The mysterious death of former porn-star turned memoir author and TV celebrity IIjima Ai has been big news in Japan. I wouldn’t normally mention something like this due to lack of really caring much, but I was alerted to a rather interesting twist in a comment by Taiwanese TV Journalist Michella Jade Weng at Michael Turton’s blog. Weng linked to an a Mainichi article explaining that IIjima’s death has been unusually big news in Taiwan for a surprising and fascinating reason. I’ll give a translation of most of the article below.
Due to the import of adult videos starring Ms. IIjima in the early 90s when Taiwan was democratization and the opening of society were proceeding, Ms. Iijima became a “symbol” of freedom of expression and culture. The [December] 25th edition of China Times, one of Taiwan’s big four newspapers, had a front page article above the fold article which, along with showing a photograph of Ms. Iijima, stated that Iijima Ai “became the common shared sexual dream of Taiwanese men born in the 1960s to 1970s.”
Note that China Times now has a special feature section on their website, under the amusing folder name of “sexgirl.” UDN, another of the big four papers, also put together a special feature on Ms. Iijima, describing her as “a memory of all the men of Asia.”
Assistant Editor of China Times, Zhang Jing-wei, explained this treatment by saying “The period when Ms. Iijima was active overlapped with the period when Taiwanese politics and society were opened up. We were not trying to be funny at all, and decided that Ms. Iijima’s death has social significance.”
In 1987, Taiwan’s 38 year period of marital law ended, and restrictions on cultural expression such as newspaper publication and songs were lifted. The Japanese adult videos that began pouring into Taiwan in the 1990s were considered a symbol of social liberalization.
Weng also reports that her editor explained it in more direct terms. “In addition, she was the common link between nearly all men born in the 60’s and 70’s, because almost all of them hid in their bedroom and watched her videos at one point or another.” Including her editor.
2 thoughts on “IIjima Ai’s meaning to Taiwan”
There was a nice post about the reaction in Taiwan at Global Voices Online, too: The Death of Ai Iijima, the End of an Era
Thanks Matt. That post is a great roundup of personal nostalgia for Iijima, although it doesn’t even show a hint of the “symbol of freedom” business discussed in the Mainichi article. It would be nice to see some confirmation of that from Taiwanese commenters.
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