Sex in Japan: a high-profit industry
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Written by Mario Castro G.   
Sex in Japan: a high-profit industry

Japan offers an assortment of sexual pleasures to cope with a high demand that in other countries would simply be impossible or even unthinkable to commercialize. An official report reveals that the annual income for the sex industry in Japan exceeds 2,370 billion JPY; that figure does not include the 3,000 billion JPY generated by the estimated 37,000 love hotels that operate in Japan (premises  designed for sexual encounters) nor does it include the revenue collected from virtual sex; which includes erotic movies, porn magazines, online dating services etc. which are hard to estimate, but that part of the industry surely generates the same or an even higher revenue from the abovementioned.

Even though there are huge profits from the sex industry, the general Japanese population is seemingly uninterested in sex. At least those that have regard for the traditional family relationship. In Japan (and elsewhere) men interrupt or substantially reduce their sexual activity when the spouse (either Japanese or foreigner) gets pregnant or after they  have kids.

One explanation that may help us understand the contradiction between the high profits reaped by the sex industry and the common perception that Japanese couples don’t have a lot of sex, is the traditionally accepted role of sex within the marriage.

One explanation that may help us understand the contradiction between the high profits reaped by the sex industry and the common perception that Japanese couples don’t have a lot of sex, is the traditionally accepted role of sex within the marriage. Traditionally  sex within marriage was  regulated to the act of procreation, and sex as a source of pleasure   is sought out of the house. Given the ample variety of services that will be commented on shortly, this seems to be an industry that won’t slow down.

Data from International studies show that the Japanese hold the lowest rate of sexual intercourse per couple ranging from 38 to 46 times a year. France holds first place with 137, followed by the United States with 110 and Mexico with 84. This leads us to wonder, how can the sex industry reap benefits where the populace is barely having sexual intercourse? The answer is simple; the majority of sexual activities do not necessarily require a partner and when it does, it does not necessarily mean actual intercourse..

Less reliable data from local condom industries show similar results. They argue that sexual activity among Japanese youngsters has sharply decreased, because there has been a considerable reduction in the sales of their products, over recent years. However this information is biased given the fact that not all Japanese people use condoms, raising a sound concern that many people might be having unprotected sex, leaving them highly vulnerable to STD’s and especially AIDS.

No strings attached

When compared with citizens from other countries, the Japanese are more willing to pay for sex related services because they come with no strings attached. Modern lifestyle in Japan, characterized by a heavy work load, limited space, high levels of competitiveness in all sectors embedded in an unsteady economy and low living standards, seems to have made Japanese apprehensive towards marriage and stable relationships, either because they lack the economic resources to cope with marriage, because they want to avoid any troubles or simply because women want to develop their professional capacities.

The average age of marriage in 2006 was 30 years for men and 28.2 for women, contrasting with the average age of marriage in 1971, 26.8 and 24.2 respectively.

In 2006, the segments of the female population that remained single were as follows: 93.4% for women between 20-24 years; 71.4% for women from 25-29 years; 47.1% for women between 30-34 years and 30% for those between 35-39 years.

In the case of men, the figures are as follows, 88.7% for men ranging from 20 to 24, 59% for men between 25 to 29; 32% between 30 and 34, and  18.4% between 35 and 39 years old.

Incredible Offers

However the profits reaped by this industry shows that it has also been negatively impacted upon by the economic crisis. The sex businesses have dropped prices for their services, making them more affordable and appealing to customers; they even advertise their services with coupons on printed magazines such as Manzoku (which publicly advertises prostitution). In other words, magazine readers, if interested you can pick any girl, inquire on the price and pay with coupons. Now if only we got this service in the Sunday Newspaper with the grocery coupons!

Japan has a population of 127 million, from which 62.31 million are men and 65.46 million are women. Reliable data shows that between 10% and 20% of the male population resort to sexual services, while in the USA and Europe this figure hardly reaches 2%.

There is another revealing fact revealed by civil groups working on this issue. About 40% of Japanese men admit to soliciting a prostitute at least once. The term “sexual tourist” was coined in Japan to depict the fact that the Japanese are deemed the number one “sexual tourist” in Asia and much of the world. It was very common in during the bubble era for Japanese companies to treat their male employees with sex trips to Southeast Asia.

