres saw their musicians, comics and librettists disappear as the performances became more sexually explicit. Nevertheless, it seems erroneous to view these changes merely as subtractions motivated by profit or brought about by “moral decadence.” Indeed, the shift towards sex shows has not meant a paring down of striptease acts, in the sense that exhibiting the vulva and caressing or touching the body are actually extras: these elements are performed in addition to stripping. Regardless, the obsolescence of trends and refusal to return to outmoded forms ultimately appears to have suffocated the industry’s drive to innovate. In retrospect, the constant search for novelty seems to have run out of steam shortly after the appearance of namaita, with the industry struggling to find new ideas ever since.

  • 76 The number of establishments offering nude shows peaked in 1985 at 675 (roughly half of which were (...)
  • 77 According to Hirooka Keiichi 広岡敬一, the first nozokibeya 覗き部屋 (peep‑show) opened its doors in Osaka (...)
  • 78 Videos, more than cinema, were instrumental in distributing Japanese porn films; FUJIKI TDC 藤木TDC, (...)
  • 79 Nūdo sutajio ヌ ー ド ス タ ジ オ (nude studios) were booths where customers were given cameras (somet (...)
  • 80 The photo collections by Hara Yoshiichi 原芳市, Za sutorippā, provide a fairly accurate idea of mode (...)
  • 81 The Rokku‑za, for example, hosted two well‑known porn stars in autumn 2011: Ayumu あゆむ and Ozawa Ma (...)

39Nevertheless, this lack of formal innovation did not sound the death knell for striptease and the industry was still thriving in the early 1980s.76 This period saw the appearance of the first peep show booths77 and, more significantly, the emergence and stunning growth of the adult video market (known as AV for short).78 In terms of content, the images proposed bore an undeniable resemblance to the striptease acts from the 1970s. However, the circumstances in which they are viewed differ markedly. Indeed, unlike strip clubs, where even in the smallest venues79 spectators are isolated only by the relative darkness that envelops them, peep shows provide a genuinely private space. Alone in the privacy of their booth, customers can watch the show as it is being performed, but in a separate space. Videos, on the other hand, provide an experience to be enjoyed in non‑real time. Since the viewer only has access to pre‑recorded images (just like at the cinema), the distance between watcher and watched becomes irreducible: videos substitute the person being watched with a machine, thereby abolishing any possibility of exchange and interaction. On the other hand, home video players provide interactions with the machine that in principal are not available to viewers at a cinema. A person viewing a video in their home is able to control the flow of images. In other words, the object of desire is available on command. Furthermore, to a certain extent video relieves viewers of their social self, since images are blind and non‑judgmental. Using a machine intensifies the intimacy of the performances and invites viewers to plunge into anonymity, quench their voyeuristic desires and enjoy this withdrawal from the world. In contrast, spectators at a striptease show experience time in a manner that resembles physical time, experienced collectively. This illustrates the eminently social dimension of striptease, which technological progress now encourages us to view as an integral part of the striptease experience. Consequently, the adult video industry is not truly in competition with striptease, since their respective modes of expression differ considerably. Striptease as a performing art still exists today.80 The growth of the AV market in the second half of the 1980s and simultaneous closure of many striptease clubs seems to corroborate the theory that the two are rivals; yet the repeated appearance of porn stars on striptease stages indicates a certain complicity that could be said to mark recent shows.81

  • 82 There are various categories in the definition and management of the sex industry in Japan. Stript (...)
  • 83 Clinton P. Hansen, “To Strip or Not to Strip: The Demise of Nude Dancing and Erotic Expression thr (...)
  • 84 These studies are extremely diverse, not always complimentary, and at times surprising to say the (...)
  • 85 Umberto Eco, “Platon au Crazy Horse,” [Plato at the Crazy Horse] in Pastiches et postiches (Paris: (...)
  • 86 Roland Barthes, “Striptease,” in Mythologies (Paris: Seuil, “Points – Essais,” 2007), 137‑140.
  • 87 “Une enquête sur le striptease,” in Breton, Le Surréalisme, même, 4: 56‑63; “Le Striptease: fin de (...)
  • 88 On the other hand, the daily press seems to have completely lost interest in the subject. Take the (...)
  • 89 Examples include the magazines Nūdo interijensu ヌード・インテリジェンス (Nude Intelligence), Play Ana, Pus (...)
  • 90 In 1955, for example, the television channel now known as TBS broadcast a programme on music halls (...)

40Despite being clearly distinct,82 striptease, pornography and prostitution all share a similarly louche reputation in the public mind, so much so that striptease—and more generally nude dancing—usually receives bad press, in Japan as elsewhere. Aside from the nudity it presents, the world that striptease evokes—the venues, neighbourhoods, but also people and mores—evidently has something to do with the opprobrium it attracts. The nude Noh staged by Takechi Tetsuji 武智鉄二 in 1956 would no doubt have attracted the same virulent criticisms had the performers been “properly” clothed. Nevertheless, comparing various accounts of striptease from the three cultural areas in which it is most popular reveals that public reception differs markedly. In the United States, striptease continues to be highly popular. In fact, in 1991 the United States Supreme Court recognised nude dancing as a form of expression subject to protection by the First Amendment, almost a century after the first performances in American theatres.83 The late twentieth century also saw the publication of serious studies on American burlesque.84 The situation is somewhat different in Europe, where this performing art is often held in contempt by intellectual circles. Only a handful of publications have been devoted to the subject over the past fifty years, although these include, alongside a small number of specialised (and not always very inspired) books, works by reputed intellectuals like Barthes, Eco and even Breton’s surrealist group. It seems clear, however, that these individuals had no desire to view striptease as a genuine object of study and their essays oscillate between friendly, complicit amusement,85 caution tinged with incomprehension,86 and virulent aversion.87 In contrast, the situation in Japan differs markedly. Although there has been much negative criticism here too, many artists and intellectuals were fairly quick to explore the theme of striptease in their work. This was also the case for players from the world of nude performances, and for many photographers, who documented the evolution in striptease practices through their photographic collections. There is thus an extensive bibliography of Japanese-language works devoted to striptease, and this has been the case since the late 1940s.88 Furthermore, from an early date periodicals on the subject were published89 and television programmes produced.90

  • 91 Indeed, whatever degree of nudity the stripper reaches, she is never strictly “naked”: she always (...)

