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)

News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Portfolio Analyst/ PMO

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Systems Analyst (Technical, UML, UI)

£30000 - £40000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

Senior Private Client Solicitor - Gloucestershire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - We are makin...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn