This “slightly bonkers” blog gets a fair amount of net traffic, but not because of my illuminating insight on Japan nor my biting wit. As far as my stats suggest, everyone mostly drops in to gawk at the pictures of elementary school bikini idol and crossover-child-semi-porn celebrity Saaya Irie. Japanese entrepreneurs may have been the first ones to suspect men like to look at pictures of near-naked fifth-graders, but apparently the consumer demand is global. Unfortunately for Saaya, her “musical group” Sweet Kiss disbanded before they could ever put out any music. My guess is that everyone is following her every move to get hints on the nature of her future musical output — the prodigious F-cup breasts are just a side distraction.
I am not personally interested in this “low teen idol” boom sweeping Japan, but like many, I can’t ignore the societal implications. For a while, Cyzo and their contributor Shinsan Nameko had a story on the market almost every month. In one of the interviews with a participant and her mother, the wannabe idol talked about how doing photos where you “accidentally can see panties” or featuring the “hand-bra” were not really for 12 year olds — but okay when you are 15. Off camera to her friends: Mom won’t let me do anything! Dad!!!!! Is it okay if I do 手ブラ shots?!
The other day, I innocently followed a link to a story about accusations of racist manga from the 2-ch “Itai” News blog and found myself looking at a banner ad for http://www.imouto.tv/ — your one-stop source for “only elementary school and middle school girls” posing in swimsuits and spreading their legs in gym shorts. For those unfamiliar with Japanese, “imouto” (妹) means “little sister.” The site brags that all of its models are under 15 (U-15限定).
The pricing structure for access works exactly like members-only hardcore pornography sites, and the payment system suggests the target market is an older clientele. (I doubt kids are asking their parents for the funds to join up.) The poses, costumes, and general atmosphere are almost identical to normal Japanese pornography — except for the two small pieces of bikini cloth that the pesky legal system requires. (Puritans!) For those into looking behind the curtain, the domain is registered to an “Eichi” based at the same address of Miracle Studio in Ebisu.
Now, I don’t want to suggest that this site is mainstream. My guess is that it generally attracts those with a sociopathic attraction to prepubescent girls, and judging by the ad placement on an Akihabara otaku-focused site, serious trouble dealing with women in what we call the “legal zone” (O-18 in industry-speak) who make up the vast majority of females in Japan. While Saaya Irie’s Weekly Playboy-produced photo book tried to convince the mass T-n-A audience of the virtues of the newly-emerging neo-pedophilia market, this “not-porn” porn site at imouto.tv is the newly-emerging neo-pedophilia market.
My biggest question about imouto.tv is, where are these girls coming from? Who in the world thinks this is their daughter’s “big break” to bigger things? Now I can see a parallel with the ultra-creepy low-teen beauty pageants breaking out like a rash upon the North American heartland, but at least in that case, girls are competing for some kind of prize. They are not posing in swimsuits on a “members-only” site targeted towards socially-dysfunctional men. I don’t think we are really missing any context here — anyone Japanese or otherwise can guess what imouto.tv is about within five seconds of gander time. Wouldn’t inclusion on this site now would lead to a relatively big scandal for an actress/singer in the future?
The only advantage of peddling young flesh now — besides the medium-sized payout to the enterprising parents — is if the girl was determined to be a gravure idol in the future. This way, her fans could escalate with her into a more profound high-school career. But honestly speaking, wouldn’t these guys stop being interested when things hit 16? There is nothing scarier than girls who know trigonometry. To the true U-15 fan, college girls may as well be mountain hag zombies who eat your brains. (Not to mention the overpowering 加齢臭!)
The thing no one ever says about gravure though is that it’s no one’s first choice. The girls are all aspiring actresses and musicians who are not talented enough or connected enough to get cast in anything, so their production company pushes them to pose in bikinis and get filmed walking gleefully in slo-mo. Some girls have crossed over these days — MEGUMI and the anomalous, yet ubiquitous Hoshino Aki (ancient at 29) — but most girls stay in gravure or worse. (Maybe sometime we can talk about rumors of the high-class brothels set up across Tokyo staffed by the unpopular girls in major talent agencies so they can pay for their singing and dancing lessons.) The U-15 cadets are also probably aiming for world-domination in the guise of singers and actresses, but somebody (with an eye on revenues) has decided this questionable proto-gravure is the way to go for an early start. Now their parents’ great struggle towards celebrity children is yours to enjoy for ¥3000 a month.