41Striptease is a performing art, and as we saw, “nudity” is not an objective, an end in itself (or at least, it was not at one time). Just as in the theatre, and perhaps even more so, adornments like costumes and jewellery play a key role. For Jean Baudrillard, the absence of adornments is only relative, since it is never complete.91 The sociologist Ueno Chizuko 上野千鶴子 offers the following more nuanced view:

The stripper’s butterfly exists only to be taken off at the end. Until then, it merely indicates the location of the genitals. If it didn’t hide merely to reveal, the butterfly would be meaningless.

  • 92 Ueno Chizuko 上野千鶴子, Sukāto no shita no gekijō スカートの下の劇場 [Theatre beneath the Skirt] (Tokyo: Kawa (...)

ストリッパーのバタフライは、ただ最後にそれを取り去るためだけにある。それを取り去る前に、性器がそこにあることを、誇示するためだけにある。あらわすために隠すのでなければ、バタフライには何の意味もない92

  • 93 バタフライが意味しているものは、機能性ではなく、シンボル性です; ibid., 42.
  • 94 Béla Grunberger, “De l’image phallique” [On the Phallic Image], Revue française de psychanalyse, v (...)

42While she does not dismiss the idea of “total” nudity, Ueno nonetheless echoes Baudrillard when she writes that: “What the butterfly signifies is not a functionality but a symbol.”93 In other words, the initial role of this adornment is replaced by an ornamental and signifying role. The psychoanalyst Béla Grunberger even suggests that: “The essence of striptease seems to reside in the successive ‘stripping off’ of various penile symbols worn by the woman (long black gloves, black stockings, boots or high heeled shoes, corset, etc.), as if the significance of the act lay not in the woman’s wearing of a penis or being naked but in her gradual and repeated castration.”94

  • 95 Oka Yōichi 丘陽一, “’77 Kantō sutorippu hakusho” ’77関東ストリップ白書 [1977 White Paper on Kantō Striptea (...)

43More pragmatically, “nudity” is a concept whose meaning and acceptability vary to say the least. While nudity is indisputably a major selling point for striptease, as evidenced by the number of shows promising “nakedness,” the “nudity” on offer is much more than a promotional ploy. Strippers do not feign undressing but successively remove layers until they reach the limits of whatever constitutes “nudity” at the time. Similarly, it is interesting to note that topless dancing ceased to be considered striptease in 1977.95

44The decline of striptease that began in the early 1980s has merely become established ever since. Yet striptease continues to have a real—albeit marginal—presence in Japan. Many of the roles it has played—from the “neutral zone” of the immediate postwar period to the voyeuristic extremes of the 1970s—have since found expression in other places or through other means, raising the question of why striptease has enjoyed such longevity. Striptease has passed through the ages, managing to carve out its own place in society. And as we saw, it no longer seems keen to pursue its policy of constantly pushing boundaries, a battle that in any case was lost long ago.

45Hidden away from the world and untouched by time—the present time at least—striptease now appears to be looking backwards. Having left behind the innovations of its past, far from the excesses of the 1970s, striptease has ultimately come full circle to recapture the essence of its heyday, finding expression in a simple form that long seemed too obvious: stripping. Bathed in light, the dancer rhythmically peels away her clothes before striking a final pose in the centre of the stage. While nostalgia may not be synonymous with creativity, it is effective. Despite the formal return to something resembling the staged seductions of the 1950s and 1960s, and although not all of these shows are haunted by the memory of the past, one need only visit a striptease theatre to be convinced that Japanese striptease today plays unashamedly on nostalgia for the Shōwa period, particularly in its use of costumes and music that are redolent of the postwar years. Even the impossibly outdated props recall the randomly put together shows from a time when the country was rebuilding in the aftermath of war. The veiled attempts to appeal to the younger generations—through the use of modern music, porn stars and even discounts for senior citizens, students and couples!—resemble half‑hearted attempts to ensure the long‑term future of stripping, a stance that is reflected in the elevated average age of the spectators. And indeed, their demise may very well signal the end of Japanese striptease.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Gakubuchi shō on the fifth floor of the Teitō‑za in Tokyo, April 1947. The performer is most likely Kataoka Mari 片岡マリ.
Source: anonymous author, Enpaku collection, Waseda

Figure 2

Figure 2

“Asakusa no sutorippu gekijō ni okeru nyūyoku-shō” 浅草のストリップ劇場における入浴ショー (Nyūyoku shō at a striptease theatre in Asakusa), between 1951 and 1955.
Source: Hirooka Keiichi 広岡敬一

46Finale of a show at a striptease theatre in Kanagawa, 1966. Source: Moriyama Daidō 森山大道

Figure 4

Figure 4

Dancers’ dressing room at a striptease theatre, 1977. A poster indicates the four performance times, from 12.30 PM to 11.15 PM, as well as the in‑house rules to be respected. Source: Hara Yoshiichi 原芳市

