I can't say I've met anyone from the sex film industry before (the closest I ever got was sharing a red carpet with Demi Moore, but that probably doesn't count), so I'm not entirely sure what to expect of Maki Azusa, an up-and-coming Japanese porn actress whose debut film, Virgin Nude, came out on the first day of 2011. We meet for the interview at Time Out Café in Ebisu, and when she finally arrives, I'm initially struck by her height. She's a tall woman, and in her smart business attire looks somewhat intimidating. Not that I'm usually intimidated by tall business women, mind you, it's just that I know full well what this woman's business is. For me, though probably not for her, it becomes increasingly difficult to get that particular elephant to leave the room, and I'm acutely aware of how long it takes me to, er, get down to the task in hand. Which is, of course, finding out what makes someone do unspeakable things on camera for a living. So I decide to take things slowly...
Can you describe a typical working day?
I have a lot of different jobs to do. On a filming day, I'll wake and have a shower. Then I'll get a briefing from my manager on what kind of situation the scene will involve, so I'll make preparations for that and then head to the shoot. Another job I do is broadcasting a live show on Sky PerfecTV. It's a news programme with a sexy edge: while we read the news, we strip. I arrive around midday, then we'll look at the current news and rehearse, then the show goes live at 9pm. I'll be done by 10pm.
How long does a typical video shoot last?
It depends on the director. On a long shoot, often I'll get there around 8am and finish around midnight or 1am. A shorter shoot might finish around 6pm.
Is it tiring?
Very! I'll normally get home around midnight, maybe 11pm.
So no time for a social life, then?
Not on a work night, no.
Do you ever meet your fans?
Once or twice each month we'll have DVD related events. Fans who are buying the DVDs might come and shake my hand, or ask me to sign their DVD, or be in a picture with me.
What kind of people are they?
Lots of them are what you might call 'gentlemen'. I think about what kind of fans I have a lot. They're quite ordinary people, really. They buy my DVDs and they treat me as a kind of 'talent'. They aren't unusual.
How did you get into this line of work?
I'm from Osaka, where I was modelling and working as a 'talent'. I was involved in local TV programmes, but I wanted more people to know who I was, so I decided to change my career. I knew someone doing this job, and it didn't seem too bad. I thought it was a good idea. I'm really glad that people get to know everything about me. I've no regrets.
Do your parents know that this is what you do?
They have no idea.
What do you think they'd say?
[Long, thoughtful pause] I haven't the courage to tell them. If I could build up the confidence to tell them, perhaps they'd support me.
Do you worry that they might find out?
Not at all. If they found out, that'd make life easier.
What were you like at school? Did you get a lot of attention from the boys in your class?
I studied really hard and I was kind of number one in the class. The school was about 75 percent girls, 25 percent guys. It felt like a girls' school. There wasn't a lot of dating among the students. At that time I was a cheerleader, and I remember that the younger guys in the school seemed to like me...
If you could go back to meet the high school version of yourself, do you think she'd be surprised by what you do now?
[Another long pause] Yes, I think she would be. I'm the same now as I was then: I wanted to be well-known. After graduating, I thought I'd get a normal job, but I kind of felt that normal jobs were dull. So now I'm doing this job, I think the younger me would be like, 'Wow! How?'
Do your high school friends know what you do?
Some of the closer ones.
How did they react?
They were a bit surprised at first, but they knew that I wanted to be famous, and they know I've got the desire to succeed, so they support me.
How long do you expect to remain in this business?
I guess it'll be about two years. That's just a loose time frame. This isn't really what I want to do; it's a step to becoming an actress or a 'talent'. So I'll go at it full throttle for two years.
Do you actually enjoy what you're doing?
Yeah, it's great fun!
What do you enjoy about it?
I think I'm fairly kinky, so I'm into doing everything. My director is great, and he has a lot of things he wants me to try.
Do you know the guys that you have to have sex with?
I meet them on the day of the shoot.
So the first time you ever filmed anything must have been difficult...
Yes, it was very difficult. The first time, I didn't know what I was like at sex. I'd never seen myself do it! I was worried about what I looked like, and I wasn't sure if what I was doing was right.
How much do you have to act, and how much of what we see is genuine enjoyment?
50-50, I guess.
Would you call yourself an artist?
I think I'm an artist. I'm an actress.
How do you feel when you see former porn stars crossing over to mainstream TV?
I think it's a really good thing. That's why I wanted to get involved. It helps the AV industry to develop a better image.
What makes a Japanese AV actress stand out?
Style, cuteness… As well as that, you need to be a good talker, bright and interesting. Some people are money-oriented, others have a purer motivation. The second group is small. I'd say about 10,000 women enter the Japanese AV industry each year, mostly for money.
Can you make a lot of money doing this?
Yes. Maybe… [Laughs]
Do you recommend it to other young women?
[Another long pause] You need a lot of courage to get into this business. It's high risk, and parents don't tend to think of this as a good career move. If you don't have the guts, you won't manage, but if you can accept all of this, then go for it.
Japan has a notoriously low birthrate. Do you have any insider tips on how to fix this?
That's a strange question! Let's see… Be more open with each other. Try lots of things with each other. I'm not suggesting you get into AV, but try some of the things the porn stars do. As I see it, Japan doesn't seem to be enjoying its sex at the moment. Japanese boys are too shy, I think.
Do you watch your own DVDs?
Yes, I do. And I'm very critical of myself.
So you sit and take notes?
[Laughs] No! I think, 'If I made this face, it might be sexier', or, 'What about a more sexy voice?'
And you practice at home?
Not practice, exactly. I try to remember these things next time I'm filming.
Is it possible for someone in your profession to have a relationship?
Maybe, but I can't really say because my manager is sitting next to me! [Laughs]
Manager: If she's willing to date Tiger Woods, I wouldn't mind. It'd be good media exposure!