In Japan, prostitution isn’t just for professionals anymore. The quasi-legal sex industry in Japan is estimated to be a multi-billion dollar market and all signs indicate that it continues to grow. In an otherwise stagnant economy, despite the efforts of the local police to contain it, the fast-food restaurant inspired fellatio-for-sale coffee shops (pink salons), the home delivery service sexual massage operations, and the S & M clubs and their like show no signs of disappearing.
One of the many signs of the health and expansion of the industry can be found in any major convenience store or book store, among the women’s magazines.
These magazines have names like YUKAI, TWINKLE, LUN LUN CLUB, CIRCLE 2, with cover stories on “Fall Fashion,” “The 12 Best Hot Spring Resorts This Winter,” and other articles of the women’s mag genre. In many ways, they are indistinguishable from HANAKO and other magazines aimed at hip, young Tokyo trend-setting females. The only difference is that these have the added bonus of being “full of information and want-ads for high paying part-time/full-time jobs.” It’s only when you open the magazine and look inside do you understand that a vast majority of these “high-paying jobs” are in the sex industry.
Magazines like TWINKLE (now in it’s twelfth year) used to only be found in seedy shops in the red-light districts of Tokyo. In the past few years, however, TWINKLE and its imitators are stocked in the front window of major bookstores all over Tokyo. YUKAI, which means “pleasant” in Japanese, the most popular magazine at present, according to industry sources. YUKAI means “Pleasant” in Japanese.
In the late nineties, there was a surge of high school and junior high school girls getting involved in “sponsored dating” (enjo kosai), and ever since then the sex industry has been flooded with amateurs and part-time dabblers. Magazines like TWINKLE cater to many of these girls who are now older and seeking steadier and safer part-time employment. The target audience isn’t just young women, though — Japan is a country of specialization, and any woman can find her own niche to work in, regardless of her age or body type. If she is confused about the exciting and well-paid jobs in the industry, she just check the front section of each magazine, which explains each job and type of work, as well as average payscales. Each description is usually accompanied with illustrations of women in S and M uniforms, maid outfits, and what appear to be dental technician uniforms, in accordance with the job description.
Some magazines even have special photo-features wherein a woman might choose her place of work by looking at the “super-cute” uniforms available to the staff. Schoolgirl, bride, dominatrix, stuffed animal… the list goes on.
The jobs available include “seikan massage” or sexual massage, which entails anal stimulation, masturbation of the customer, and whole-body licking. Depending upon the establishment, the employee may be required to provide simulated sex through the use of her thighs. The minimum day’s wage is 200 dollars.
For the girl who wants to work days and have her evenings free, pink salons are a good choice. Pink Salons open in mid-afternoon, and resemble coffee shops from the outside. When the customer sits down in a box or a booth, he is served the beverage of his choice and then fellated or given a hand-job until climax. You get all of this, in less than thirty minutes, for three thousand yen (approximately thirty dollars). A pink salon girl can expect to make a minimum of three hundred dollars a shift, but one magazine warns “you should avoid this kind of work if you are an office worker or have carpal tunnel syndrome due to the repetitive nature of the work.”
The big money, though, is in S&M. Sado-Masochistic clubs allow a venue for a female to abuse or be abused for hundreds of dollars a day.
Mothers and housewives also have quite a few options for sex work. The bigger establishments offer a fake answering service and fake paychecks, all printed under the name of fake company so that your husband or boyfriend will never know the truth. A growing number of places offer child-care facilities. This may be particularly useful for those who want to work at an image club, like CHILD in Shinjuku-ku, where all women must be lactating and the male customers are stripped, diapered, and masturbated.
You might think by looking at these magazines that prostitution is legal in Japan…
It is not.
However, the anti-prostitution law stipulates that only the pimp and the establishment provider can be arrested, not the customer or the prostitute. Thus, most women can operate without fear of arrest. The owners of the sex parlors and other establishments, who do face legal repercussions, tend to discourage actual straight intercourse between the customer and client. Anything else goes. Anal sex, which does not meet the legal definition of intercourse, has recently become a popular substitute in many places. Almost every other deviant activity besides intercourse, of course, is available and on the “menu” if you know where to look.
Some of these sexual-massage parlors are registered with the police or licensed; many others are not. Most of these shops occupy a place in the gray-zone between legal, semi-legal and blatantly illegal, as defined in the Japanese Entertainment Establishments Control Law.