Figure 5

Figure 5

A sign outside a club specialising in gaijin nūdo shō, the DX Ōmiya Gekijō DX大宮劇場 (Saitama Prefecture).
Source: Hara Yoshiichi 原芳市

Figure 6

Figure 6

Advert for the Modan Āto モダンアート (Modern Art), a striptease theatre located in Shinjuku in the 1970s.
Source: Hara Yoshiichi 原芳市

Figure 7

Figure 7

Front of the Shinjuku Myūjikku Gekijō 新宿ミュージック劇場 in the 1970s detailing the different shows offered by the club: gaijin manaita and shirokuro.
Source: Hara Yoshiichi 原芳市

Figure 8

Figure 8

Finale of a show at the Asakusa Rokku‑za 浅草ロック座 in the 1990s. Source: Hara Yoshiichi 原芳市

Figure 9

Figure 9

Finale of a show at the Asakusa Rokku‑za 浅草ロック座 in the 1990s. Source: Hara Yoshiichi 原芳市

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Notes

1 Rachel Shteir, Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 90‑91. The Merriam‑Webster Dictionary puts the date at 1932.

2 In Japan, the history of striptease is clearly interlinked with that of music halls, Asakusa Opera and popular theatre. See Ōzasa Yoshio 大笹吉雄, “Sannin no dansā ni yoru odoriko tsūshi” 三人のダンサーによる踊り子通史 [General History of Dancers by Three Dancers], in Asakusa Furansu-za no jikan 浅草フランス座の時間 [The Asakusa Furansu-za Era], Inoue Hisashi 井上ひさし (Tokyo: Bunshun Nesuko 文春ネスコ, 2001), 99‑125. See also Jean‑Jacques Tschudin, “L’Opéra-Asakusa: le drame lyrique à la conquête du public populaire” [Asakusa Opera: Musical drama seeks to win over popular audiences] in La Modernité à l’horizon, ed. Jean‑Jacques Tschudin, Claude Hamon (Arles: Philippe Picquier, 2004), 169‑190.

3 Although sources have difficulty agreeing on a date, it seems likely that the first shows of this type appeared in France in the 1880s‑1890s, and a little later in the United States; François des Aulnoyes, Histoire et philosophie du striptease: essai sur l’érotisme au music-hall [History and Philosophy of Striptease: An essay on music-hall eroticism] (Paris: Pensée moderne, 1957), 28; Richard Wortley, A Pictorial History of Striptease (London: Octopus, 1976), 31 and 55‑56; Don B. Wilmeth, The Cambridge Guide to American Theater (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 487. There were no doubt others before, but a performance by a certain Mona (or Manon) at the “Bal des Quat’z‑Arts” on 9 February 1893 at the Moulin Rouge caused a sensation and is often presented as the birth of striptease; Martin Banham, The Cambridge Guide to Theater (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 802; see the article devoted to the subject in the French daily Le Matin on 21 March 1893, and the account of the dancer’s subsequent trial for “outrage to public decency (indecent exposure)” in the same newspaper on 24 June 1893 (see the bibliography).

4 See in particular Ozawa Shōichi 小沢昭一, Fukai Toshihiko 深井俊彦 and Nakatani Akira 中谷陽, “Kieru hi, Moeru honō – Sengo sutorippu shi” 消える灯 燃える炎―戦後ストリップ史 [Vanishing Light, Burning Flame: The history of postwar striptease], Shingeki – tokushū sutorippu 新劇―特集ストリップ [Shingeki: striptease special], no. 9 (1973): 94‑109. The Asahi shinbun first covered the subject of striptease on page 4 of its morning edition on 18 June 1950.

5 For example in Tokyo, the Asakusa Rokku‑za 浅草ロック座 (Asakusa Rock‑za), Shiatā Ueno シアター上野 (Ueno Theatre) and a few other venues are still active.

6 Satō Makoto 佐藤信, for example, claims to have watched a show featuring a 63-year-old female stripper, in “Gankyū shaburi – Odoriko-ron nōto” 眼球しゃぶり―踊り子論ノー ト [Eyeball Licking: Notes for a theory of dancers], Shingeki – tokushū sutorippu, 56. The photographer Hara Yoshiichi 原芳市 also revealed to us that a 69‑year-old female dancer still performs at Ōgon Gekijō 黄金劇場, a striptease theatre in Yokohama. However, this venue appears to have closed down in 2012.

7 See the Tsubouchi Memorial Theater Museum Digital Archives Collection.

8 We do not deny the existence of suggestive—or even explicit—graphic material before 1945. Photographs which could easily be classed as “pornographic” even by current standards date back, for the earliest among them, to the Meiji period; Shimokawa Kōshi 下川耿史, Nihon eroshashinshi 日本エロ写真史 [History of Japanese Erotic Photos] (Tokyo: Chikuma Bunko ちくま文庫, 2003). We suggest, however, that such material existed on a significantly different scale to the postwar period.

