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Friday, Aug. 28, 2009
Cheeky for charity
Adult video broadcaster's take on a top television fundraiser trains a spotlight on Japan's growing HIV problem
By BRETT BULL
Special to The Japan Times
It is no surprise that an adult entertainment broadcaster would be concerned about the spread of the HIV virus and AIDS. But for one satellite channel in Japan known for silly parodies and wacky porn programming, that concern goes beyond immediate commercial interests — to trying to reverse wilting media attention on these debilitating illnesses even as they affect more lives in our communities.
"A decade ago, the AIDS issue was a priority in all media around the world," says Paradise TV President Tsuyoshi Shiba from his office in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward. "But now global warming — and its consequences, such as rising sea levels — is the main topic. Of course, that is important, but AIDS directly impacts our lives now."
The channel's response is "24-Hour TV: Eroticism Saves the Earth," a telethon to raise funds to combat the growing incidence of HIV/AIDS in Japan.
Starting Saturday evening and continuing through Sunday on satellite network Sky PerfecTV!, the event, in its seventh year, will feature a mix of in-studio attractions and live and recorded shows produced by Paradise TV, whose content includes news broadcasts in which the female anchorwomen are naked and sex-toy shopping segments.
The drive's title is a stab at major broadcaster Nippon Television's telethon "24-Hour TV: Love Saves the Earth," which is transmitted live from Tokyo's Budokan Hall on the same weekend and raised more than ¥1 billion for environmental causes last year.
Critics might deem Paradise's satirical approach to be in poor taste, but Shiba begs to differ. "Paradise TV's main concept is that we have to make things fun," he says. "If the issue is serious, we still have to do it in our own way. A deep, dramatic theme is NTV's thing. For us, we are happy that we can present an opportunity for discussions relating to AIDS to take place."
Last year, the marquee draw for Paradise's telethon gave viewers a chance for viewers to visit station headquarters, enter a special booth and fondle either the buttocks or breasts of two noted actresses five times for a suggested offering of ¥1,000. Returning this year will be a similar attraction but with three ladies — Mami Hoshikawa, Rika Shibuya and Yuna Hirose, collectively dubbed "Nyus" — offering up only their chests for the cause. (It is worth noting that "Nyus," written with the kanji character for "breast," is a play on words with the talent agency Johnny's Jimusho six-member J-pop act NEWS, who are scheduled to appear on the NTV program.)
Over the two days, Paradise's programming, which encourages contributions by phone or via the Web, will include five of the station's female newsreaders (disrobed, of course) testing viewers' sex knowledge by phone, women's sumo wrestling (perhaps surprisingly, with clothed participants — albeit in traditional fundoshi [underwear]) and 24 hours of phone sex — which will upend convention, so to speak, as male callers try to arouse a selection of female receptionists in the studio into erotic bliss.
Additional funds will be collected through the auction of undergarments worn by popular AV (porn) actresses. In past years, similar on-air sales have topped ¥50,000.
Those making donations at the studios will receive condoms and red bracelets imprinted with AIDS-awareness slogans.
The event's promotional graphic, penned by Yoshikazu Ebisu, is a cartoon of a bikini-wearing woman atop Mount Fuji exclaiming the campaign's recurring message: "STOP! AIDS." Last year, the same slogan appeared along with the famous manga character Machiko Sensei from a 2006 work by famed artist Go Nagai, which showed a female emerging from the end of a condom.
A lack of condom use and the rising frequency of new sex partners are reasons experts have cited for the higher number of HIV and AIDS cases in Japan. New HIV infections reached a record 1,126 in 2008, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. The number of AIDS cases over the same period was 431, bringing the combined total to 1,557 — also an all-time high.
This continues a trend in which reported HIV infections have generally risen since 1996. However, there is one positive within the demographic breakdown of infections, explains the Japan Foundation for AIDS Prevention, which supports the telethon again this year.
"The number of cases within the general population is not rising," says Yasushi Sawazaki, director of the program operation section at JFAP. "Over the last five or six years, more than 60 percent of new HIV cases were as a result of men having sex with men."
The overall situation remains of great concern, however, maintains Sawazaki. The foundation focuses much of its efforts on educating the gay population, which in Tokyo means working with committees that hand out condoms in bars in the gay quarter of Shinjuku 2-chome. The group also attempts to reach out to commercial sex workers and minorities that might not have access to adequate HIV information.
"Young people and teenagers will learn the basics about HIV in school," Sawazaki explains. "But HIV is an issue related to sexual behavior. . . . We have to intervene and link knowledge to behavior."
Actress agencies require that girls undergo HIV checks once every three to six months. Most male stars are hired on a freelance basis and are tested independently. Paradise requires all actors to wear protection during regular filming. "It is just a matter of common sense within the adult video field," says Shinichiro Fukuyama, a Paradise representative. "We have to do it to protect the bodies of the actresses."
Shiba is committed to continuing the pledge drive into the future, saying that it is a rare chance to show a positive side to the adult entertainment business.
"I feel that in taking a stance on the AIDS problem, we can convey that we are concerned with important issues shaping the world today," he says.
Last year, the telethon raised a total of about ¥2 million. Besting that sum is not a concern for Shiba.
"The donation amount is not a priority," he explains. "We think that raising awareness (about HIV and AIDS) among as many people as possible is the point. We have to help make some noise in Japan. That is what motivates us."