A veteran vice-cop for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police explains it this way, “Prostitution is technically illegal in this country, but in reality… it’s not. Zoning laws and revisions of the EEC make some sex parlors completely legal, others are required to register. In almost all cases, the person at risk of breaking the law is the business owner, not the employee. Any way you slice it, a woman can do whatever she wants with her body and not be arrested. However, if she’s stripping off everything and showing her genitals to the general public, or having sex in front of a crowd, than she can be arrested. That would be public indecency, which is a crime.”
He is not happy about the growing number of sex-job information magazines. “You could argue that these rags are soliciting prostitutes and luring girls into the industry. Even then, I don’t think any prosecutor would let us make the case that the publishers of the magazines are violating the anti-prostitution law and could be arrested. The magazines do, however, give the impression that the sex shops are a legitimate enterprise, and I don’t think that’s good for public morality.”
It’s debatable whether the public of which he speaks really disapproves of these magazines or the sex industry in general. It’s not uncommon for adult movie actresses to cross over into the legimate entertainment industry, and posing nude is hardly a mark of shame for any would-be actress or idol in this country. And even the vice-cop has to admit, “the girls applying for these jobs and working in the establishments probably aren’t breaking the law and even if they were, they would be difficult to arrest.”
For those reasons, it’s not uncommon for women working in the sex industry to also appear on the cover of these magazines along with an interview about their likes, dislikes and job experience. Fifteen minutes of fame is readily available for the “working girl.” There is even a word for these high-profile sex workers — fudoro — it’s a combination of the word fuzoku which refers to adult entertainment, and idol, Japanese slang for any popular female singer or actress.
Akiko N, age twenty-seven, a part-time nurse and an avid reader of LUN LUN CLUB, has been working on an off in the industry since college. “LUN LUN is a great magazine for finding a better job. The articles are really good, too. When I’m looking for a new place to go with my boyfriend, I always look at the restaurant section. Of course, the want-adds are the real draw. I hate long commutes and I’m tired of the hard-core stuff. I need a place with good alibi services and softer work. I’m hoping to find something in the Roppongi area,” she says. Akiko has no qualms about supplementing her income by working in the adult entertainment industry.
“I have a junior-college education and nursing doesn’t pay close to enough to live the life I want to live. If men are willing to pay for sexual services, I’m willing to give it to them. It’s not like I’m sleeping with them or anything. And I always make the man use a condom. I’m not stupid.”
Akiko pulls in about 8,000 dollars a month and works three days a week in a Fashion Health Parlor in Chiba. She spends 1500 dollars a month on rent, a hundred on transportation, blows a thousand dollars a month on clothing. She saves roughly four thousand dollars a month.
Akiko sees similarities between her nursing job and her other job. “I’m providing relief to people. A lot of customers just want someone to talk to, someone who will listen to their problems, and not nag them like a girlfriend or their wife. One regular just puts his head on my laps and has me clean his ears, like his mother used to do. Sometimes, all I do is listen. I’m providing a public service. Part-whore, part-mother — it’s a complex job.”
An assistant editor at one of the publications says that people like Akiko are typical readers. “I’ll be honest, we can sell our magazine for about 250 yen (two dollars and fifty-cents) because we’re making so much money from advertising. At the same time, we have to provide reading materials that will attract readers, to sell the magazine and justify our ad rates. I’d say our articles are as good as anything you find in HANAKO or TOKYO WALKER.” He says the magazines also receive lots of revenue from host clubs. Host clubs are bars and pubs, where attractive young Japanese men are paid to entertain and flirt with the female customers who visit, pouring them drinks, dancing with them, and massaging their ego. A recent issue of the magazine included an insert of young “hosts” stickers. It’s slightly ironic that many of the women working in the industry, after spending the entire day pampering male customers and faking attraction to them, flock to host clubs where they in turn pay young studs to provide them with the same manufactured affection and pampering they dish out on the job.
“There are a slew of similar magazines on the stands these days, which tells you how much demand there is for this kind of work,” the assistant editor says, and claims that its hard to keep ahead of the competition. “What’s interesting to me is the difference between what the want-ads says and what the ads for the sex shops say. Of course, the girls don’t read the sex-shop guide magazines like MANZOKU which are aimed at men, and vice versa. If you want to understand the Japanese sex industry, pick up copies of both. It’ll tell you more than you want to know.”