Recently I have been looking into the history of Japanese gay pornographic film as part of writing up the monograph based on my PhD dissertation. Japan’s flourishing gay porn scene has its roots in the pinku eiga (Pink Film) of the 1970s, about which you can read here. Little known to many, including some scholars of Japan’s cinematic history, the major producers of pinku eiga were also active producers of so-called homo/gei eiga (gay films) during the same period. One producer of such content was ENK Promotions, which was a subsidiary of Nikkatsu (who are famous for their Roman Porno series). Having spent a few days looking into this history, it’s become apparent to me that someone needs to “resuscitate” this history.
Below, I present a translation of a brief introduction and mini history of gay cinemas which specialise in showing such films. Of particular interest to me is the section which seeks to differentiate “gay films” (gei eiga) from “gay porn” (gei AV). The original Japanese version can be found here. As usual, any mistakes to be found are my own.
Just what kinds of places are “gay cinemas”?
In 1983, Japan’s first ever cinema specialising in gay films, Umeda Rōzu Gekijō (which closed in 2011), was born. Now, it has been 33 years since that important moment.
As public spaces where gay people can watch movies and meet with new and old friends, gay cinemas are absolutely not closed places where people go to be alone.
The films which are screened in such cinemas typically centre on [Japanese] gay adult films, but gay films from all over the world are also shown. Entry to the cinema has a strict time limit, and you can’t substitute this for extra free time. You are able to look around at whatever you wish, moving from place to place, because the seating is completely free (that is, seating is not allocated). Since there are cinemas which sell drinks and set meals, as well as lend and sell videos, DVDs and variety goods, you can stay inside for a long time and be totally fine. Some cinemas even provide coin lockers to store your items securely.
If there are any other questions or concerns which you may have, please don’t hesitate to contact the cinema staff. Gay cinemas are spaces which aim to completely fulfil your gay life.
Aren’t gay films and gay porn the same thing?
What we call gay porn films are exactly that – they are films!
Just as action films need action scenes and horror films need horror scenes, it would be best to think of gay films as a single genre of film whose protagonists are gay and which recounts these gay men’s everyday lives, loves and sex as well as describes their adventures. As such, gay films are fundamentally different from adult videos, which simply film and document sex.
Although both genres of film deal with sex visually, and do so in order to stimulate their viewers, gay films do so through tying it together with a story. Thus, gay films penetrate all the way to the viewers’ hearts, and this is an extremely important difference between gay films and gay porn.
Also, the biggest difference between the two genres is that gay porn is something which you enjoy by yourself, personally. Gay films, on the other hand, are enjoyed together with many other people within the public spaces called gay cinemas. Everyone who is gathered in such spaces collectively enjoys the sex scenes which are projected onto the big screen, as well as the erotic heavy breathing of the actors. The gay cinemas’ crowded space is the true pleasure of [visiting] such spaces… and you can also meet real gay friends there…
So, I guess you understand the differences between gay films and gay porn now, right?
No matter where I go… can I watch gay films?
At present, there are only four cinemas specialising in showing gay films: Yokohama’s Kōonza 1 in the Kanto region, Osaka’s Nichigeki Rōzu in Kansai, Hiroshima’s Matoba Shinema in Chugoku, and Kokura’s Meigaza 2 in the Kita Kyushu region of Kyushu. Unfortunately, outside these areas there are no gay cinemas.
However, our staff occasionally looks for new cinemas to show our films. We are still searching, so perhaps the number of gay cinemas will increase in the future. Please wait for more information.
As for these four cinemas, our homepage introduces maps and information on how to reach each cinema. So please check this out.
Also, outside of these four specialised cinemas, there are also spots where gay films are sporadically shown. These spots are also featured on our homepage, so please check them out at your convenience. However, as these cinemas also show films which target audiences other than gay men, please be careful when seeking “meetings” with others.
For those men who have no gay cinemas near their homes, or who live too far away, those who have a slight desire to visit a gay cinema (including women and film buffs), and those who find the gay cinemas themselves too confronting, we will try to meet your needs. You can access our internet based gay film site, Gay Cinepo. Please make yourself familiar with this site. We are eagerly awaiting your custom!
(Below is a Youtube video taken outside Osaka’s Nichigeki cinema)
 The implication here is that you “meet” them to have sex, which is indexed through the term deai.
 Not sure about the Romanisation of this kanji compound: 日劇
 Once again, the implication is that these meetings are sexual in nature. It is interesting that this is not explicitly spelled out, since the status of the gay cinemas as hattenba (cruising grounds) is well attested in Japanese gay guide books and magazines such as Barazoku and Bádi.