In what follows, we shall see how these heterogeneous soft-core domestic-oriented Japanese AVs migrated to Taiwan and Hong Kong and interacted with local Taiwanese and Hong Kong consumers respectively.

Japanese AVs come to Taiwan

Taiwan was a Japanese colony between 1898 and 1945. From 1945 to the late 1980s, Taiwan was under the authoritarian Kuomintang (KMT) government which had been driven out of mainland China during the Communist takeover. From 1947, the KMT enforced martial law, and introduced a strict censorship regime. It not only monopolised free-to-air television on the island but also refused to legalise cable TV. Meanwhile, it implemented a series of cultural policies to consolidate its rule in Taiwan and pornography was one of the major targets of state regulation because it was considered subversive, posing a potential threat to the KMT rule. Moreover, under Chinese ethics, pornography was seen as harmful to society’s morals — especially the mental health of children and young people. As a result, pornography was strictly prohibited (Lin 2001: 36).

Although pornography was severely regulated in post-war Taiwan, foreign pornography found its way in through illegal channels. Since the 1950s, pornographic movies from Europe, especially Denmark and Holland, could be sporadically found in local theatres that discretely screened adult movies amid the fear of prosecution (Yeh 1997: 37). Since the early 1970s, American pornography has also begun to make its presence felt in Taiwan. This had much to do with the strong American cultural sway, which resulted from the KMT’s heavy political and economic reliance on the US in the post-war years (Gold 1993: 908). However, US porno­graphy gradually lost its momentum when Japanese AVs, whose actresses and presentations were known to be of high quality, began to appear as ‘programs’ on illegal cable TV stations in the early 1980s. By the late 1980s, Japanese AVs had gained a strong foothold in Taiwan, finding great favour among young people. American pornography, however, still remains as the dominant pornographic ‘Other’ in post-war Taiwan, as we shall see later when we introduce the opinions of our Taiwanese women informants.

Japanese AVs reached their peak in Taiwan in the mid-1990s after cable TV was legalised in 1993. This had much to do with the liberating atmosphere when Lee Teng-hui assumed office in 1988. Lee helped transform Taiwan into a democratic society not only by lifting martial law but also loosening various restrictions on the media. The legalisation of cable TV in turn allowed the legalisation of Japanese AVs by confining them to encrypted channels that required a special subscription. New East Treasure, Rainbow and Star Wing, the three major cable providers of Japanese AVs, were nicknamed the ‘Three Treasures of Taiwan’ in the 1990s (Chang Hsien-shan 1999: 89; Chang Hong-ming 2004: 66). However, as the consumption of pornography on cable TV became more expensive, Japanese AVs began to take the form of pirated video CDs (VCD) and, starting from mid-2000s, internet files. More interestingly, since these pirated Japanese AVs were illegal from the outset, the local pirate merchants did not hesitate to make changes to the Japanese AVs insofar as they believed such changes would help attract more customers and thus maximise their profits. Thanks to the efforts of the local pirate merchants, Japanese AVs have not only gained a firm foothold in the Taiwanese pornography market, but also become firmly incorporated as part of the local sexual culture. The Taiwanese term for AVs ‘A-pian’ has become the general term for pornographic movies.