9 Named after kasutori shōchū カストリ焼酎, an alcoholic beverage of varying quality—at best mediocre—that was common in the immediate aftermath of the war. With its high alcohol content and occasionally dangerous ingredients, kasutori shōchū was said to render the drinker unconscious after three glasses (san gō 三合). And since many of these publications went under by their third issue (san gō 三号), the identical pronunciation led to the name kasutori zasshi. It is thought that more than 700 erotic magazines were created in the two years following the emergence of the genre in 1946. For a discussion of the subject, see Shōwa nimannichi no zenkiroku, Dai 7 kan  Haikyo kara no shuppatsu, Shōwa 20 nen-21 nen 昭和 二万日の全記録・第7巻―廃墟からの出発・昭和20年~21年 [Record of the 20,000 Days of the Shōwa Period, volume 7: The departure from ruins, 1945‑1946] (Tokyo: Kōdansha 講談社, 1989), 192 and 275, (henceforth SNNZ, 19 vols); John W. DOWER, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II (New York: W. W. Norton & Co. – The New Press, 1999), 148‑154; Mark McLelland, “‘Kissing is a Symbol of Democracy!’ Dating, Democracy, and Romance in Occupied Japan, 1945‑1952,” Journal of the History of Sexuality, vol. 19, no. 3 (2010): 523; Kawamoto Kōji 川本耕次, Poruno zasshi no shōwa-shi ポルノ雑誌の昭和史 [History of the Shōwa Period through Porn Magazines] (Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō 筑摩書房, “Chikuma Shinsho” 筑摩新書, 2011), 12‑16.

10 The analogy between this type of photo series and striptease is interesting: many others followed, particularly in Life, introducing many of the elements found in striptease such as scenes of bathing and undressing, but also alluring outfits and suggestive poses. Note that the magazine Playboy appeared in 1953; Dolores Flamiano, “The (Nearly) Naked Truth: Gender, Race, and Nudity in Life, 1937,” Journalism History, vol. 28, no. 3 (2002): 121‑136.

11 Dower, Embracing Defeat, 149.

12 The film in question was Sasaki Yasushi’s Hatachi no seishun は た ち の 青 春 [Twenty-year-old Youth], which caused a sensation at the time. See in particular SNNZ, 7:257; McLelland, “Kissing is a Symbol of Democracy,” 530; Tsurumi Shunsuke 鶴見俊輔, Satō Tadao 佐藤忠男 and Kita Morio 北杜夫 (eds.), Manga sengoshi 漫画戦後史 [History of Postwar Manga], no. 2 (Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō 筑摩書房, “Gendai manga” 現代漫画, 1970), 46. It is interesting to note that the appearance of kissing in film was concurrent with the birth of modern striptease, both in Japan and the United States: in 1896, the year after the Lumière Brothers presented their invention, the American William Heise released the appropriately named The Kiss.

13 The young woman was literally “framed,” just as a painting would be. She posed in the space usually occupied by the painter’s canvas and was presented as if behind a window.

14 The gakubuchi nūdo shō can be compared to the tableaux vivants used in particular in 18th‑century Paris as a means of intensifying the presentation of sexual acts in risqué plays (these were not striptease shows); Laurence Senelick, “The Word Made Flesh: Staging Pornography in Eighteenth‑Century Paris,” Theatre Research International, vol. 33, no. 2 (2008): 191‑203.

15 Herbert Eisenschenk (director), Le Nu absolu [documentary film] (Austria–France: Arte–Vermeer Film/ORF, 2010), 29‑30 mins.

16 SNNZ, 8: 38‑39.

17 Several hundred people are said to have crowded around the ticket office daily in order to watch the show; SNNZ, 8: 38.

18 Quoted in Ōzasa Yoshio 大笹吉雄, Nihon gendai engeki-shi – Shōwa sengo-hen 日本現代演劇史―昭和戦後篇 [History of Japanese Contemporary Theatre: The postwar Shōwa period], vol. 1 (Tokyo: Hakusuisha 白水社, 1998), 337-338.

19 François des Aulnoyes, Histoire et philosophie du striptease, 30‑31; A. Owen Aldridge, “American Burlesque at Home and Abroad: Together with the Etymology of Go‑Go Girl,” The Journal of Popular Culture, vol. 5, no. 3 (1971): 572.

20 It is interesting to note that the occupation authorities had no intention of intervening on this matter. With regards the press, the 1945 Press Code for Japan specified that only three types of publication were prohibited: any criticism of the Allied authorities, any kind of propaganda, and any reference to everyday problems (such as food shortages). Obscenity (salacious or immoral content), whether in the press or elsewhere, was not covered by the code and responsibility for interpreting such material—and for censuring it—was left to the Japanese police. Nevertheless, the occupation authorities would tolerate no reference to “fraternisation” between American servicemen and Japanese women, or any comments implying loose morals on behalf of American women. In 1949, for example, the Americans banned the publication of a magazine showing two naked Caucasian women on the grounds that it constituted “criticism of Allied Powers”; McLelland, “Kissing is a Symbol of Democracy,” 521‑522.

21 A similar situation existed in England in the 1930s. The Lord Chamberlain authorised tableaux, which he considered capable of being as beautiful as classical paintings, on the condition that they remained perfectly still, just like “real” paintings; Aldridge, “American Burlesque at Home and Abroad,” 571‑572.

22 Hara Yoshiichi 原芳市, Sutorippu no aru machi – ekizotikku shō no sekai wo tanoshimu ストリップのある街―エキゾティック・ショーの世界を楽しむ [Striptease Neighbourhoods: Enjoying the world of exotic shows] (Tokyo: Jiyū Kokuminsha 自由国民社, 1999), 84.

23 Tanaka Komimasa 田中小実昌, “Sutorippu yōgo shishi” ストリップ用語私史 [My History of Striptease Vocabulary], in Shingeki – tokushū sutorippu, 90‑93.

24 See Ōzasa, Nihon gendai engeki‑shi, 343.

25 Watanabe Akio 渡辺昭夫, “Teito‑za gokai gekijō no ichinen kyūkagetsu” 帝都座五階劇場の一年九ヵ月 [One Year and Nine Months on the 5th‑Floor Theatre of the Teito‑za], in Inoue, Asakusa Furansu-za no jikan, 144.

