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Shigeo Tokuda, Japan's 76-year-old king of 'elder porn.' (Kayo Yamawaki for The Globe and Mail/Kayo Yamawaki for The Globe and Mail)
Shigeo Tokuda, Japan's 76-year-old king of 'elder porn.' (Kayo Yamawaki for The Globe and Mail/Kayo Yamawaki for The Globe and Mail)

Husband, grandfather, retiree - and a Japanese porn star Add to ...

It's said that everyone has a secret. What was unique about Shigeo Tokuda's fib was that everything he wasn't telling his wife and daughter was on recorded on hundreds of videos, and that thousands of admirers knew exactly who he was and what he was trying to hide.



For a long time, Mr. Tokuda was not just the world's oldest porn star, he was perhaps its most anonymous. His family didn't know where the 76-year-old really went and what he did when the retired travel agent pulled on his blazer and went off to "work" in the morning.

But among his fans - and there are enough of them to justify the making of at least one new film a month - Mr. Tokuda is the superstar of the rising genre of "elder porn," movies that feature older actors (at least the male ones) and plotlines in which the growing number of Japanese senior citizens (again, at least the males) can picture themselves. His most famous role is as a senior citizen who acts anything but his age with an assortment of nurses, as well as with his twentysomething daughter-in-law.

Elder porn is a fast-growing industry in Japan, which has a population that is both the oldest in the world as well as the world's second-largest consumers of pornography (after the United States). By his count, Mr. Tokuda has appeared in some 350 films, with another project - Prohibited Elderly Care Vol. 45 - already in production.

"It's mostly older men who watch. Maybe some single women who are a little older," Mr. Tokuda says, trying to explain his popularity. "Definitely, they want to have some connection to a character that's their age, to feel they can have the same satisfaction."

Sales of elder porn have reportedly doubled over the past decade, now accounting for somewhere between 20 and 30 per cent of Japan's pornography industry, which grosses $20-billion annually.

Mr. Tokuda's secret blew up in his face two years ago, when a lengthy fax arrived at his Tokyo home that his 35-year-old daughter was the first in the family to lay eyes on: the script to Prohibited Elderly Care Vol. 20. It didn't take her long to figure out what it was she was reading and which role her father - who also stars in a series called Maniac Training of Lolitas - was cast to play.

"The whole story was right there, so it was obvious what kind of movie it was," Mr. Tokuda says, grimacing a bit at the memory. In person, the father of two and grandfather of one looks the part he plays: an elderly Japanese any man, standing 5-foot-3 with just a few wisps of white hair covering his shining scalp, and a smile dominated by oversized front teeth.

But while his daughter was "shocked" at her discovery, Mr. Tokuda says his wife was unbothered to find out about his raunchy part-time profession. "My wife lets me do whatever I want now that I'm retired," he says. "She's just concerned about my health and tells me not to work too hard."

"There's no jealousy as far as I can tell. But last year while I was drinking with my wife in Asakusa [a neighbourhood of Tokyo] someone came up to me and asked for an autograph. She was surprised, but it didn't lead to an argument. She understands it's a job and she trusts me."

Mr. Tokuda originally got into pornography as a part-time sideline to his salaried position at the Tokyo travel agency. A long-time fan of smut - something he attributes to his old job and the ubiquity of dirty movies on hotel television sets - Mr. Tokuda said he was spotted at age 60 by a filmmaker while he was browsing for adult DVDs at a Tokyo store. "They said 'You are going to fit in our movies because you have a pervert's face. You fit the kind of movie we make,' " Mr. Tokuda says, laughing and coughing at the same time.

A brief cameo, which paid just a few thousand yen, led to larger roles, which launched a career that is now his full-time profession after he retired from the travel business five years ago. He says a starring role in one of the Prohibited Elderly Care movies usually pays $400 to $500 per day.

Despite suffering a stroke several years ago that briefly forced him to contemplate retirement, Mr. Tokuda says he doesn't have any problems with the physical demands of the job. He says he stays in shape by hiking and climbing with his wife, and claims to have only tried Viagra twice about a decade ago, both times at the request of a filmmaker. The pill had no effect the second time, he says, so he gave up on them.

Most of those he stars with are actresses in their early 20s. While Mr. Tokuda says he doesn't feel bad for his co-stars, he admits many of them accept roles in his movies just for the money and some don't appear to enjoy the sexual acts they are paid to perform.

He said he has occasionally acted with women closer to his own age, including 71-year-old Fujiko Ito, whom he shared the screen with a few years ago. But there isn't the same audience for movies starring older women as there is for films about older men still able to attract women a third their own age.

"Men get older, but they still like younger women," shrugged Tadahiro Choji, whose company Kawasaki Soken produces a series of how-to videos for older men staring Mr. Tokuda. Mr. Choji said some fetishists enjoy Mr. Tokuda's movies entirely because of the extreme age differences between him and his female co-stars.

Mr. Tokuda says that while there are occasional plotlines that make him uncomfortable, it's "not enough to make me quit my job."

He sees his popularity as a symptom of a society that's growing old fast, and often growing old alone. Mr. Tokuda believes there's a market for his movies in part because of the disintegration of the Japanese family unit. "Back in the day, when families were bigger, you spent more time taking care of each other. Now people do whatever they want."

While he says he still enjoys his job, Mr. Tokuda says he's thinks he may retire for good some time in the not too distant future. "I think I'll stop when I'm 80," he says, sounding uncertain of the words.

And what will he do then? "I don't know. Maybe spend more time going hiking with my wife."

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