From rope bondage to hentai (a sexually explicit form of animé), a variety of erotic Japanese imports have found their way to North America, Europe and Australia over the years. And the erotic side of Japan has also come to the west in the form of the Nuru massage, a type of massage that is performed in the nude using special gels. Nuru massage (also called nuru-nuru) is making its presence felt in different areas of the adult entertainment industry ranging from erotic Nuru videos (both porn and instructional) to North American companies that manufacture Nuru gels, including the Valencia, Calif.-based Trigg Laboratories (makers of Wet Nuru), the Los Angeles-based Nori Fields Co. (known for Mr. Nori’s Magic Gel and other products) and the Montreal, Canada-based Shunga (makers of the Oriental Body Slide Erotic Nuru Massage Kit).
According to Jennifer Martsolf (Trigg’s vice president of marketing), the art of nude massage received a major boost in Japan when prostitution was outlawed in that country 55 years ago.
Nuru is a sensual massage between partners using full-body contact to relax the body and stimulate sexual appetite for both partners. The massage is done with both partners fully nude, using a thick, ultra-slippery massage gel. -Jennifer Martsolf, Trigg's VP of Marketing.
“Prostitution was made illegal in Japan in 1958,” Martsolf said. “So sex industry workers began bathing clientele in a sexual way. Japan’s red-light districts became known as Soapland. Nuru is a sensual massage between partners using fullbody contact to relax the body and stimulate sexual appetite for both partners. The massage is done with both partners fully nude, using a thick, ultra-slippery massage gel.”
Ron Vaillancourt, director of marketing and regulatory affairs for Shunga in Montreal, observed that the popularity of Nuru massage has been increasing in non-Asian countries since the late 2000s.
“When we released our Oriental Body Slide in 2008, Nuru was not even known here,” Vaillancourt recalled. “In certain massage salons, girls were starting to offer this service — something very popular in Thailand, Japan and Malaysia. Its exposure gained popularity because we were offering something appealing in order to practice this technique in a more friendly and safe way.”
Vaillancourt added: “In the U.S., the first Nuru trend came from California a few years ago, around 2010. Then, it gained in the rest of the States. In Europe, with the introduction of our product, we saw the demand increase — and in countries where eroticism is more open such as Germany, the demand was really amazing.”
Japan’s Soapland culture isn’t limited to Nuru massages. A nude massage in a Japanese massage parlor or bathhouse might be performed with liquid soap rather than Nuru gel. But Nuru massages are certainly a prominent part of Soapland, and in Tokyo, the Yoshiwara district still reigns supreme as the Soapland capital of the world.
Yoshiwara has been a red-light district for centuries — and back in the early 17th century, there were attempts to outlaw prostitution in Yoshiwara. But for many years, legal prostitution remained in Yoshiwara as well as in the red-light districts of other Japanese cities. That changed when, in 1958, Japan’s nationwide ban on prostitution went into effect. The law specifically defines prostitution as sex in exchange for payment, and nuru massages are exempt as long as they don’t involve activities such as penis/vagina intercourse, oral sex or anal sex.
Orit Benzaquen, co-owner of Nori Fields (MagicGel.us, NuruNuruGel.com), observed: “Yoshiwara, a red-light district in Tokyo, is Japan’s Soapland capital. It is extremely popular with the Japanese as a hotspot for sex tourism, and it is interesting to note that many adult establishments in Japan are open only to the Japanese — and foreigners are banned from entry.”
Nuru gels are being used in a variety of settings, ranging from Soapland massage parlors and bathhouses in Yoshiwara to adult videos to the bedrooms of private couples. The Venezuela-born Benzaquen cited Asa Akira as an example of a major porn star who has done Nuru videos. The 27-year-old Akira, an Asian-American who was born in New York City and recently became a contract star for Wicked Pictures, has earned her living in the U.S. — and the fact that Akira has been making Nuru videos with American adult performers underscores the growing popularity of Nuru massage outside of Asian countries.
But Benzaquen stressed that one doesn’t have to be either a professional porn star or a professional masseuse to perform a Nuru massage — private couples, she said, are also consumers of Nuru gels, and those couples can be found in different parts of the world.
“Europe adopted the Nuru massage trend very quickly, especially the U.K.,” Benzaquen noted. “People in the U.K. adopted the trend both in the intimacy of their homes for couples and in the escort marketplace…. Canada and the U.S. are closely following Europe. Lots of people in the U.S. have learned about Nuru massages in their travels to Japan or Thailand and came back with their anecdotes of the experience.”
In fact, marketing to private couples has been an important part of Nori Fields’ business model. Benzaquen co-founded the company with her husband, Cariel Cohen, who is also from Venezuela and now lives with her in Los Angeles; they are husband and wife as well as business partners, and they reasoned that if they enjoyed Nuru gel in their private life, why not market them for other couples?
“We thought that something that was being used in the porn industry and was being used in massage parlors could also be used by regular couples in the bedroom to spice up their sex lives,” Benzaquen recalled. “We thought that it would be perfect for regular couples. In April 2008, we started formulating the product, and in April 2009, we launched our line of massage gels. We launched the first gel in April 2009, and from there, we started formulating the different type of gels.”
Even though Japan continues to be the epicenter of Nuru massage, Benzaquen predicted that the U.S. and Europe will continue to be important growth markets for Nuru gels. “In Japan, nuru-nuru is huge,” Benzaquen asserted. “We tailored our product line for couples who are looking to experiment and enhance their sexual lives, and to this day, nuru-nuru has been a rapidly growing trend.”