Japan’s voters may have overwhelmingly rejected Prime Minister Taro Aso at the polls last week, but he and my camera got along just fine.The 68-year-old makes vigorous gestures with his hands and strong facial expressions. His crooked smirk and his eyes that sometimes seem to be popping out of his head always gave me a lot of interesting photo choices.Now the photogenic Aso must pack his bags and hand over the prime ministerial house keys to Yukio Hatoyama , the leader of the new ruling Democratic Party of Japan.Hatoyama, once nicknamed “the alien” for his prominent eyes, is — visually at least — less interesting except for his unruly locks that sometimes blow about in the wind.The problem for me behind the viewfinder was that Hatoyama was expected to win by a landslide while Aso was the visual winner.Surrounded by fluttering Japanese national flags, Aso in shirtsleeves looked vigorous when campaigning and his smile was that of a winner and his strong hand gestures displayed an eloquence which did not exist in his words.But Hatoyama, who mostly wore dark suits, hid behind microphones and covered his mouth when speaking and on the rare occasion he tried to convey strength and determination through his body language, he came off looking awkward and unnatural.On election night, Hatoyama won a landslide but just smiled. The jubilation that might be expected from such a massive victory was hidden from sight. By contrast, the defeated Aso stepping into shadown after making a speech acknowledging defeat looks like the fallen hero in a movie.I hope Aso gives Hatoyama some advice when he hands over those keys. Something like “Try using your hands when you give a speech” should do the trick.
Photo credits: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (top), Issei Kato (middle), Toru Hanai (bottom)
Audio slideshow produced by Toru Hanai and Kim Kyung-hoon. A full story is listed below.ICHIKAWA, Japan – He is a typical man of age — a few white hairs cover his round head and he wears dentures.But 75-year-old Shigeo Tokuda sat on a movie set on Monday wearing just a silk kimono and loin cloth about to have sex on film with a woman who is younger than his daughter.Tokuda is Japan’s oldest pornographic movie star and was shooting his latest film in which he portrayed a master of sex.The director said the films showed people that their sex lives did not have to end with old age, and in 16 years of making such movies Tokuda has acted up with women ranging from their 20s to as old as himself.”I debuted at 59, and have played in more than 200 porno movies since then,” he said, using his screen name, not his real one in an interview on the set.”I wanted to challenge what ordinary people did not, so I decided to be a porno actor.”In Monday’s film he used vibrators, whips and candle lights to show the master satisfying a 36-year-old actress. The film was not scripted.Tokuda turned to the pornographic industry late. He lived a typical Japanese office worker’s life as a travel agent after graduating from one of Tokyo’s elite colleges.The career sideline came about because he was unsatisfied with a lack of story lines in sex movies he’d seen, which led to a discussion with a film producer about whether he could do better.It took a couple of years of thinking about it but Tokuda eventually took his pants off for the camera.Since then, he has became a popular figure in porn movies for rent in Japan, with its rapidly ageing population and long life expectancy. One in five Japanese is over 65 years old.”Other old men think they can do it because he can. The elderly can feel secure and encouragement when they see his films,” said Gaichi Kono, the director of Tokuda’s latest film.Japan’s elderly are rejecting the idea that growing old means slowing down, said Chineko Araki, a professor of social welfare from Den-en Chofu University.”More than 50 percent of men over 65 are eager to have a sexual relationship with their partners,” she said in an email interview.Tokuda’s films will soon be offered to Japanese retirement homes, exports beckon and they may be shown on the Internet.Tokuda says his wife and daughter pretend not to know and his friends will never guess.”But my job makes me keep alive,” he says, adding he plans to keep going at least till he hits 80 years old.
SAPPORO, Japan – Retirement can be a death knell for guide dogs, creatures who spend their lives caring for others, but a home in Japan is giving these canines a new lease on life in their twilight years. The Sapporo Retirement Home for Dogs, in the northern island of Hokkaido, has sheltered more than 200 animals since it opened in 1978, giving them the best possible care until they are either adopted by sighted humans or die.
“This is the last gift we can give these dogs who worked for people all their life,” said the home’s director Keiko Tsuji as she caressed the coat of Rick, a dog who is now paralyzed due to old age and can only feed from a tube. “Most of these dogs only live for 2 or 3 years after their retirement, and I want them to live comfortably for the rest of their lives,” she added.