Rika Nishimura (西村理香) was the professional name of one of the most famous child models of the Japanese Photo-Lolicon era. Photographer Yasushi Rikitake (力武靖) is responsible for making her famous. Photo-Lolicon first became popular in Japan in November 1969 with Kazuo Kenmochi’s nude photobook of model Tae Umehara. Popularity of the young girl photobooks grew fairly slowly in the 1970s, as naturist magazines were imported into Japan, and some photographers, notably Sumiko Kiyooka began to photograph young girls. Then around 1980 Photo-Lolicon started to boom. Over a hundred Photo-Lolicon books were released in the early 1980s, and some of them sold millions of copies.
The first work I can find of Yasushi Rikitake is the omnibus photobook Lolita Sisters, which was released in October 1983. Rikitake was one of eight photographers who contributed to Lolita Sisters. In August 1984 Lolita Friends was released, another omnibus photobook by six photographers including Rikitake. Popularity of Photo-Lolicon peaked in about 1984, and then began a slow decline until 1988. In 1988 Tsutomu Miyazaki was arrested for kidnapping and murdering four girls, age four through seven. A large amount of lolicon anime and manga was found in his home, and the crime so shocked Japan that many came to see lolicon as evil. It was still legal, but less popular that it had been. It became more difficult to find models among Japanese girls since lolicon was tainted with a stigma, so many of the photographers who remained in the business sought models in foreign countries, especially Southeast Asia and Russia.
In 1989 Rikitake began to be more active in Photo-Lolicon, and in ten years had published about 150 photobooks under his own name, and nearly a hundred more under the pseudonym Ryu Kurokage. He went to Thailand hoping to find models among the girls in rural areas where it was acceptable for pre-pubescent children to go naked. Rikitake was introduced to an alcoholic who needed money and was going to sell his young daughter to a brothel in Bangkok. The man’s wife had run away and deserted the family. Rikitake could hire the girl as a model, but the problem was that after he returned to Japan, the girl’s father would still be able to sell her into prostitution. An arrangement was negotiated in which the girl would live with a loving aunt, and Rikitake would send the aunt a monthly stipend to support the girl. In return, the girl would model for Rikitake when he visited Thailand. This was a very good arrangement for both the girl, who now had a stable, happy home; and for Rikitake who now had a model who would become perhaps the most popular of all Photo-Lolicon models.
Her real name is confidential, as is her hometown. She is known only by the Japanese name she adopted for modelling; Rika Nishimura. Modesty may not be a trait commonly associated with nude models, but Rika likes to keep her personal details private.
Rika made her debut with the mook (magazine/book) Before Waking Up (目覚める前に), which was released in 1994 by the Rikitake Yasushi Photo Office. This is a photobook of Rika, both clothed and nude, posing alone in the outdoors. Although she is young and this is her first book, she appears to have a natural talent for modelling, and seems to enjoy it. It is not known exactly how young she is. No age is given in Before Waking Up, but she looks to me to be about eight or nine. In 1996 some photos from Before Waking Up were republished in One Million Rem Gaze (百万レムの視線), and her age when photographed is given there as ten. In 1998 some photos from Before Waking Up were published in both Six Years Trilogy (SixYears三部作) and Portraits of Jenny (ジェニー達の肖像), and in each of those works she is said to have been eleven when the photos were taken.
The first two illustrations in this article are the cover and a clothed photo from Before Waking Up. The photos are from kansai.nymphs.us, which has many more lolicon photos, all non-nude. The Japanese text on some of the photos gives the title of the publication, the model’s name, and the photographer’s name. Nude photos of Rika and other Japanese models were common on Japanese internet sites in the 1990s, but the photos suddenly disappeared in 1999 when photographs of nude minors became illegal in Japan. When I wrote this article, I thought it was unfortunate that a nude photo was not available, because Rika Nishimura is famous as a nude model. Two days after this article was published, Bob Freely submitted some nude images of Rika from Six Years Trilogy, Volume One. Many thanks to Bob for making it possible to include a sample of the nudes for which Rika Nishimura is best known.
