Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Coco Kubota
Deutsche Press-Agentur

Sex galore in Japan when World Cup gets underway

TOKYO — Visitors to Japan for the World Cup may be startled to see so many pink neon signs and ads for call girls pasted in phone booths in the entertainment districts of Tokyo and Yokohama.

Countries such as Thailand and the Philippines may be cheaper, but in terms of the scale and sheer variety of its sex industry, Japan is unequaled.

"There are many kinds of sex businesses in Japan. Commercial sex is an everlasting side of Japan's daily life and anything is acceptable here," Shinya Yamamoto, the most famous Japanese commentator on Japan's sex industry told Deutsche Press-Agentur dpa.

More than 10 per cent of Japanese male adults use sex services, and the number is roughly 20 per cent among young Japanese men, according to a survey by the Japanese government.

The figure is much higher than an average one to two per cent in the United States and European countries, Tokyo says.

"Japan's sex industry is mainly centred on sexual massage not sexual intercourse. Young Japanese men don't have courage or energy to find a girlfriend, they prefer going to such sex places," said Yamamoto, who has made 250 soft porn films in his 35-year career.

According to a condom maker Durex's global sex survey in 2001, Japanese had sex on average 36 times a year, compared to Americans who had an average 124 times a year. Among the 28 nations surveyed, Japan remained low on the list, while the United States topped the charts in the annual survey.

"The size of Japan's sex industry market is estimated at least 1.2 trillion yen (9.4 billion dollars)," said Takashi Kadokura, an economist at Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute, who recently published books about Japan's underground economy.

Soaplands, which provide washing body of a customer and sexual intercourse, is the best known and oldest sex business in Japan, which started in 1657.

Other sex businesses include clubs and pink salons, which often mean sex massage, as well as "imekura", or image clubs, which involve all manner of sexual role-playing, like the use of schoolgirl uniforms or nurses.

But due to the economic recession, a more convenient and cheaper sex business has been growing in Japan. The newest sex business is called, "deri-heru," or delivery health.

Health in Japanese-English refers to erotic pleasure. What a delivery health delivers is a girl to the address specified by the customer. The services typically provided are sexual, excluding intercourse, at customers' hotels or homes.

According to the National Police Agency (NPA), delivery health services have expanded particularly fast, rising from 2,684 in 1999 to 8,434 in 2001.

The number of delivery health businesses well exceeds the number of McDonald's fast food outlets in Japan at 3,867 which is the second largest after the United States with 13,099 outlets.

"The key word to explain market expansion is low prices, which attract more customers, thus increasing the size of the entire market," said the economist Kadokura.

The average delivery health costs 10,000 yen (78 dollars) to 15,000 yen, while a soapland session costs 50,000 yen (390 dollars). Women get about half of the fee.

"With the slumping economy and rising unemployment, it seems more young women have opted for what used to be called a life of shame," said Kadokura.

Compared to about 800 yen (6 dollars) an hour for part-time work in a fast-food restaurant, a sex-industry worker can easily gross more than six times that. Sex industry workers can also conceal their activities from family and friends through the use of professional alibi services which issue bogus employment certificates and salary statements.

Poverty drives the prostitutes of Thailand or the Philippines, but Japanese women seem to be motivated by the lure of fashion designer labels.

Kadokura estimates about 168,680 women work for delivery health business.

According to the NPA, the number of soaplands and striptease theatres has been declining in recent years, falling from about 16,000 in 1985 to 11,000 in 2001.

Kadokura said delivery health business is more attractive to business people who want to start new sex business because of lower investment costs.

"All they need is a little apartment room with phones. A business owner just call his female staff when he needs them, instead of keeping those women at the office and paying them hourly," said Kadokura.

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Created: January 17, 2004
Last modified: January 17, 2004
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