26 Denys Chevalier, Métaphysique du striptease (Paris: J.‑J. Pauvert, 1960), 57‑60.

27 In both cases there was a high number of fragmented families, populations in which women outnumbered men and more generally, difficult living conditions characterised by insecurity and instability; Dower, Embracing Defeat, 45, 51 and 54.

28 “Taidan – Nosaka Akiyuki/Wakamatsu Kōji, Sutorippā, yasashisa, Kaihōku” 対談―野 坂昭如・若松孝二ストリッパー・やさしさ解放区 [Interview: Nosaka Akiyuki/Wakamatsu Kōji, strippers, kindness, liberated zones], in Shingeki – tokushū sutorippu, 62‑71. The name “liberal shows” is derived from that of a pulp magazine called Riberaru りべらる (Liberal); Hara, Sutorippu no aru machi, 83.

29 Chevalier, Métaphysique du striptease, 57.

30 Ozawa Shōichi 小沢昭一, “Misōde misenai no ga ōgi – Ōnen no mei-sutorippā, Hirose Motomi san” 見そうで見せないのが奥義―往年の名ストリッパー・広瀬モトミさん [The Art of Showing without Showing: Hirose Motomi, One of the first great strippers], in Ozawa Shōichi zadan 1  Jinruigaku nyūmon  Oasobi to gei to 小沢昭一座談 1―人類学入門 ― お遊びと芸と [A Conversation with Ozawa Shōichi, 1: Introduction to anthropology: entertainment and art] (Tokyo: Shōbunsha 晶文社, 2007), 52‑53.

31 With the exception of certain ero guro (erotic grotesque) magazines from the 1920s‑1930s that were still available on the secondhand market; McLelland, “Kissing is a Symbol of Democracy,” 520.

32 Mark McLelland states that after the war the government strongly encouraged the three “s”—sport, screen, sexto the extent that at the time it was much easier to discuss sex‑related issues in the Japanese media than in the United States; McLelland, “Kissing is a Symbol of Democracy,” 520‑523.

33 The term “strip show” (sutorippu shō ストリップ・ショウ) was used for the first time in 1948 by Masakuni Otsuhiko; Hara, Sutorippu no aru machi, 127.

34 Striptease was so popular that it was used in a variety of occasions, some of them quite unexpected. In an article entitled “Japan: Occupational Hazards,” published on 12 June 1950, Time reported that during the 1950 elections a candidate succeeded in persuading one of her young female supporters to do a striptease in order to secure more votes. Stripteases also seem to have been performed at temple and shrine festivals, even within the grounds of these religious buildings, nestled among the other entertainment stands; A. W. Sadler, “The Form and Meaning of the Festival,” Asian Folklore Studies, vol. 28, no. 1 (1969): 10.

35 Nagai Kafū 永 井 荷 風, Danchōtei nichijō 断 腸 亭 日 乗 [Danchōtei Diary] (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten 岩波書店, Iwanami Bunko imprint 岩波文庫, 1987), 322.

36 OS is an abbreviation of Ōsaka sutorippu 大阪ストリップ (Osaka strip).

37 Ozawa, Fukai and Nakatani, “Kieru hi, Moeru honō,” 99.

38 John Huston’s 1958 film The Barbarian and the Geisha, in which Fujiwara starred under her real name, Andō Eiko 安藤永子.

39 Hashimoto Yoshio 橋本与志夫, “Natsukashi no sutā tachi” 懐かしのスターたち [The Stars of Yesteryear], Shingeki – tokushū sutorippu, 28‑35.

40 Kami no yō na nikutai da 神のような肉体だ; SNNZ, 8:38.

41 Tanaka Komimasa 田 中 小 実 昌, Vīnasu no ekubo  Tanaka Komimasa sakuhinshū ヴィーナスのえくぼ―田中小実昌作品集 [Venus’ Dimples: The collected works of Tanaka Komimasa], vol. 1 (Tokyo: Shakai Shisōsha 社会思想社, 1990), 280.

42 Alongside Osaka and Tokyo, Fukuoka is one of the three “historical cities” for striptease in Japan; Ozawa, Fukai and Nakatani, “Kieru hi, Moeru honō,” 104.

43 Amari ni mo shigekiteki dearu あまりにも刺激的である; SNNZ, 8:39.

44 Aramata Hiroshi 荒俣宏 notes several cases of suicide or premature death through overdose, alcohol abuse or illness before the 1960s, in Banpaku to sutorippu 万博とストリップ [Striptease and the World Fairs] (Tokyo: Shūeisha Shinsho 集英社新書, 2000), 218‑220.

45 He provides the notable example of a girl who did not leave her workplace for a single day in three years. He also mentions the total absence of any type of newspaper, meaning that dancers could be completely ignorant of the outside world; Tanaka Komimasa 田中小実昌, “Gohan no obake” ゴハンのオバケ [The Meal Ghost], Shingeki – tokushū sutorippu, 24‑27. Ōkubo Katsuhiko 大久保克彦 adds that what little time off dancers were able to take was not paid, which hardly encouraged them to rest; see “Tokudashi to shimin seikatsu” 特出しと市民生活 [Tokudashi and Civic Life], Shingeki – tokushū sutorippu, 49.

46 Note that most of these establishments were very modest in size. The Japanese illustrator and essayist Senō Kappa 妹尾河童 provides an interesting overview in “Kappa ga nozoita sutorippu gekijō” 河童が覗いたストリップ劇場 [Striptease Theatres as Glimpsed by Kappa], Geinō tōzai  Sutorippu dai tokushū 藝能東西―スト リップ大特集 [Geinō tōzai: Bumper Issue on Striptease] (1977): 58‑63.

