Rakuen is an abstracted view of casual encounters between gay men at porn theaters in Tokyo. These theaters have been the secret paradise, Rakuen, where men have explored their transgressive desires for many years. Yet only a few of these places still exist in Tokyo, the mega city where sexual minorities are oppressed on a daily basis. Most of the patrons are middle-aged and elderly men who don’t feel comfortable using popular online sites or dating apps. They stick to this disappearing culture whereby men search for sex partners live in actual places.
The men frequenting the theaters for sex keep their desires hidden publicly, but once in the theater, they participate in an explosion of sex acts. In the darkness, dimly lit by the movie screen, their movements are blurred and anonymous, their deep moans merging into the dark, liminal space. Although the wilder, more explicit acts dominate the scene, there are also quite a few who behave more romantically, holding hands and embracing in a momentary feeling of mutual acceptance, a reprieve from the discrimination they face in everyday life.
I move through the space with a camera concealed in my shirt and observe subtly, without calling attention to myself or disturbing the activity. I feel plunged into the midst of a primal, intimate, and poignant expression of lust and desire. I am aware of my own participation as a voyeur, secretly absorbing, recording, and documenting a compelling subculture before it disappears. Rakuen is fast approaching the end stage of its existence.
2016 - 2020