Out of Japan: Bare exploits embarrass old rivals

TOKYO - 'Dewi Sukarno nude book a smash success in Japan' was the headline of a Reuters story from Tokyo on 1 November. The next day the news agency's Jakarta bureau filed: 'Indonesians embarrassed by naked former first lady.' Sell-out in Tokyo, outrage in Jakarta.

Mrs Sukarno has been a reliable source of colourful controversy in Asia ever since the Japanese-born bar girl was married to Sukarno, Indonesia's first president, in 1962. But her latest adventure into photographic colour, revealing parts of her body undraped by a variety of Japanese kimonos and Indonesi an saris, has caused even more of a stir than when she broke a champagne glass into a female rival's face at a ski lodge in Aspen, Colorado, in the United States, last year. Her real-life exploits are beginning to make the creative imagination of authors like Jackie Collins seem almost redundant.

Behind the glamour and the scandal, however, is a small part of one of Asia's most important, if rarely remarked-upon, bilateral relationships: Japan and Indonesia. Both countries have it in their power to shut down the other's industry almost overnight, if they chose to do so. Japan gets most of its oil supplies from Indonesia (13 per cent) or from the Middle East through Indonesian sea lanes (70 per cent). It also gets 96 per cent of its plywood, more than half its natural gas and a variety of other raw materials from the tropical archipelago.

Indonesia for its part relies heavily on Japanese investment and technology. It has received more Japanese direct investment than any other Asian country. According to the Export-Import Bank of Japan, from 1951 to 1990, about 1,600 Japanese companies invested dollars 11.5bn ( pounds 7.5bn) in Indonesia, compared with dollars 9.8bn in Hong Kong and dollars 6.5bn in Singapore.

As intertwined as they are economically, they are at the same time worlds apart. Japan's per capita GNP, at dollars 36,000, is 60 times larger than that of Indonesia, at dollars 600. A meal for two in a Tokyo restaurant would keep a family in Jakarta in food for a month. It is across this gulf that Mrs Sukarno has been sparking like the two ter minals of an electricity generator. And while her book of nude photos, Shuga - Superior in Elegance, has become a best-seller in Japan's sen sation-hungry consumer market, it has become a source of national embarrassment in Indonesia and its circulation has been banned by the government.

'As she is not a born Indonesian it is understandable that she has an un-Indonesian way of thinking and different perceptions,' said the Jakarta Post in an editorial last week. Meanwhile Murdiono, State Secretary in the Indonesian government, said: 'It is a personal matter of the person concerned and there is no need to link it to her position as a former wife of the first Indonesian president.'

Mrs Sukarno was born Naoko Nemoto in Japan and was working as a hostess in the Copacabana nightclub in Tokyo when Sukarno met her. He was 58, married already, and renowned for his womanising across Asia. She was 19. Sukarno was smitten, renamed her Ratna Sari Dewi - the Essence of a Jewel of a Princess - and brought her back to Jakarta as his new wife and first lady.

What Sukarno did not realise was that his meeting with her was not a coincidence: in fact it had been set up by a Japanese businessman, Masao Kubo, who was later to use his connection with Mrs Sukarno to boost his company's commercial position in Indonesia. But she turned out to be more than just a secret weapon for a Japanese company: she quickly learnt how to make the system work for her as well and became involved in politics and business. However, in 1965, during the failed Communist coup that eventually toppled Sukarno and plunged the country into a frenzy of bloodletting, she was sent out of the country for her safety. She did not see Sukarno again until he was dying in 1970. Since then she has lived the high life in Paris and New York, with a spell in Jakarta in the 1980s. The champagne party incident last year, during which she broke a glass in the face of Victoria Osmena, the granddaughter of a past President of the Philippines, cost Mrs Sukarno five weeks in jail - and Ms Osmena 37 stitches.

Her latest dose of controversy costs just 4,800 yen ( pounds 30) and was photographed in Paris, Tokyo, Kyoto and Indonesia. 'I believe those who love and understand the arts will not blame me for posing nude,' she told a magazine interviewer days before the Indonesian attorney general banned the book. 'My late husband himself was an artist,' she said.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk