Porn star-turned-tarento Ai Iijima meets the press
By Carlo Niederberger
Ai Iijima had little idea what speaking at
the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan entailed, or
even what the FCCJ was for that matter. So finding out shed
be on equal footing with people like Prime Minster Junichiro
Koizumi, soccer legend Diego Maradona and former Soviet leader
Mikhail Gorbachev, she proudly claimed her recent appearance
to be revolutionary.
The former porn star, now a TV talent, showed
up in a clean-cut, charcoal gray suit with an elegant, rose
broocha far cry from how she dressed (or undressed,
as the case may be) back in 1992. Then a rebellious 20-year-old,
Iijima made her first adult film, following stints in karaoke
joints, snack bars and Ginza hostess clubs. I hated
my parents, to the point where I would rather be with bums
sleeping in parks wrapped in newspaper blankets, says
Iijima, whose real name is Mitsuko Ishii. In the end, she
ran away, found it hard to make ends meet, and set foot in
the porn industry with an Oh well, why not attitude,
her eyes blinded by yen symbols.
Although adult movies made her famous, Iijima said most girls
in the male-dominated industry have a different fate. She
pointed out how scouts lure young girls to take their clothes
off with little reward, promising theyll only be seen
on the Internet. These girls have no idea how far-reaching
the web is.
Given her past, Iijimas comments naturally convey a
touch of feminism and disdain for Japans aging male
elite. Viagra was approved by lawmakers in less than
a year, while the pill took a long, long time. How unfair,
you oyaji! mocked the 32-year-old, whose autobiographical
novel Platonic Sex has sold over a million copies and has
been translated into Korean, Taiwanese and Italian, with an
English version coming soon.
Iijima once had dinner with Koizumi, then the minister for
health and welfare, who entertained her with tales of fornicating
dragonflies. But she said she has no interest in politics,
except for infamous scandals such as those involving Muneo
Suzuki, a disgraced politician from Hokkaido, or former Foreign
Minister Makiko Tanaka. If I ever become a politician,
that would spell the end of Japan, she joked.
Trying to shed her past image, Iijima skillfully dodged questions
that were below the belt, but touched upon issues
like sex education and teenage girls. Is she worried they
may follow in her footsteps? Kids arent fragile
things that need protection, she said. Theyre
actually pretty smart. And her advice for them is carpe
diem. If today brings laughter, Im more than happy.
If I try looking ten years ahead to what Ill be doing,
I lose track of tomorrow.
Photo credit: Carlo Niederberger
Miss Universe Japan Kick-Off Party
The pageant's 15 finalists strut their stuff at Roppongi
|Clockwise from top: Miss
Universe Japan director Ines Ligron with Kazumasa Terada,
president of Samantha Thavasa Japan Ltd., one of the contest
sponsors; current Miss Japan Eri Machimoto with Ligron;
the 15 finalists who will vie for the Miss Japan title
next March; the pageant's first twin contestants: Takako,
left and Junko Tomita
Photos by Chris Betros
In this age of multimedia, Daniel Smith is carving out a
niche in Japan with Access Television (ACTV), a privately
held video production/print news service specializing in entertainment,
sports and travel features. Its programs include Black Life
in Japan, Access E, The Emissary and www.accessEonline.com.
Born and raised in St. Louis, Smith started ACTV in 1997 as
a joint venture between himself and Americable International
Japan, a firm hired by the military to supply cable programming
to US military bases in Japan.
When did you first come to Japan?
In 1983, with the Air Force. I was assigned to Kadena as editor
of the base newspaper.
What's ACTV all about?
My desire was to move beyond the military TV market, so in
1999 I began producing a bilingual program called Chui Tashiki
Dashiki for the Okinawa Cable Network. In 2000, I expanded
on that by filming entertainment and sports features, on a
contract basis for the Tokyo Bureau of the Associated Press
Television News. Later, I added reporting on entertainment
for BET Nightly News and launching my own weekly television
show Black Life in Japan, which airs in the US, Europe and
Africa, and an entertainment web site, www.accessEonline.com.
We also produce a My Life in Japan corner for several cable
networks and an Access E movie page.
Is there much demand overseas for Japan entertainment
In my experience filming features for APTN and the 300 or
so major TV networks worldwide that subscribed to their entertainment
service, I found that the demand is high if packaged right.
You have to be creative to satisfy both the domestic market,
which needs publicity right now, and the international market,
which can never get enough of the big stars.
What's the best part about your work?
I can set my own agenda. We select stories we think our readers
and television viewers want-not those that are force-fed
down their throats.
What's the most frustrating part?
The inability of many people here who work for the movie or
music industry to understand that they-and more importantly
their celebrity clients-benefit from the international
coverage people like us can give them. It's a mindset
I try to change every day.
How do you like to chill out?
If I had my way, I'd play basketball every day. In
the absence of that, I turn to music and movies. I'm
a sponge for sci-fi flicks. CB
Photo credit: Chris Betros
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