47 Inoue Hisashi 井上ひさし, “Asakusa Furansu‑za wa kigeki no gakkō data” 浅草フランス座は喜劇の学校だった [Asakusa Furansu‑za Was a School for Comedy], Asakusa Furansu-za no jikan, 12.

48 Generally speaking, the majority of girls coming to striptease already had a solid background in dance. Many of them came from ballet; others from acrobatic dance. For some of them the decision to take up stripping was less a choice than a way out, because more prestigious forms of theatre were not—or no longer—accessible; Hashimoto, “Natsukashi no sutā tachi,” Shingeki – tokushū sutorippu, 28‑35.

49 Inoue, Asakusa Furansu-za no jikan, 13.

50 The term himo is evocative since in the world of prostitution it can also refer to a pimp.

51 See the Tsubouchi Memorial Theater Museum Digital Archives Collection. We are grateful to Jonathan Bollen, a performing arts professor at Flinders University (Australia), for this information.

52 Recall that in the West too, particularly in literature and striptease, eroticism often went hand in hand with exoticism, hence the popularity of portraying odalisques for example. In Japan at the time, this “exoticism” consisted of what could be described as “Westernism”.

53 The various sources disagree on the date but it would seem that these shows appeared in Japan between the late 1940s and the early 1950s.

54 Hirooka Keiichi 広岡敬一, Sutorippu bojō  Asakusa, Yoshiwara romanesuku ストリップ慕情―浅草・吉原ロマネスク [Nostalgia for Striptease: Asakusa, Yoshiwara Romanesque] (Tokyo: Kōdansha 講談社, “Kōdansha Bunko” 講談社文庫, 1993), 24‑25.

55 Ibid.

56 Kitano Takeshi 北野武, Asakusa Kid (Paris: Le Serpent à Plumes, “Motifs” collection, 2001).

57 In the fight against prostitution the closure of Yoshiwara turned out to be incomplete: it was only a matter of months before the first toruko トルコ opened in the neighbourhood in July. Turkish baths (toruko buro トルコ風呂), which appeared in Japan in the mid‑1950s, functioned as brothels and subsequently became known as sōpu rando ソープランド (soap land); Koyano Atsushi 小谷野敦, Nihon no baishunshi – yūkō jofu kara sōpu rando made日本の売春史―遊行女婦からソープランドまで [History of Prostitution in Japan: From wandering prostitutes to soap land] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha 新潮社, 2007), 181‑187.

58 Chevalier, Métaphysique du striptease, 107‑108.

59 Quoted in “Une enquête sur le striptease,” [An Investigation into Striptease] in Le Surréalisme, même, ed. André Breton, 5 vols (Paris: J.‑J. Pauvert, 1958), 4:63.

60 Jasper Sharp, Behind the Pink Curtain: The Complete History of Japanese Sex Cinema (Godalming: FAB Press, 2008), 51‑122.

61 Takechi Tetsuji 武智鉄二, “Sutorippu no kachi tankan” ストリップの価値転換 [Changes in the Value of Striptease], Shingeki – tokushū sutorippu, 72‑77.

62 Jean Baudrillard, Seduction, trans. Brian Singer (Montreal: New World Perspectives, 2001), 75.

63 N.D.T. Pâtes-la-Lune was a brand of pasta whose mascot was a moon‑like character with a flat and round yellow face.

64 Jean‑Clarence Lambert, “Images choisies d’un Japon sordide et magnifique” [Selected Images from a Sordid and Magnificent Japan], ARTS : lettres, spectacles, musique, no. 972 (1964): 39.

65 Shiota Masaru 塩 田 勝 (ed.), Ryūkōgo ingo jiten 流行語 ・ 隠語辞典 [Dictionary of Popular Speech and Slang] (Tokyo: San’ichi shobō 三一書房, 1981), 215.

66 A mystery surrounds Ichijō Sayuri’s birth. Depending on the sources, she is said to have been born in 1929 or 1937, either in Niigata or Saitama; Ishikawa Hiroyoshi 石川弘義 (ed.), Taishū bunka jiten 大衆文化辞典 [Encyclopaedia of Popular Culture] (Tokyo: Kōbundō 弘文堂, 1991), 51.

67 Sugiura Seiken 杉浦正健, “Ichijō Sayuri igo no Ichijō Sayuri – Saiban kiroku wo moto ni kangaeru” 一条さゆり以後の一条さゆり―裁判記録をもとに考える [Ichijō Sayuri after Ichijō Sayuri: Reflexions Based on the Records of Court Proceedings], in Geinō tōzai  Sutorippu dai tokushū, 208‑233.

68 Ogura Takayasu 小倉孝保, Shodai Ichijō Sayuri densetsu  Kamagasaki ni chitta bara 初代一条さゆり伝説―釡ヶ崎に散ったバラ [The Legend of Ichijō Sayuri the First: The rose that withered in Kamagasaki] (Osaka: Yōbunkan Shuppan 葉文館出版, 1999), 133.

69 Jean Baudrillard, Seduction, 76.

70 Tengu are a type of legendary creature with long, erect noses that had phallic connotations long before striptease.

71 The illustrator Onozawa San’ichi おのざわさんいち provides an interesting overview in “E de miru sutorippu-shi” 絵で見るストリップ史 [The History of Striptease as Seen through Pictures], Geinō tōzai  Sutorippu dai tokushū, 4‑15.

