Some historical sites are honored while others get the shaft, but that may just be how the Shuri Theater likes it.
Our contributor Kowloon Kurosawa has a real knack for finding gems in Japan and other parts of Asia. This time however, he sniffed out a true piece of Japanese heritage located just a few hundred meters away from Okinawa’s Shuri Castle. Called the Shuri Theater, it is the longest continuously operating movie theater in the region.
It’s also a porno theater. Actually, when opened in 1950 it was a regular cinema, but sometime around the 70s it made the transition to adult entertainment due to “various circumstances.”
Kowloon looked up at the huge lettering of the theater’s name engraved but almost completely weathered away from the multi-colored peeling concrete exterior. He was pretty sure buildings couldn’t get diseases, but if they could, they would look like the Shuri Theater.
And yet despite this there were a number of cars parked out front, and word has it that the place still does decent business — enough to stay afloat at least. Shuri Theater often runs special pricing campaigns on their 800 yen (US$7.20) admission. At the time of Kowloon’s visit they had an all-you-can-watch deal.
In other words, you could stay in this wonderland from 1 p.m. to 9:30 p.m to watch Loser Office Lady, Forced Wife, AND Enka Woman.
Kowloon paid the grey-haired manager his entry fee and made his way into the theater. Random corners of the entire facility were lit by green lamps like something out of a spooky children’s show. They were so haphazardly placed that they must have been a budgetary rather than an aesthetic choice.
Kowloon ballparked the theater to accommodate 300 people. However, on that particular evening there were only three not including himself. The elderly men were sitting together on one of several long wooden benches that occupied the center of the theater — perhaps so that people could lie down if they were so inclined.
The theater was elaborately designed too, almost as if it were meant to host live performances as well as movies. But the weirdness of this section didn’t even hold a candle to the restrooms.
Generally, when you are about to enter a porno theater’s restroom your expectations are as low as they get, and yet this one still managed to horrify Kowloon. The doors barely hung on to their respective dilapidated stalls, each of which held no toilet.
Instead there was a long chasm running across all of them and stretching down into a black abyss that Kowloon could only assumed ended in hell. This assumption was based off the evil and eternal smell that emanated from it.
The first stall had “FoR WOmeN” scrawled on the door, because do you really expect them to dig two separate bottomless trenches?
▼ Ladies first!
After returning from his bathroom adventure, Kowloon noticed that the three men had left and he was now all alone in the cavernous theater. Figuring there was nothing left to experience he contemplated going back, when suddenly he felt a presence behind him.
Manager: “Going home? It’d be nice to have the whole place to yourself, so why not stay till the end and it will be like you rented the entire theater?”
This whole experience was beginning to feel eerily similar to the set-up of a horror movie plot, but Kowloon didn’t want to be rude, so he agreed to stay and watch the final showing of the 2012 classic Forced Wife by himself.
Now before you go thinking anything dirty went on, Kowloon was far too scared of being murdered to get in any kind of amorous mood. Luckily, because this theater shows soft core features, there was a somewhat coherent plot that he could appreciate better by taking advantage of his solitude.
It was kind of neat actually. It was the first time Kowloon had ever had an entire theater to himself, and maybe even the last. Upon leaving the theater he thanked the manager for the opportunity, and the third-generation caretaker of the theater bid him farewell by shouting the theater’s slogan, “We’re older than Shuri Castle!”
Indeed the man was correct. Shuri Castle was originally built sometime around the 15th century, but it has been destroyed and rebuilt several times, the latest of which being 1958. This would technically make the Shuri Theater eight years older than Shuri Castle.
Despite its setbacks, it was pretty cool that this relic was still chugging along as a functioning business after all these years. If you’d like to support this piece of history, then follow the information listed below.
Or just follow the stench.
Shuri Theater / 首里劇場
Okinawa, Naha, Shurionakacho 1-5
Open: 1 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Closed Thursdays, open holidays
Must be 18 or over to enter
[ Read in Japanese ]