There are key cultural differences between Japan and the West. It's not just in linguistics, but in eroticism as well. Way back in 2005, Konami game producer Akari Uchida was frank about those differences.
"You Westerners, listen," Uchida, who had just designed wrestling game Rumble Roses, told Kotaku. "Eroticism is not only about nudity. That is part of it."
"You know, there's this character [in Rumble Roses] Anesthesia," he continued. "She's like this Latina nurse character. Imagine that she's forced to wear a schoolgirl uniform and has to do the limbo dance. And she's so embarrassed that she's blushing. That is Japanese eroticism."
Uchida's description of what he thought Japanese eroticism was has stuck with me. While I don't agree 100 percent with his interpretation (or even with half of it!), Uchida—who now produces Love Plus and is one of the most powerful Konami producers—did have a point. Eroticism in Japan isn't always about nudity. Sometimes, it's everything but nudity.
Uchida was somewhat abstractly referencing a fascination with S&M that places more emphasis on the psychological aspects of sex. This emphasis is exactly why, for example, Japanese pin-up Mahni Aino keeps her clothes on—even as said clothes get smaller and smaller. It's not a matter of religious guilt or even purity, but rather, by not fully exposing herself, she remains completely in control and even evokes notions of traditional Japanese beauty.
There's a line between nudity and eroticism in Japan. A key divider is the country's long and rich bathing culture, which continues to this date. Co-workers and friends will often go to hot springs and public baths together, bathing with strangers as well. The Western equivalent would be going to a sauna. It's normal, like going to the public pool.
Because, in a way, the de-sexualization of nudity itself means eroticism can be expressed in other ways, such as in clothing. According to Aino, teasing is part of "Yamato Nadeshiko", or the "idealized Japanese woman", allowing them to be sexual without wallowing in it. Aino, whom Kotaku recently featured in this Fetish piece, said that Japanese men love the long, drawn out tease.
Likewise, the West also has its own tradition, namely that of the burlesque, which places emphasis on the tease. However, there's also long been an emphasis on equating nudity with sexuality and decency. While Japanese comedians flash their bare butts on regular ol' non-cable TV, American television is quick to pixelate the rogue tush here or there.
There's a disconnect, an obvious gap. Japan is notorious for censoring its own pornography (work safe), while its American and Western counterparts are graphic and explicit. Yet, this is the crux of Uchida (and Aino's point), the graphic parts are not the main attraction, but the sounding elements, whether that be the mode, the decor, whatever.
Japan, Aino said, is increasingly becoming influenced by Western notions of sex, with its emphasis on the blunt aspect of nudity. "Even so," Aino added, "teasing is very popular in Japan." Whether that be online chat rooms, glossy magazines, or in virtual wrestling rings, it seems.