The next four images are some of Bob’s contributions from Six Years Trilogy. They appear to be from the same photo shoot as Before Waking Up. Judging from her facial expression, Rika appears to be more relaxed in the nude photos than when she is clothed. Perhaps she was more accustomed to going naked, and was worried about getting her new clothes dirty.
Rikitake worked at that time with three publishers; Rikitake Yasushi Photo Office, Pepe, and Circle Company. His own company, Rikitake Yasushi Photo Office, and Pepe were both specialists in Photo-Lolicon, and sold their books in dedicated lolicon shops. Circle Company was the biggest publisher and sold its works in general bookstores. Circle Company censored photos in its books very slightly, by blurring the pudendal cleft, thus making them acceptable for general bookstores. Photos in books by Rikitake Yasushi Photo Office and Pepe are not censored. None of the books with Rika’s photographs were published by Circle Company. In spite of Rika’s books being less widely distributed than books of the models who were published by Circle Company, she became the most popular.
Pepe published Rika’s next two books; Friends IV (1995) and Friends V (1996). The original titles were in English, the universal language and thus more fitting for books that were presented as fine art. The Friends series consists of five books by Rikitake, and in each book, two or more models were photographed together. In Friends IV the two models were Rika Nishimura and Kayoko Miura. According to Wikipedia, Friends IV was the fastest selling of the Friends series. Rika and Kayoko were also featured, along with four more models, in Friends V. Rika and Kayoko were both twelve years old when Friends IV was photographed. In Friends V Rika’s age is still given as twelve but Kayoko is now thirteen. This would indicate that the ages were reckoned by the western method of adding a year of age at the anniversary of her birth, rather than the traditional oriental method of adding a year on New Year’s Day. Other girls from Rika’s village in Thailand modeled for Rikitake, and in order to maintain good relations with the people of the village, Rikitake was obliged to photograph all of the girls who volunteered. Therefore it is very possible that girls photographed together in the Friends series were actually friends in real life.
The next photobook in which Rika appeared is One Million Rem Gaze, Published in 1996 by Rikitake Yasushi Photo Office, but no new photos were in this book. It was only a selection of sample photos of more than one hundred models from books previously released. In January 1998 Rikitake Yasushi Photo Office released the three-volume Six Years Trilogy which is the largest collection of photographs of Rika. Volume One consists of photos of Rika at age eleven and twelve; Volume Two shows her at ages thirteen and fourteen, and she is fifteen and sixteen in Volume Three. It was never explained why Rikitake kept photos of Rika for up to five years without publishing them. By this time Rika was not only Rikitake’s star model, but she was also his photographic assistant and interpreter.
Two clothed photosfrom Six Years Trilogy which I found on the internet are followed by six photos that Bob Freely submitted. Bob also submitted a scan of the title page for Volume One of Six Years Trilogy, which has the following quote, “No one knows where they came from, where they go, where the wind blows and the seas go round, but no one knows.From Robert Nathan [Portrait of Jenny].”
Japanese publishers during the Photo-Lolicon era were very careful to avoid any sexual activity in their art. While there are some people who would find any nudity offensive, these photos are devoid of any laciviousness. It is surprising that Japanese lolicon nudes are so difficult to find, when edgier works such as the Sally Mann’s Three Graces or some of the photos of Jock Sturges are easily found. In these photos the background is blurry, thus focusing attention on the model. Other photographers who deemphasize the background include Lucas Roels and F.R. Yerbury. Rika seems relaxed and happy to pose.
In 1998 it was apparent that Photo-Lolicon would soon be prohibited. The Law Concerning the Punishment of Acts Related to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and the Protection of Children was introduced into parliament, and was passed in May 1999. On November 1, 1999 the law became effective, and Photo-Lolicon was outlawed.
