The Shimbashi Roman Gekijo is a Japanese pink cinema house located underneath the Yamanote Line tracks that run towards Shimbashi Station, in Tokyo, Japan. For those out of the know, pink cinema is a variety of Japanese pornography that could be compared to the laughable late night soft-core you would see on Cinemax or HBO. In Japan, however, the style is taken seriously, given a much more meaningful, arty direction and looked as a viable starting ground for those with larger ambitions in both directing and acting. In fact some big name directors got their start directing low-budget pink films. Ryuichi Hiroki, most notably, who’s 2003 film Vibrator was awarded much praise, with excellent showings at international film festivals, and having topped many of Japanese film critics top 10 lists of the year, got his start directing pink cinema, along with Yojiro Takita (director of When The Last Sword Is Drawn), Takahisa Zeze (director of Moon Child, which starred J-Rockers HYDE, and Gackt, although I doubt they have any pink experience "under their belt"), and even Masayuki Suo (before going on to make the original Shall We Dance?).
To gain admittance you first must visit a vending machine that sits unceremoniously in front of the theater. By purchasing your 1,100 yen ticket you can stay as long as you wish through a triple bill, making the price for one film alone 366.66 (repeating of course). An amazing bargain, because if you wanted to grab a commercial blockbuster at one of the larger theater chains in town you’d have to fork over 1,800 yen or more! Adjacent to the Shimbashi Roman Gekijo, however, is the Shimbashi Bunka, which gives you a similar triple bill structure and price, but instead of pink cinema gracing the screen you get to see the latest American imports. That shit’s lame though, and you want to see some nice pinku eiga instead. After you’ve purchased your ticket from the vending machine you ironically have to hand it over to the guy working at the ticket window. After he wishes you a merry wanking, the real adventure begins.
Walking into the 81-seat theater is like walking into the movie room your middle school might have had. It’s tiny, but extremely comfortable, aside from the fact that there are around ten to fifteen old men staring at a screen with a women being taken from behind on it. The 35mm film is being projected so close behind your head that you can almost feel the heat from the bright light bulb inside of it. The sound system, which has not only the marching sounds of the 35mm projector to compete with, but also the frequent trains running over head, which literally rock your seat, is passable to say the least, with the right side speaker dominating the left, turning the room a weird aural experiment that will likely leave you a bit dizzy. The bathroom is mockingly positioned to the immediate right of the large screen, meaning that if you want to get up to play with your bits and pieces everyone is going to see you making a run for it. Thankfully the old men are beyond such embarrassments, as they willing hobble towards the bathroom, cane in hand, with the utmost dignity, only to stumble out four minutes later looking a tad defeated.
On the night that I arrived at the Shimbashi Roman Gekijo, via happenstance, on a Godless Sunday, I came into the mix halfway through the second film of the triple bill. The very first image that struck me, after taking in the whole real world atmosphere of my surroundings, was a woman’s nipple being tortured by some sort of medical instrument. This, apparently, was the worst of it: the rest of the night films were much tamer in comparison to the mildly shocking S&M scene I entered to. Admittedly the films I watched that night were truly the most beautiful, erotic pornography I have every seen, partly because of the amazing sight of people fucking on 35mm film, and the surprisingly creative and inspired direction. Japan, of course, is famous for it’s censorship laws against genitals, and seeing the ways that people got around not showing penises and vaginas, but still having the sex explicit, was an achievement of the highest school of thought. Only once or twice did I see any outright blurring or mosaicing that I have come to know from most Japanese porno, and even then it had a nice look to it.
Before I realized it the third film had finished, and I gazed around to see that only myself and two old men were left in the theater. Time (two hours) really flies when you’re having fun! On my way out I asked the usher if he could take a quick snapshot of me in front of the grindhouse. He looked perplexed as to why anyone would want to be photographed in front of such an establishment. The reasoning is simple: because it was not only the best pornographic experience of my life, but also, possibly, the greatest movie going experience as well. Of course, the picture didn’t turn out because my disposable cameras were shite, but all the memories I have are beautiful in my mind.