72 These shows bring to mind the short story by Alphonse Allais in which a bored raja asks a young girl to dance and undress for him. Once she is completely naked he exclaims, “Again!” and his servants strip off her skin; Alphonse Allais, “Un rajah qui s’embête: conte d’Extrême‑Orient” [A Bored Raja: A tale from the Far East], Rose et Vert-Pomme (œuvres anthumes) (Paris: Paul Ollendorff, 1894), 269‑274.

73 This practice had already been used during certain nyūyoku shō. Audience members who had soaped the girl’s back might be given a bamboo tube allowing them to look into the bath water and have the opportunity of seeing—or at least attempting to see, and this uncertainty was key—her body through the bubbles; Hirooka, Sutorippu bojō, 25.

74 The word comes from inverting the syllables of mana ita まな板, meaning chopping board. The inversion nama ita could be a play on words since nama 生 (meaning “raw” or “fresh”) could also mean “live” on stage.

75 Ozawa, Fukai, Nakatani, “Kieru hi, Moeru honō – Sengo sutorippu-shi,” 102. In France, just before the beginning of the 1960s, Nelly Kaplan predicted that: “‘When the infinite serfdom of women is brought to an end,’ striptease as a public spectacle will surely disappear of its own accord,” citation taken from “Le Striptease: fin de l’enquête” [Striptease: End of the Investigation] in Breton, Le Surréalisme, même, 5: 58.

76 The number of establishments offering nude shows peaked in 1985 at 675 (roughly half of which were striptease theatres) and declined steadily thereafter; Kadokura Takashi 門倉貴史, Bakuhatsu suru chika bijinesu 爆発する地下ビジネス [The Explosion of the Underground Industry] (Tokyo: PHP Kenkyūjo, PHP研究所, 2007), 123. During our interview with Hara Yoshiichi 原 芳 市, he stated that at the time of speaking there were approximately 40 strip clubs in Japan, around half a dozen of them in Tokyo.

77 According to Hirooka Keiichi 広岡敬一, the first nozokibeya 覗き部屋 (peep‑show) opened its doors in Osaka in February 1981; Hirooka Keiichi 広岡敬一, Sengo seifūzoku taikei 戦後性風俗大系 [Survey of Postwar Sexual Mores] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan 小学館, “Shōgakukan bunko” 小学館文庫, 2007), 314.

78 Videos, more than cinema, were instrumental in distributing Japanese porn films; FUJIKI TDC 藤木TDC, Adaruto bideo kakumei-shi アダルトビデオ革命史 [History of the Adult Video Revolution] (Tokyo: GS Gentōsha Shinsho GS幻冬舎新書, 2009), 39‑66.

79 Nūdo sutajio ヌ ー ド ス タ ジ オ (nude studios) were booths where customers were given cameras (sometimes with no film inside) to “photograph” scantily clad young women. They were known for being tiny.

80 The photo collections by Hara Yoshiichi 原芳市, Za sutorippā, provide a fairly accurate idea of modern Japanese striptease.

81 The Rokku‑za, for example, hosted two well‑known porn stars in autumn 2011: Ayumu あゆむ and Ozawa Maria 小澤マリア.

82 There are various categories in the definition and management of the sex industry in Japan. Striptease theatres, nūdo sutajio, peep‑shows and video booths all belong to the category of sex‑related businesses of the third category (seifūzoku kanren tokushu eigyō sangō eigyō 性風俗関連特殊営業・3号営業), and are thus clearly distinguished under Japanese law from other businesses such as soap lands and sex shops (respectively first and fifth categories); Manaka Toshimitsu 間中利光, Kijima Yasuo 木島康雄, Hosuto kurabu kyabakura kaiten kaigyō tetsuzuki kanzen gaido  zukai to shinsei shorui kisairei tsuki ホストクラブ・キャバクラ開店・開業手続き完全ガイド — 図解と申請書類記載例付き [Complete Guide to Opening a Host Club or Cabaret: Illustrations and Examples of Business Permit Application Forms Included] (Tokyo: Sanshūsha 三修社, 2008), 10‑13.

83 Clinton P. Hansen, “To Strip or Not to Strip: The Demise of Nude Dancing and Erotic Expression through Cumulative Regulations,” Valparaiso University Law Review, vol. 35, no. 3, (2001): 562.

84 These studies are extremely diverse, not always complimentary, and at times surprising to say the least. For example, a report written by Fulton County Police Department (Georgia, United States), which studied the links between alcohol consumption, strip clubs and delinquency over a two year period, came to a damning conclusion: establishments offering alcoholic beverages to customers (bars, etc.) but no striptease saw higher levels of crime and public order disturbances than those combining stripping and alcohol (note, however, that the study was based on the number of telephone complaints received by the police and not on the actual number of offences). The study was cited in 2001 during a court case between Fulton County and several businesses offering such services. See Judith Lynne Hanna, “Dance under the Censorship Watch,” Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society, vol. 31, no. 4 (2002): 308 and 316.

85 Umberto Eco, “Platon au Crazy Horse,” [Plato at the Crazy Horse] in Pastiches et postiches (Paris: 10/18, 1996), 55‑59.

86 Roland Barthes, “Striptease,” in Mythologies (Paris: Seuil, “Points – Essais,” 2007), 137‑140.

87 “Une enquête sur le striptease,” in Breton, Le Surréalisme, même, 4: 56‑63; “Le Striptease: fin de l’enquête,” in Breton, Le Surréalisme, même, 5:56‑60; Gérard Legrand, “La philosophie dans le saloon”, ibid., 5: 60‑62. Other, more nuanced opinions exist, however, most of them written by women.

