Japan’s Sexual Economics 101
Note: This is the first post in a series revolving around the monetization of sex in Japan and the mechanisms with which the society and people both in charge and in the rank and file deal with these phenomenon. This is not intended to be a piece dealing with moral implications or abstract concepts such as “Right” or “Wrong”, or other ambiguities.
Life…is rarely simple, in fact it’s usually like this dream I have where I walk behind a Kentucky Fried Chicken and see a fat Jewish guy wearing a filthy, ill-fitting clown suit, greedily sucking on a glass dildo full of Butter Scotch. Yeah. I wake up feeling fucking violated but also really craving a sundae.
After first arriving in Tokyo in 2004, within a mere 10 days I was deteriorating physically. The combination of high amounts of alcohol and a very stagnant existence devoted almost purely to scouring the internet for work opportunities and long, aimless walks down alley ways at midnight had taken a toll. All that and the hours of compulsive masturbation.
On day ten I had wandered into a small barber shop in West Shinjuku to get a trim in order to stay sharp for my yet to be scheduled job interviews. The haircut was a travesty and the experience was ridiculous.
As I stumbled out of the tiny little barber shop, directly across the narrow wet street, was a black tented door with the words “24 hour Health Club” printed on it in pink letters.
The idea of paying a little cash to get under some iron and work up a sweat seemed like a decent trade-off. There hadn’t been quite as much ninja-battling as I had anticipated before arriving in Japan and I was losing condition but quick. I was tense and on edge, my future plans unsure. The act of exercising seemed to be just what I needed at that moment. I wasted no time and strolled inside.
One might say that the pink lettering on the door should have set off more bells than it did, but having been bombarded with nothing but strobing neon images culminating in sensory overload for the last ten days I gave it literally no consideration. I had been to Palm Springs. I knew Pink didn’t mean “Men that do growth Hormone and love Cock sex ONLY”.
Inside I walked through a short black hallway into what seemed to be some sort of waiting room. I stood there dumbly looking around the tiny room at the little sofas, the Lava lamp. I summoned all my intellect to figure out “What the hell kind of Gym is this?”. At that moment an older Japanese woman came out from around another corner and literally gasped jumping back a solid foot when she saw me standing there.
Her tiny hands shot up to form the ever present “X” shape signaling “No foreigner, no no no.” Then holding this strong “X” shape in front of her body and vigorously shaking her head “no” she inched towards me. It was like I was a servant of satan sent to feast on her fleshy children. I was that white demon.
I felt profoundly absurd.
My mind floundered for a Japanese word out of the ten or so I had in my head that might help.
Out of the two that came to mind (Rape/Goodbye) “Sayonara” seemed appropriate.
Within 2 minutes I was back on the wet street facing the black door and the pink letters. A late, fat rain drop fell on my forehead and I reached up to brush some hair off the back of my neck. Turning around, I realized someone was behind me. The 60 something year old Barber who had so successfully mangled my hair only moments earlier was in fact, that someone.
He was standing just outside the door way of his shop, a cigarette dangling from his lips. Ironically enough his hair was badly disheveled and disturbing, a white tuft sprang out at an odd angle from his upper left temple. His arms were in front of him, outstretched as if holding something but nothing was there and he was pumping his pelvis forward in a taunting, awkward motion; the international signal for “Doggy style.” I did quick mental math.
Come on dude I paid you already!
OH! So THAT’S WHY you gave me this hair cut?!
Wait it wasn’t that….
My eyes looked into the window of his little Barber shop and I saw his wife holding a dust pail full of my hair, a broom in her other hand, a smile broad, broken and crooked on her round spectacled face…her hair a disconcerting shade of purple which filled me with a nameless dread.
I looked back at the Barber as he took the cig in between two fingers, exhaled smoke while continuing his convulsive movements and said with a smile “Japaneesa Fuck fuck…fuck fuck….good.” He then proceeded to cackle uncontrollably while giving me a dilapidated thumbs up. At that point a small part of me died and I managed a categorically grotesque smile.
I smiled the smile you use when your 90-year-old grandmother lets all the food shes eating, the turkey and cranberry sauce, slowly slide out of her mouth into her lap at Thanksgiving dinner, right in front of everyone. Your mouth moves up, your eyes search wildly for an escape route, a rocket pack, an Uzi.
To say that I made my journey into the sexual underbelly of Japan unattended would be an understatement.
The Reality vs. The Illusion
Japan functions delicately by ignoring reality and insisting on maintaining a very calm and acceptable surface facade. This is called “Tatemae” and “Honne” These are recognized social mechanisms in Japan. Tatemae is the preferable illusion. Honne is the undesirable reality.
These are not novel concepts and have been covered extensively in the literature. However a basic understanding of the two is needed if one hopes to understand the sexual culture and its corresponding business’s in Japan.
In Japan, as in many other countries the family is given an exulted status as an institution worth maintaining.
The bond between parents and children is respected as is that between Husband and Wife.
At the same time though, everyone generally understands that men like to get their joints worked by someone other than their wives fairly regularly if possible. Hence the silent agreement in many a marriage here that the man can go see hookers as long as he doesn’t have a Girlfriend. Girlfriend could mean an intrusion into the mans heart where as the wives know that hookers are just that: numb humping service robots.
Or so the theory goes.
The fact is, most girls get into the murky abyss of the sex industry for one primary motivating factor….
The annual unreported and non-taxable income of the prostitution industry in Japan is upwards of 945 billion yen. That’s about 8.5 billion U.S. dollars….every year.
The biggest name brand retails in the world make the lions share of their profits in Japan. Hermes, Versace, Gucci. They all clean house here. With the average monthly income being about 2,200 USD per month, one is left wondering where those high-end vendors are unloading their goods year after year. It might be instructive to notice that in every red light district several shops stick out like that tranny who came to the church pool party; these places are there to sell those expensive goods to the only large demographic that has disposable cash i.e. проститутка (hooker in Russian. I love Russian!)
As far as the Porno bizz or as my friend from Arkansas calls it “the family farm” are concerned, legitimate statistics are hard to come by. That having been said it is an absolutely massive industry. But for example. Soft on Demand, ONE of the more prominent yet more vanilla companies record profits, THAT’S PROFITS of 8 million USD. This is only one company in an ocean of competitors.
The money is there to be had, nobody can argue against that point.
I referenced this article whilst composing this masterpiece
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