Rika was in two more books just before Photo-Lolicon was banned. The first was the seven volume Portraits of Jenny. This work was an attempt to leave a legacy that would, because of its artistic merit, remain legal under the new law. Each volume was a full size hardcover 160-page book, printed on acid-free archival quality paper, with what Rikitake thought were his most artistic photographs. About 200 models were included. Some models had photos that were previously unpublished; others had photos that were previously published in a censored version, but all photos in Portraits of Jenny were uncensored. No new photos of Rika were in Portraits of Jenny; all were from the Six Years Trilogy. Portraits of Jenny was an expensive book when it was released in 1998, at over ninety dollars for each volume, and it is even more expensive on the used book market today.
Rika continued to model through age 22, but only one more book of her photos, Last Christmas (ラストクリスマス, 1999, Sanwa Publishing), was published before the lolicon era came to an end. She was seventeen when photographed for Last Christmas, and was really more of a young woman than a girl. Technically she was still a minor, so for the sake of completeness I have included a photo from Last Christmas in this article. I wonder if Rika thought it was ironic that the business which saved her from being sold to a brothel was abolished by a law that in its title claimed to oppose “Acts Related to Child Prostitution”.
By the way, the backgrounds look more Japanese than Thai and the girl known as Rika seems Japanese (or possibly Chinese or Korean or some kind of north east Asian) than south east Asian. Just another hunch.
You make a good point that different Asian ethnicities differ in appearance, and that Rika appears more typical of Japanese and others of northeast Asia. I believe that she is from Thailand, but not an ethnic Thai, and that is why she does not look like most people of Thailand. She was reported to be from an ethnic minority within driving distance from Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand by Yasushi Takatsuki in a book about Japanese lolicon. I do not know to which ethnic minority Rika belongs, but some in that area are Chinese, Yao, Akha, Lisu, Karen, Lahu, Hmong, and Lawa.
About 1994, Rikitake began publishing photo books with new models very rapidly. Appearently he could not publish fast enough to keep up with his photo shoots, as previously unpublished photos are in Six Years Trilogy and in Portraits of Jennie. This is consistent with the report that he had to accept all girls who wished to model in order to stay on good terms with the community.
Popular lolicon models from Japan, such as Shiori Suwano and Satomi Hiromoto, are known to have families, classmates, and neighbors in Japan. I am not aware of anybody in Japan claiming to be a friend, classmate, or neighbor of Rika. This implies that she is not from Japan, although it would not necessarily mean that she is from Thailand.
I am happy & surprised you wrote an article about Rika Nishimura and Japanese Lolicon. These are really amazing books, this was part of history and should be accepted. It shouldn’t be illegal to just take a picture of minors nude. The context is important. Also I want to wager a guess for the name One Million Rem Gaze – either it is a mistranslation, a mistake in transcription, or maybe “Rem” is the short form of the Renmibi, the Chinese currency. Just putting a guess out there.
Thanks for the comment. The Katakana characters that are translated as “rem” are literally “re mu” (レム). There is no “L” in the Japanese language, and an “R” is used to spell foreign words that contain an L. No Japanese word can end with an “M”. All Katakana characters that have an “M” sound have a vowel following the M. Therefore, “remu”, “lemu”, “rem” and “lem” would all be spelled the same way in Katakana. So it could very well be a mistranslation; it may really be remu or lem. I used “rem” in the article because different sources on the internet all translate it as rem.
Just as a side note, Chinese does not have the R sound, just as Japanese does not have the L sound. Is it possible that Renmibi is a Japanese or Korean way of saying the name of the Chinese currency?
This seems to indicate the distant glory of Japan. Japan is facing an unprecedented difficult time, but this glory will not disappear. Always have hope. These girls are cheering us on beyond the picture.
This article was very good, and the pictures were absolutely beautiful. It is such a shame that so many societies take such a negative view of what is truly beautiful.
I was looking for this publication remembering that there were other photographs of Rika and I was able to find this, although unfortunately there is censorship in them, they always seemed beautiful works to me http://loli.teen.jp/rikitake/contents.html
Thanks for the comment and for the link. The site has a lot of information about the Japanese lolicon era. I found it interesting.