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Realm Of The Censors

Considering my general dislike for anything that has to do with sports, it was surprising even to me to count and come up with 14 years of bona-fide membership in a sports club. This was, of course, years ago. I took a liking to squash because it provided a good workout in a short time and was played indoors. To prepare myself, I took lessons from the former Japanese women’s squash champion at Do Sports Plaza in Shinjuku. When we moved to Ota-ku, we joined the small but prestigious Isetan Sports Club (伊勢丹スポーツクラブ) where we were members for the aforementioned 14 years.

The sports club was on Meguro-dori next to the lesser known branch of 紀ノ国屋インターナショナルスーパーマーケット, an easy drive from our home. For years, I would play squash two to three times a week and use their bath and sauna facilities almost every evening. It was a great place to get to know people. I met Willi Thaler there, the Thyssen man in Tokyo; Kohana-san, who owned a bar in Jiyugaoka; Suzuki-shacho, who had a typesetting company with branches in Hawaii and Australia, but we never got any business off the ground; and the very quiet Fuji-san, who brings me to the title of this entry.

Tatsuya Fuji’s claim to fame was the male title role in the 1976 Nagisa Oshima movie Ai no corrida (English title: In the Realm of the Senses), which has the dubious distinction that it was not shown in uncensored form in Japan, its country of origin, until 2001.

Freda Freiberg reminisces in an article in Senses of Cinema:

In the mid ’70s, when this film was produced, it created a storm of controversy … Now, 25 years later, its re-release in the original uncut version has passed almost unnoticed … The public’s lack of interest serves to remind us of all those clichés about yesterday’s sensation and the ephemerality of fame. Saddest of all is the evident lack of interest in challenging cinema, cinema that challenges the viewer aesthetically, politically, emotionally and intellectually. Oshima at his prime was one of the few filmmakers in the history of cinema to produce such cinema.

At the end of the property-price driven “bubble” economy in Tokyo, Isetan Sports Club had to close its doors. I am glad I had a chance to be part of it for such a long time.


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