Open for business

Although prostitution is prohibited by law, these businesses are operating in the open. In certain areas  streets, different sexual services are offered. In big metropolitan areas and cities like Kabukicho (Shinjuku), Tokyo’s largest entertainment and red-light district where a special law rules sex businesses.

With an area of about half a square kilometer, Kabukicho holds about 2000 stores where you can find sexual products, striptease clubs, video show rooms, bathing rooms, “love hotels”, phone clubs and some other places where non-penetrative sex is available.

Many Japanese see non-penetrative sex or ‘outer sex’ in relationships sick, insane or dirty. We just believe it is part of the culture and for that reason it should be respected.

Great Variety

One of the most traditional ways of advertising sexual services in Japan is posting small ads of  women in provocative dresses in phone booths, followed by a phone number; however with the boom of cell phones, public telephone use  has gradually faded and thus the market arena for these services did too. Similarly, and although against the law, sexual advertisements started being sent to residential mail boxes; ironically there has been no reported incidence of complaints filed against this violation of privacy.

The internet revolutionized the operation of the sex business; the access to the internet from cell phones not only transformed advertising strategies but it also diversified market segments into school boys, business men, and salary men, among others. With the increased use of the internet, the sex industry targeted another market segment; the female population. Before the ample variety of sexual services only targeted men, but it has changed now. Women can access these services anonymously and satisfy their specific needs with no strings attached and in complete secrecy.

Below we will list some of the most-known male targeted sex services that are available:

Fetichism: is known as “Buruseraa”. It refers to establishments where women and school girl’s sell their worn and unwashed lingerie that is later put on sale. The whole idea is that male customers could feel the female body “scent”; so the more used the more expensive the garment is. The lingerie is kept in sealed boxes so they can preserve their former owner’s odor. The Buruseraa shop also has school blazers or young girls’ saliva under a random girl’s name for sale.

Sopurando. (Soap Land)These are the houses where a customer takes a bath and it is one of the most common and oldest commercial sex establishments. It is similar to a sauna or ‘sento’ (Japanese bath house) but it includes sexual services. These are legal businesses that provide services in disguise where the deal is to come in couples, two adults (the client and the prostitute). It does not seemingly imply penetration.   According to trustworthy data, during the early 80’s there were approximately 1,800 establishments. The figure decreased to 1,300 in 2002 and this figure continues to decrease. The average cost of a good “bath” ranges from 30,000 to 50,000 JPY.

Pink Box. This is the modern and less costly version of sopurando, consequently it is of less quality. Their premises are used primarily for oral sex that can be purchased in a set for lower prices. At first glance they seem like normal, but dimly-lit bars with separated tables where the customer are seated. But these customers are mearely passing the time,  having a drink and waiting for the girls of the Pink Box to give him his fix. Prices vary from 5,000 to 10,000 JPY; the use of condoms is compulsory for any kind of physical contact.

Dating Clubs. Their objective is to get dates for single men, just like the ones arranged by matchmaking agencies. The truth is however, that they facilitate sexual encounters (of many kinds) between men of different ages and young girls.

Deriheru I. The name comes from the English phrase ‘delivery health’. It is simply the delivery of girls to a men house. The client contacts the agency by telephone or through the web and browses for the girl he wants, choosing from all the pictures available on the homepage; the system enables prostitutes to keep their activities secret. These prostitutes are women from all across the social spectrum. They may be a family girl or perhaps a demure housewife that becomes a solicited prostitute when the telephone rings. Websites created by these companies run in an impressive operation taking care of every aspect of the service. They provide information on rates, transportation, the various women’s ’ profiles and details of the regions clients want to have the women delivered to. The approximate rate for this service is 25,000 JPY for 90 minutes, not including the hotel rate. Many foreigners are also a part of these agencies payroll.

Deriheru II. It is pretty much the same as above but the services provided in this section do not include penetration, instead the women are asked to dress in a certain way and perform a strip tease or watch pornographic movies while the customer gets self pleasure. When ordering the service, the customer specifies what he is looking for and agencies search accordingly in the databases for the most suitable person to provide the service. Given the type of service, women are mostly Japanese or are fluent in Japanese. Reliable data shows that there are around 20,000  businesses which provide this service.

