October 7th, 2006


Ego to eco to ero

As you might have read on, ahem, other leading blogs, Ryuichi Sakamoto has guest-edited a sex-and-ecology magazine. It's called Erokoto and it's a one-shot offshoot from a Slow Life / LOHAS-themed magazine called Sotokoto. The cover features a drawing by Yayoi Kusama. Sakamoto seems the perfect choice for the job of editing the magazine; women and ecology are his two big interests outside of music. For the last five years, he's been the highest-profile proponent of the Slow Life movement, telling interviewers that he'd like to see Japan become "a beautiful third rate country... a place of delicious food, beautiful scenery, and abundant nature".

Well, now add "abundant sex" to that recipe for sustainable happiness. "Erotic women are ecological too!" is the new magazine's message. In a recent interview with (ahem again) Japan Tobacco's Smoker's Style magazine, Editor Sakamoto lays out his thinking on ecology and sex, and how they might be related. Before the age of 40, Sakamoto says, men are likely to think first and foremost of themselves. This is the age of ego. After 40, they start thinking about others, and about the planet. That's when ego becomes eco. The transition happens because eco starts in ego: to eat what's tasty, to inhale safe air, to drink clean water, these selfish things can't be done in a vacuum. They require collaboration with others.

And this is where ero (short for "erotic") comes in. Eco without ero is useless. Seed is the basic genetic material of nature and of humans. And yet, although everyone thinks about stuff like money and sex, very few think about ecology. The magazine was conceived to make an, ahem, explicit link between ero and eco. And explicit it is: Sakamoto himself photographs a naked girl covered in food. Sponsorship comes from a condom company specializing in the manufacture of environmentally-friendly condoms.

"It's a difficult issue, whether you encourage people to use condoms or not," Sakamoto muses in Smoker's Style. "I often see ordinary rubber condoms floating in the Hudson River near my house. If those float down to the sea, they can go into the mouths of fish, which can die of suffocation. Imagine 6 billion people all using those! We need biodegradable condoms... Let's work on it!"

So how is Sakamoto's magazine going down in Japan? Has it sunk like a lead balloon, or floated like a fish-suffocating condom? With my beautiful assistant, I scoured some Japanese blogs to see what the punters were saying about this provocative publication. Let's start with the girls.

Pink Sensei comments: "Since the magazine is for old men, it might be difficult for young girls to buy it". Rui Arekao agrees that it's male-oriented: "It was quite fun to read, even though I couldn't understand it and it's probably made for men. There were many sex toys, or reports about going to vibrator factories. And I didn't realize there was a "mattress izakaya" in Nagoya." (Presumably a place where you can have sex while you eat -- very LOHAS!) Mixifrog adds: "The girls in Erokoto are all porn actresses. I think they should have used ordinary girls. The content seems rather bland, maybe because of the sponsors -- sex toy makers and so on -- so it's not much different from what already exists in the sex industry or adult sites."

Not exactly a thumbs up from the girls, but no choking fish either. A man called Sinden thinks there should be more women writing for the magazine. He also finds the Sakamoto photo shoot a bit off. "The theme is lost virginity, but it just looks like sex with a girl on her period," he complains. "The other photos are very artistic, and the girls doing high school cosplay are pretty."

I couldn't possibly comment, not having browsed Erokoto. But I'm standing here right now quite erect (the national anthem is playing) and quietly proud to be British, because actually we invented LOHAS sex magazines back in 1900, when our deep embarrassment about wanting to look at naked bodies without some kind of alibi led a furtive conclave of eurhythmy and carrot juice enthusiasts to launch a publication full of naked women. It was called Health and Efficiency (abbreviation: HE). But the word "sex" never appeared anywhere in it. Instead, the editors used the word nature. With an -ism after it. And perhaps a light smattering of healthy, biodegradable jism.