TOKYO (TR) – The television studio is a sparse mix of a wall map and two green plants. As the weather anchor begins reading the next day’s forecast — snow in Niigata and sunny skies across Kanto — a gust of wind suddenly knocks her to one side.
Though giggling slightly, the journalist straightens her top-heavy frame and continues, fumbling a few lines but maintaining eye contact with the rolling camera while she firmly grips her notes.
The breeze increases, so much so that her black skirt and white long sleeves suddenly disappear in the rush, leaving the determined newswoman clad in only lace panties and an extremely loose-fitting black bra in which to announce the rain in Sendai.
Welcome to Paradise TV.
“Paradise is totally different from other adult video channels,” explains manager of international sales, Kenichiro Suzuki, from Paradise headquarters in a commercial block of Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward. “We have many more stupid shows. They (standard porn channels) sometimes have them. But we concentrate on making them.”
The chaos continues: flapping newspapers flutter past (with one momentarily clinging to her forehead); snow begins falling; and more clothing vanishes. In the end, she is covered in a dusting of white flakes and a grin.
This is what the channel’s subscribers want.
“The first few years were confusing,” says Suzuki of Paradise, which started its 24-hour broadcasting in 1998. “Four or five years ago there was no marketing. We just made whatever we wanted. But right now we just ask our viewers: ‘‘What kind of program do you want to watch?'”
Their feedback has resulted in wacky, perverted programming — Paradise’s trademark. This “stupid” style has not only been a success domestically but it has also gained a select following overseas. For Paradise, though, pleasing their subscribers through both live and pre-recorded shows is simply one factor; they also must — as surprising as it might sound — maintain an element of decency.
The contents of the shows vary considerably. One could be quite elaborate, such as a couple engaging in collect-as-you-ejaculate sex (30,000 yen per) in a compartment of a Shinkansen “bullet” train as it travels between two stops, or as simple as a cat fight in their studio.
Often production cost is not the main factor in choosing what goes on the air; instead customer demand can be a big influence. A year ago Paradise had one or two live shows a day. Suzuki says that a lack of interest by subscribers has dropped the amount to only three or four each week.
Paradise does not have any writers hired to formulate the shows. Everyone within the staff of 80 — technicians, producers, editors, cameramen, and administrators — contributes five or 6 new ideas a month that they think will please their subscribers, many of whom receive the broadcasts in Japan through satellite service SKY PerfecTV. Suzuki concedes that this lack of professionalism is one of the reasons why the subject matter tends to remain free form.
Dressed in a baggy sweater and stringy goatee, Suzuki is a perfect reflection of that spirit. He often punctuates his comments with hand gestures and clicking noises from the corner of his mouth.
One of Paradise’s most popular ongoing shows is “Watashi, Shojo Soshitsu Shimasu (I Will Lose My Virginity)” — a two-hour live broadcast of a woman’s first sexual encounter. So far over two dozen girls have lost their virginity in Paradise.
Weeks in advance, a promo asking subscribers whether they would want to see the first experience of a certain female virgin, who receives a proper introduction during the spot, is interspersed within Paradise’s programming. If the demand — as received by email or phone — reaches a level deemed suitable, “we go for it,” says Suzuki, slapping his palms together.
The quality of the virgin eye candy is not necessarily an issue for viewers. “If there is a beautiful girl,” Suzuki says and then pauses before continuing. “Well, we don’t have too many beautiful (virgin) girls. Because otherwise…”
Instead, interest can be fueled by a fetish or trend. Eyewear, for example, has become a hot item. “It looks more intelligent,” Suzuki reasons. (One show featuring a bespectacled Kyoto virgin — described by Suzuki as “a really nice girl who just never had a chance” — has received many requests for replaying.)
The show is really two shows. One is the live deflowering with a freelance actor; the other is a documentary about the girl’s life. A recent installment featured a girl from Hiroshima who was in the process of dutifully moving back to her parent’s home to work in the family hotel and enter into an arranged marriage.
In only a few cases is actual sex scene shown live in the first show. Instead, the initial show focuses more on foreplay with the actual act being shown in edited form in the second program. For allowing the Paradise audience to share in this special time, the girl typically will receive between 100,000 and 200,000 yen, with the male actor pocketing a tiny fraction of that amount.
“The second show is for the girl,” says Suzuki earnestly of the documentary. “We have to take care of her because this is something that can only happen one time in life. We cannot make fun of it.”
Just about any other topic imaginable is, however, an open target. For example, lactation.