Deriheru III. This type of Deriheru is much different than the previous ones. Rather than delivering women, this service delivers life-size silicone dolls, whose intimate parts are activated by servo motors so they will feel and look real. These dolls generally look like young girls or even like children. They generally are dressed to look like school girls, nurses or teachers and the company puts makeup on them so  that it matches their costume. They are made of latex, resistant to high temperatures so they can also be taken into the bathtub (ofuro). The Doll rental price may vary anywhere from 25,000 to 45,000 yens per hour.

Enjo kōsai.  Refers to the dating practice where older or middle age men pay high school girls for their companionship. It does not necessarily involve sex, as it might just be a short walk date. School girls engage in this activity as a means for making easy money to afford costly brand products.

Host Clubs. These are seemingly normal clubs, but the customers are women not men. Contrary to the traditional female hostess, young men ranging in age from 18-25 are the hosts for these women that pay for a little company or something else.  

Pantsu Gettaa. It used to be, until recently, the coolest game; and it is sometimes still played. In this game a woman makes public on the internet or through some other form, clues that lead to the place where she has hidden her lingerie. This game often results in a real life encounter and is mostly used by women to market their services and get customers.

Imekura. Also known as “Image Clubs” are establishments were waitresses wear manga character’s costumes or erotic manga uniforms of a nurse, a flight attendant or a policewoman. “Maid Cafes” are perhaps the most common among them; waitress dress up in maid outfits.  Generally their services do not involve sex, however those services might be available for an extra fee. The customer comes in the café, has a drink while indulging in fantasies; he may also ask one of the ladies for a chat or to “rent” her for a date outside of the establishment. The main difference from other businesses is that these cafes not only have young women attending customers, they may as well have older women waitressing; that depends on the fantasy the café aims to fulfill.

Terekura. The name comes from the Japanese terefon kurabu or Telephone Club. These businesses operate in a similar manner to “Dating Clubs” facilitating contact between women and men of all ages, mostly mature. Yet the difference is that men go the club and seat in a booth waiting for a lady to contact them over the phone for a blind date that will most likely end up with sex or enjo kōsai dates. The women contacting men through telephone clubs do not work for the club, they are subscribers that have access to the club’s number which is controlled by an operator. Men pay for the service of being hooked up and whatever happens next is left up to  the customer only.

Private Video Rooms. These are small private rooms used for watching porn films for 1,000 or 1,500 JPY; the fee includes a package of tissue paper. This has become also a common practice for internet rooms, that provide the same service disguised as regular internet cafe.

Strip Theaters. Located in far off the cities, they provide a stage for women to dance completely nude and have sexual intercourse with a lucky attendee selected from the audience via raffle. and The chosen guest gets to participate for no additional fee. 

The live sex act takes place on stage behind a thin curtain. The rest of the attendees can have sex with the dancers in small rooms located off of the main room, for which they are charged 5,000 JPY for entrance and between 5,000 to 10,000 JPY for the service.

Sex shops. These are entirely legal. The sex shops have shown to be a very lucrative business. There are around 1,500 (not including virtual shops) throughout the country; their main customers are men. However there has been a gradual increase in the number of women that visit these shops in a quest for sex toys.

Love hotels. There is not much left to say about them except that they are rented hourly. They come equipped with mind-blowing lightening systems, rotating beds, jacuzzi, videogames, porn television among others amenities. The price varies from an average of 3,900 JPY to 12,000 JPY per hour. Rooms can also be rented for a one- night stay, in which case the entrance is open after 10:00 or 11:00pm.

Hot Lines. There is not much information available on these services. Figures are not disclosed by the establishments. Yet it is widely known that “hot lines” are very popular in Japan. 

Street Prostitution. Women solicit customers while waiting on street corners or walking along side streets which is common throughout the world.The business is then taken care of in a hotel room. Prostitution can be disguised as massages or other forms. The street prostitutes are generally Asian and usually never Japanese.

Publications. There are sexually explicit mangas (hentai) or books with “artistic” pictures of young women in suggestive poses and outfits. The latter are usually extremely detailed and are of high-quality.

The sex industry is broad and offers a myriad of services aside from the afore mentioned. Local establishments innovate and opt for different styles, aiming to fulfill even the most eccentric, peculiar and strange fantasies of their customers

Two disclaimers that might not be at all that necessary: many of these establishments do not service foreigners and the yakuza (Japanese mafia) either controls the operation of sex businesses or charges a fee for their operation.



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