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(Credit: Nobuyoshi Araki)

Art

The art of eroticism: A peep show of the photography of Nobuyoshi Araki

@TomTaylorFO

When Nobuyoshi Araki attended film and photography school at Chiba University in 1959, Japan was undergoing a tempestuous period of radical change. Stationed between the old ways and the new, students began to partake in the historical Anpo Protests, as the left tried to sway a more neutral path for Japan in the ensuing Cold War. 

During this time of upheaval, the youth sought to bring forth a new identity for Japan. Nobuyoshi Araki’s photography was borne from this period of the old violently clashing with the new as his crisp expressive style blended fine art, eroticism and bondage in something that was unmistakably Japanese and yet not like anything Japan had seen before. 

Finding creative impetus in the changing society surrounding him, Araki soon become one of Japan’s most prolific artists and while volume doesn’t always equal quality, Araki went about his splurge in such a daring way that it always proved progressive. His most prominent works relate to erotic portraits of modern Japanese women in a very voyeuristic yet performative gaze. 

This sexual bent to his art came from the liberation that Japan was experiencing on this front to as the Taschen publication Araki: Tokyo Lucky Hole, explains: “It started in 1978 with an ordinary coffee shop near Kyoto. Word spread that the waitresses wore no panties under their miniskirts. Similar establishments popped up across the country. Men waited in line outside to pay three times the usual coffee price just to be served by a panty-free young woman.”

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Thereafter, an erotic craze swept over Japan as society became increasingly daring and found new ways to push the boundaries of previously accepted civility. “Within a few years, a new craze took hold: the no-panties “massage” parlour. Increasingly bizarre services followed, from fondling clients through holes in coffins to commuter-train fetishists. One particularly popular destination was a Tokyo club called “Lucky Hole” where clients stood on one side of a plywood partition, a hostess on the other. In between them was a hole big enough for a certain part of the male anatomy.” No prizes for guessing which part.

It was this new fetishized industry that Akira wanted to capture, but rather than focus on the potentially gaudy side of things, he took a cinematic approach and coupled it with the fine art of high society. In the process, he crafted the definitive collection from the era, putting eroticism alongside simple snippets of the society that it existed alongside.

There is hubris and humour in his dazzling work, sometimes startling and stark, but always with purpose and never banal, the one thing he captured above all was Japan in transition, which is certainly saying something considering the eye-opening acts at play on the surface. All of this is displayed in the Taschen publication, Araki: Tokyo Lucky Hole, featuring over 800 of his finest works. You can find out more and purchase your own copy by following the link below.

Tachen publication Araki: Tokyo Lucky Hole is available here.

(Credit: Nobuyoshi Araki)
(Credit: Nobuyoshi Araki)
(Credit: Nobuyoshi Araki)
(Credit: Nobuyoshi Araki)
(Credit: Nobuyoshi Araki)
(Credit: Nobuyoshi Araki)
(Credit: Nobuyoshi Araki)

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