This past Valentine’s Day was a cooking show of sorts. “Bonyu Matsuri (Mother’s Milk Festival)” showcased recent mothers from within the local sex industry pouring their hearts — and breast milk — into a batch of chocolate. Afterward a panel of tasters offered commentary on the product’s quality. This same special ingredient has been used to cook up cream stew and pancakes in past shows.
In 2003, news of Paradise’s unique cooking technique reached Europe. After a broadcasting company in the U.K. paid Paradise a licensing fee, its viewers were treated to a few minutes of Japanese women being milked in a kitchen.
Suzuki describes the international market for distributing such programs as small. Though HBO, Shock Video, and Comedy Central have all showcased Paradise material, the reason for the general scarcity is that sending material overseas is not simple.
“We cannot sell everything around the world because it depends on religion and beliefs,” says the manager. He adds that Asians, American, and Europeans, for example, all have different tastes and legal restrictions.
Suzuki says that US audiences are accepting of standard intercourse but branching out into fetish features is generally not possible under strict US broadcasting rules.
For example, a title that showcased a woman with the unique talent for simultaneously engaging in anal and vaginal sex with large objects — the contents of the program Suzuki demonstrated by thrusting both of his fists in front of himself — was returned to him by a Hawaii cable company.
The Internet could possibly be an additional niche market for such special material in the future, the manager hopes. As of now, the content on the Paradise Web site generates a small fraction of the company’s revenue. Members, of which there are over 10,000, pay 2,000 yen per month for a live feed of the standard broadcasts and various straight-ahead porn fare, which Suzuki says is needed because many viewers demand to be erotically stimulated but sometimes find it difficult with the standard stupid programming.
A look behind the scenes at Paradise is a peek at the nuts and bolts of the creation of a show. Hanging jackets, plastic poles, rubber ducks and some of the props needed to create the windstorm are scattered in various back areas amid photographers taking seasonal promo photos of actresses for the Paradise Web site.
Prior to the weather broadcast, the weather girl could be seen being prepped in a dressing room. Her long sleeve shirt — cut up the back and rigged with fishing line that the assistant director pulled midway through the broadcast — was taped to her backside.
Paradise also has a bath (or ofuro) that has been specifically constructed for set purposes. A two-way mirror has been installed into one of the walls to accommodate a camera and the bath area features ample space for a crew to maneuver, a necessary consideration since live (and topless) news reports are given from water level.
While this might sound like nonstop free flowing fun, Suzuki admits that the recording of a show is hardly ever smooth. Sometimes amateur actresses quit without notice. Other times professionals could be mismatched with a particular role or arrive at the studio looking entirely different from the promotion photos initially supplied by the outside production company responsible for recruiting. He says that five or six years ago, for example, it was very difficult to find a professional who could perform multiple orifice sex scenes.
The Japanese law that prohibits the showing of genitalia makes broadcasting live shows difficult. For this, the primary solution is the implementation of a translucent shamoji, or large rice spoon. With similar results as the “mosaic” method typically used to scramble the image of genitalia in recorded video and film in Japan, the cameraman partially covers the lens with this spoon as he films any scenes that might be objectionable.
Occasionally regulations can make for creative programming. “Manko News” is a — yet again, naked — news program. The word manko in Japanese is a derogatory word for vagina but it is also the name of a tidal wetland area in Okinawa. For this program, which is very enthusiastically introduced at the start as “Manko News,” the announcer reads the day’s news in front of a large screen with projections of scenic images from around Manko. A pitcher of orange juice has in the past been strategically placed on a table in front of her crotch area. Previous shows have used a bowl of ramen with the director tucking in as the news was being read.
Other times, though, a law is a law. “Shinjuku Nampa (Shinjuku Pickup)” was an extremely popular program that was taken off the air a few months ago after a Tokyo Municipal Government ordinance was changed last year to prohibit the street solicitation of minors.
A group of six guys would venture out into Shinjuku’s entertainment areas on a Friday night after the last train had passed in pursuit of drunk young girls interested in returning to the studio for a little fun. After a few games (maybe Twister or darts), cash prizes, perhaps 10,000 yen, would be given to girls who flash their bras. Things would then ideally escalate into sex sessions. But, as Suzuki admits, this proved difficult since the girls were not professionals and usually not very sober.
The Paradise policy is to always keep it light.
Kozue Ikeda, the “Manko News” anchor who works at Paradise twice a month, says this loose environment is less stressful than her regular work as a porn actress.
“The other jobs are much more serious,” she says, seated at the edge of the bathtub and wrapped in a white bathrobe. “This is really unpredictable.”
Note: This article originally appeared in March 2005 on the Sake-Drenched Postcards Web page.