Prostitution versus “Prostitution” in Japan (REPOSTING)

originally posted on December 18th, 2009

The Japanese law draws the line between legal and illegal sexual services by whether or not the ball makes it into the goal, so to speak. And while some businesses, namely soaplands, manage to work their way around these rules, law enforcement chooses to “focus their efforts” on places that are plainly and evidently illegal.

The first clip is from “The Zokufu 24 Hours,” a program on a local Chiba TV station. We find ex-pro wind surfer and host, Saito Ryotsu, here to learn along with viewers “How to Hotel Health.”

We find Saito in front of “Kiken na Baito Ikebukuro East Exit,” a “hotel health” shop near Ikebukuro station (notice the hours of operation.. could it really close this early?). He heads to the reception desk of the shop and meets the owner, who explains that after choosing a girl a customer heads to a particular room in a particular love hotel, after which the girl arrives. The two then have a “little bit of pervy play.” The owner whispers to Saito the specifics, and he laughs in excited disbelief. The girls are aged 18-23 to appeal to customers with a Lolita complex.

Saito chooses then heads to the hotel, and is soon met by 21-year-old “Mei-chan.” Speaking in simple, childish Japanese, Mei says her favorite kind of customers are the really perverted ones who make her to exhibitionistic things like flash out the window. She says she originally wanted to be an “idol” (model and singer), but now found out about “fudols” (fuzoku idol) and is content with becoming that.

Mei explains that when customers come they become her boyfriend. She then takes a school uniform out of her bag and changes for Saito. He then supposedly tries out Mei’s services, which appear to be pretty satisfactory as he declares, “Hotel health is the best!!!” The segment ends with Saito asking the manager for a discount.

Despite how comically the “delivery health” service is to many, on the flip side of the coin we have illegal brothels that provide more traditional services. Here is a news clip about a police bust on a brothel in Kawasaki earlier this year:

In the clip we see police interrogating several women inside a small building, and the narrator explains that all the women in the brothel were Koreans who are suspected of having come to Japan to become prostitutes. An officer asks one woman her name, and although she doesn’t understand Japanese she tells him she arrived in Japan on vacation. We see small rooms lit with pink lights, containing nothing but futons, electric fans and other personal goods.

Customers were charged 10,000 yen for the deed, and investigators find cash inside one woman’s purse. They ask one woman how many customers she’s had today and she insists the bills are her own personal funds. The girls lived in the brothel and advertised services themselves.

The report says that the area in Kawasaki where the bust occurred is full of illegal prostitution. They show a video taken in May of women standing in windows calling out at men. When a man asks one of the women how much, she tells him 20,000 yen. In order to hide activities from the police the brothels have a lookout, who the camera catches nearby. Police catch him on patrol while they bust the brothel, and ask him about wireless radios and a list of license plate numbers found inside. The lookout had the numbers of 70 police cars, allowing him to spot undercover cops then radio back to the brothel and tell the girls to run.

In all they arrested four lookouts and 18 Korean women. This is apparently not an unusual occurance in Kawasaki, and police had busted another brothel in the same area earlier in the year, arresting the Korean who ran the operation and seven Korean and Columbian prostitutes.

14 thoughts on “Prostitution versus “Prostitution” in Japan (REPOSTING)”

  1. Has there been, or is it possible, to do any study concerning the demographics of women involved in “prostitution” and prostitution?

  2. Maybe these things were supposed to be left to the readers’ imaginations, but:

    1) “Hotel health” includes “goal in”, or the establishment will wind up pilloried on 2chan, and lose its customers in short time.

    2) When a shop gets busted, it is almost always staffed by foreigners. This may be because Japanese businesses know how to navigate the waters better, but I’ve heard more sinister accusations. Namely that the police and some of their “friends” have vested interests in closing down independently-operated shops, especially when they don’t pay protection.

    1. By 2chan, you’re referring to 2 Channel the widely read bulletin board, I assume. (I’m not sure it’s well-known outside of Japan). Yes, “delivery health” at a “hotel” or “derihote” does often include actual intercourse but it can’t advertise the service.
      I’ve known a lot of dodgy sex shops where the owners were always given notice before a raid. And sometimes the owners were foreigners. Obviously, there is protection money paid and there have been a few cases of cops being arrested and fired for taking bribes from sexual service establishments and warning them when raids were about to take place—so it’s not just rumor. The question of how wide-spread such corruption is something that I can’t answer. The current police chief of Azabu PD (in Roppongi) is a total straight arrow and that’s why you see a lot of the clubs there being shut down. Of course, Governor Ishihara also has a bug up his butt about cleaning up Tokyo—probably because he felt that was important in having the city host the Olympics.

  3. The difficulty with such research is the reluctance of the subjects to be involved in any formal process of questioning, for obvious reasons. Similar issues arise in all research into human sexual behaviour.

    It would be possible to gather some qualitative data if the researcher were prepared to sample the services himself.

  4. “seven Korean-Columbian prostitutes”

    Do they mean, some are Korean and some are Columbian ?
    Are there a lot of foreign prostitutes in Japan ? Are they trafficked or come of their own accord ?

    Columbia is a very long way from Japan

  5. Seems to me that trying to clean up Tokyo is like playing whack-a-mole. Move ’em out of Kabukicho and they pop up in Shibuya or Ikebukuro.

    Here’s something I’ve always wondered. Are there rules and regulations that licensed fuzokuten have to abide by to protect employees and customers from STDs? Judging from some of the services I’ve seen offered, the answer looks like no.

  6. Big John: Korean and Columbian, not Korean-Columbian. My mistake, the entry has been corrected! I would imagine a number of them come of their own volition since there are a number of Central and South Americans with connections to Japan, but I don’t know the numbers for sure.

    Rich: Gotanda is quite the hotspot (I guess we could call it the G-spot?) too. Not sure about the regulations thing, hopefully Jake will pipe in with some information.

  7. Living in Japan and experienced this kind of services, what this article said is nothing but the real truth.
    Now, with the depletion of economy in Japan the fuzoku rate has been lowered while tax is increased.
    One of fuzoku worker has claimed that she received only 40% out of the total service payment that i paid to her.
    Coming from the northern Tohoku prefecture, what i can replied to her is giving some hopeful thought and smile.
    Her parents also do not know this side job that she choose.
    She said that she do not want to burden her family and pursuing college is merely getting more expensive.
    Even tough i said i start to feel guilty, she replied that i paid for her service and she must provide otherwise she will feel bad and maybe lose the job.
    It is quite a strange answer but we do have a good time and no hard feelings. I bought some chocolate for her and she feels so happy. She said that she rarely served gaijin but most gaijin that she served were very kind and rather than feel strangle as prostitutes, she is having a good perspective about gaijin.

    1. Well, I’m not sure what to say but I guess that it’s nice to see the sex industry not discriminating against foreigners?

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