Season of Infidelity

Season of Infidelity

One of the strangest weeks I’ve had in Tokyo was spent accompanying some journalists from FHM around the city’s sex clubs. The itinerary took in an S&M hostess bar in Roppongi, a bondage stage show in Shinjuku (complete with audience participation section), and a “happening club” in Shibuya that came with wipe-clean furniture and plentiful supplies of tissues. What should have been sordid turned out to be frightfully ordinary: lots of drab-looking businessmen making fumbling, giggling attempts at degeneracy.

There’s a story in Oniroku Dan’s “Season of Infidelity” that reminded me of this foray into Tokyo’s rather tame underbelly. The narrator of “Deer Park” tries to establish a haven for sexual deviants, modeled on the eponymous mansion built as a seraglio by King Louis XV, a contemporary of the Marquis de Sade. In his call for members, he says that he “wanted to express that hedonism can lead to new growth, new ways of thinking and ideologies.” What he gets is a load of male perverts, all wondering why hardly any women have applied.

Moments like these bring levity to a collection that might otherwise have been easy to dismiss as mere filth. And rest assured: there are some very filthy bits here. Dan is one of the titans of Japanese erotica, a prodigious peddler of “pulp smut” (his words); I tried to count the novels listed on his official website and lost track after passing the 200 mark. His stories teem with graphic descriptions of sex, generally focusing on its more humiliating or perverse aspects: bondage, sadism, incest. If you were to call him a dirty old man, he’d probably agree with you, and readers without the stomach for page upon page of thwacking meat would be advised to take their business elsewhere.

Publisher Vertical Inc describes the stories in “Season of Infidelity,” which was released in Japanese in 1997, as “loosely autobiographical,” and each is narrated in the first person by Dan himself. They find the author in the twilight years of his life, reminiscing fondly about past perversions. The title story charts the disintegration of his marriage in unflinching—and unflattering—detail. (“I look back at that period of my life and can say without exaggerating that I was on the brink of madness,” he admits.) After uncovering an affair that he was having, Dan’s wife promptly begins one of her own—with a colleague of Dan’s whose sexual prowess far exceeds his own.

“Pretty Boy” looks back at an affair that Dan had at college with an up-and-coming kabuki actor, and the final humiliation that was inflicted on his lover. Only the author is now an old man, and the key perpetrator with whom he recalls the incident is dying from cancer, creating an ironic distance that lends the tale an unanticipated poignancy.

Dan’s stories provided ample fodder for Nikkatsu’s Roman Porno film series, which scored the first of many hits with its 1974 adaptation of the writer’s “Hana to Hebi” (Flower and Snake). He would become close friends with the star of that film, Naomi Tani, whom he eulogizes in the final story here, “Bewitching Bloom.”

“She was a porn star, and that was all she ever wanted to be,” he says, making it sound like the highest compliment imaginable. But then, for some people it probably is.

This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).

  • 0

    LoveUSA

    Why does JT bother to publisize such books as if Dan is the most prominent representative of Japanese literature? Reading this review I was shocked to learn that such writers exist who even have readers!

  • 0

    Beelzebub

    In Japan, pornography is openly read and discussed. I envy Japanese for being open with their sexual fantasies. It must be refreshing not to have all those anal-retentive Judeo-Christian hangups.

  • 0

    Lowly

    Well, love, reading this review I became curious and thought I might like to read a novel or two of his. I guess it takes all types.

    The last line in the article

    “She was a porn star, and that was all she ever wanted to be,” he says, making it sound like the highest compliment imaginable. But then, for some people it probably is.

    was unfortunately vaguely condescending. People who are honest about who they are, ppl who can see clearly what others around them are, that is a very beautiful thing.

  • 0

    LoveUSA

    but he wrote more 200 novels according to this article, was it copy and paste?

  • 0

    Beelzebub

    but he wrote more 200 novels according to this article, was it copy and paste?

    I think it was tie and spank....

  • 0

    Lowly

    I don't know, love, but do you really think the number has anything to do with anything?

    Maybe he's a hack. But some writers are prolific.

  • 0

    LoveUSA

    Maybe he's a hack

    he is a pervert definitely

  • 0

    Lowly

    What's a pervert? And how do you know he is one?

    It sounds to me he opens closet doors you would personally prefer closed is all.

  • 0

    Bratpack

    Dan openly admits to being a pervert at numerous points in the book. He doesn't see it as something to be ashamed of. As for his prolific output: you'd be surprised how much a lot of Japanese authors churn out (even establishment figures like Yasutaka Tsutsui have over a hundred titles to their name). I think it helps that paperbacks are expected to be pretty compact, so what qualifies as a novel here would be considered a novella in the West.

  • 0

    realist

    Reading this report made me physically sick. What a sick society this is, despite all the pretence of ethics and morality. Japan is amoral.

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