88 On the other hand, the daily press seems to have completely lost interest in the subject. Take the example of the Asahi shinbun, which has published few articles on this industry since 1945 and often focusing on aspects like urban planning and public safety (a striptease theatre being established near a school, for example, or a fire in a club).

89 Examples include the magazines Nūdo interijensu ヌード・インテリジェンス (Nude Intelligence), Play Ana, Pussy プッシー, Striptease de Japon, etc. However, these publications are hard to locate and we have been unable to consult them. Although the above publications have disappeared, the magazine Shūkan taishū 週刊大衆 printed a weekly column on stripping until a few years ago; “Maihime densetsu” 舞姫伝説 [Dancing Girl Legends], written by Hara Yoshiichi 原芳市.

90 In 1955, for example, the television channel now known as TBS broadcast a programme on music halls which focused heavily on striptease; Aramata, Banpaku to sutorippu, 217‑218.

91 Indeed, whatever degree of nudity the stripper reaches, she is never strictly “naked”: she always retains an accessory or an item of clothing such as her shoes, a piece of jewellery, a wig, or even her makeup. This is characteristic of the affirmation of sex, and even of seduction, as Baudrillard reminds us: “Seduction, however, never belongs to the order of nature, but that of artifice—never to the order of energy, but that of signs and rituals” (Baudrillard, Seduction, 2). He further adds that: “In order for sex to exist, signs must reduplicate biological being,” and this observation is even more applicable in the case of striptease (ibid., 12). On a lighter note, in the late 19th century the French humour magazine Le Rire carried a front page illustration of an artist visiting an editor to propose his work. Upon seeing the picture, the editor exclaims: “Come now sir, in what universe have you seen naked women without stockings?!”; illustration by J.‑L. Forain, Le Rire – Journal humoristique paraissant le samedi, no. 157 (6 November 1897): 1 (we thank Yves Riquet for having brought this illustration to our attention).

92 Ueno Chizuko 上野千鶴子, Sukāto no shita no gekijō スカートの下の劇場 [Theatre beneath the Skirt] (Tokyo: Kawade Shobō Shinsha 河出書房新社, “Kawade bunko” 河出文庫, 1992), 17.

93 バタフライが意味しているものは、機能性ではなく、シンボル性です; ibid., 42.

94 Béla Grunberger, “De l’image phallique” [On the Phallic Image], Revue française de psychanalyse, volume XXVIII, no. 1 (1964): 224.

95 Oka Yōichi 丘陽一, “’77 Kantō sutorippu hakusho” ’77関東ストリップ白書 [1977 White Paper on Kantō Striptease], Geinō tōzai  Sutorippu dai tokushū, 52‑57.

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List of illustrations

Title Figure 1
Caption Gakubuchi shō on the fifth floor of the Teitō‑za in Tokyo, April 1947. The performer is most likely Kataoka Mari 片岡マリ.
Source: anonymous author, Enpaku collection, Waseda
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cjs/docannexe/image/1384/img-1.jpg
File image/jpeg, 131k
Title Figure 2
Caption “Asakusa no sutorippu gekijō ni okeru nyūyoku-shō” 浅草のストリップ劇場における入浴ショー (Nyūyoku shō at a striptease theatre in Asakusa), between 1951 and 1955.
Source: Hirooka Keiichi 広岡敬一
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cjs/docannexe/image/1384/img-2.jpg
File image/jpeg, 140k
Title Figure 3
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cjs/docannexe/image/1384/img-3.jpg
File image/jpeg, 24k
Title Figure 4
Caption Dancers’ dressing room at a striptease theatre, 1977. A poster indicates the four performance times, from 12.30 PM to 11.15 PM, as well as the in‑house rules to be respected. Source: Hara Yoshiichi 原芳市
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cjs/docannexe/image/1384/img-4.jpg
File image/jpeg, 38k
Title Figure 5
Caption A sign outside a club specialising in gaijin nūdo shō, the DX Ōmiya Gekijō DX大宮劇場 (Saitama Prefecture).
Source: Hara Yoshiichi 原芳市
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cjs/docannexe/image/1384/img-5.jpg
File image/jpeg, 36k
Title Figure 6
Caption Advert for the Modan Āto モダンアート (Modern Art), a striptease theatre located in Shinjuku in the 1970s.
Source: Hara Yoshiichi 原芳市
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cjs/docannexe/image/1384/img-6.jpg
File image/jpeg, 46k
Title Figure 7
Caption Front of the Shinjuku Myūjikku Gekijō 新宿ミュージック劇場 in the 1970s detailing the different shows offered by the club: gaijin manaita and shirokuro.
Source: Hara Yoshiichi 原芳市
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cjs/docannexe/image/1384/img-7.jpg
File image/jpeg, 238k
Title Figure 8
Caption Finale of a show at the Asakusa Rokku‑za 浅草ロック座 in the 1990s. Source: Hara Yoshiichi 原芳市
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cjs/docannexe/image/1384/img-8.jpg
File image/jpeg, 43k
Title Figure 9
Caption Finale of a show at the Asakusa Rokku‑za 浅草ロック座 in the 1990s. Source: Hara Yoshiichi 原芳市
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cjs/docannexe/image/1384/img-9.jpg
File image/jpeg, 64k
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References

Electronic reference

Éric Dumont and Vincent Manigot, « A history of Japanese striptease », Cipango - French Journal of Japanese Studies [Online], 5 | 2016, Online since 15 July 2019, connection on 24 February 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/cjs/1384 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/cjs.1384

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Copyright

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Cipango – French Journal of Japanese Studies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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