Entries in prostitution in Japan (3)


Aspiring Sincerely

Japan is a funny place.

Prostitution is technically illegal in Japan, and yet it is everywhere. Gambling is illegal, but that doesn’t keep the more than 12,000 pachinko parlors nationwide from raking it in. And if pachinko doesn’t sate your masochistic gambling needs there are also mahjong parlors galore, horse races, boat races, and keirin.

The Constitution of Japan also forbids the country from having land, sea and air forces.[1] Japan, however, famously maintains the fifth largest defense budget in the world.[2]

Personally speaking, I do not really care all that much whether Japan has a proper military or not. If the vast majority of the Japanese people want to scrap Article 9, so be it.[3] What I am concerned about, though, is the integrity of the Japanese Constitution. If laws continue to be flouted as they often are, what will stop future leaders from dismissing the Constitution altogether? Now that’s where the real danger lies.


[1] Article 9 of the Japanese constitution states: “Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. To accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”

[2] Figures vary. In 2013, the Yearbook listed Japan as eighth, just above India and below Germany. The International Institute for Strategic Studies 2013 had Japan in seventh place just below France and above Germany.

Japan’s military budget has a “symbolic ceiling” of 1% of GDP. One percent of the world’s third largest economy, however, adds up to a lot of military hardware.

[3] Fortunately, they don’t.

Prime Minister Abe may be itching to change Japan’s “peace constitution”, but I think he fails to appreciate what a convenient excuse that constitution provides Japan. Whenever her allies have needed military assistance, all the Prime Minister has had to do was point to the constitution and say, “I’d love to help, honestly I would, but my hands are tied.” Why would you want to change that?


Fresh Answers to Old Questions about an even Older Profession

"You know, long before we married, Haruka surprised me by saying that she would be able to overlook her husband visiting a soapland . . ."

"Pardon me?"

"Soaplands are a uniquely Japanese kind of brothel. Customers pay to take a bath with a woman who washes the man, massages him, and then depending on the customer’s needs and budget, either has sex with, or performs some kind of act on the man resulting in the man’s 'pipes' also getting 'cleaned'. Or so they say; I have never been to one myself."[1]

"Those enigmatic Japanese."



[1] Prostitution is illegal in Japan. Technically, that is. The definition of prostitution, however, is limited to coitus, meaning that pretty much everything else that one can image is allowed. Also, there is no stipulated penalty for those who are prostitutes or those who use them, so, if a prostitute does have coitus with a John, the act is considered to have been done privately between two consenting adults. (How convenient!) Although the laws regulating “businesses affecting public morals” (風俗法, fūzokuhō) have been amended over the years, prostitution is still going strong in Japan.

Case in point: a few months ago, I was approached by a pimp on a street corner in Nakasū, Fukuoka’s “adult-oriented” entertainment area. He asked me if I was interested in going to a “soapland”.

In my two decades in this country, it was the very first time that any of these black-suited panderers had ever approached me. It left me with the impression that either Japan has come a long way in accepting foreigners or the economy still hasn’t recovered completely, “Abenomics” notwithstanding. A buck is a buck, no matter which schmuck the girl fucks.

I had a minute or two before the traffic signal changed, so I asked the pimp how much a visit to his soapland cost. (No harm in asking, right?) He answered that there was a flat fee of fifteen thousand yen (about $160).

 “So cheap!” Surely there must be some catch, I thought, and asked him if that was just the price you paid to get into the joint, the so-called nyūyoku-ryō (入浴料).

“No. It’s fifteen thousand for sex.”

“Get outta here!”

I then asked if there was an extra charge, known as a shimei-ryō (指名), for choosing the girl, and he said, “No, you may have sex with any girl you like.”


While I didn’t take him up on his offer, I could see why many Japanese men do. When the light changed, I crossed the street and walked away, the modest price of a convenient “affair of the body” niggling at the back of my mind.



My friend, the call girl

   Yuko is visibly upset when she comes in and sits down across from me.

   “What’s the matter,” I ask.

   “My friend.”

   “What about your friend?

   “My friend is a . . .”

   “Is a what?”

   “She’s a . . . Oh, I don’t know what the word is in English.”

   I hand her my pocket electronic dictionary.

   “My friend is a call girl.”

   “Huh? A call girl?”


   “Your friend is a prostitute?”

   “A what?”

   “A prostitute is a shôfu.”

   “A shufu?”

   “Not shufu, a housewife. Shôfu, a prostitute.”[1]

   “Shôfu? No, no, no! She’s not a shôfu! She’s a call girl.”

   “Show me that dictionary,” I say. “Oh, she's a ‘coward’.”

   “That’s what I said!”


[1] Shôfu (娼婦) is another word for baishun (売春) which means prostitute. Shufu (主婦) means housewife.