A look inside Japan's sex industry
Posted 09 October 2005 - 02:13 AM
This week, former sex worker Ayumi Sakai, now a writer, reports on how lucrative the sex business is.
"Money never betrays me."
Of the more than 2,000 girls I have met over the years, the quote above is quite striking. It comes from a veteran who had been working at a "soapland" in Yoshihara for five years.
From an early age, her life has been nothing but a series of betrayals, she told me. Her father abandoned her when she was just a kid. Her boyfriend suddenly disappeared from her life. She could no longer believe in anything, and ended up at a place where she could make money with her body.
As for myself, I have worked at various jobs in the sex industry since turning 18. I started doing this line of work because the man I was in love with had made me work at a sex massage parlor. Eventually, I fell in love with the money. Well, to be more accurate, I do not mean that I was in love with the money itself, but rather I got satisfaction and felt confident in myself for earning money with my body.
Sex industry worth 2.5 tril yen a year
The sex industry is estimated to be worth 2.5 trillion yen a year. That's a lot of male desires. What makes women jump into the industry one after another?
I interviewed girls working at soaplands, "deli-heru" (call girl services), pink salons (oral sex), and SM clubs to see if it was just about a paycheck, or whether their values and inner feelings played a part.
"The reason I got into this business? It's because I wanted more money," said Yu who works at a soapland in Yoshihara, as she exhales the smoke from her menthol cigarette. She was working as a receptionist at an IT company, but decided to quit after six months. She then dived into the sex industry and has been there ever since. She is rather small, but has impressive big breasts. She makes about 800,000 yen a month working two or three days a week.
The fee at her soapland is 50,000 yen. That breaks down into 15,000 yen for bathing and 35,000 yen for the service fee, which is her part. "I usually do 3-4 customers a day, so I am making more than 100,000 yen," Yu says. "But I have to pay the owner of the establishment a percentage, which is about 20,000 yen per day. It's supposed to be for 'expenses.'"
These expenses are towels and lotions used to accommodate men. The girls have a contract which obliges them to pay these expenses. The contract states that the girls are not actually employees of the soapland. Technically speaking, the owner of the place is only renting the rooms to the girls. So in order to prove that the girls are not employees to the police and tax authorities, the owner collects the expenses from the girls.
"At the moment I am going out with a guy who used to be one of my customers," said Yu. "I support him, so I have no intention to retire anytime soon. When I give him the money that I earned, he gets really happy and it makes me feel good that someone needs me in their life."
I can understand her feeling as I have gone through the same stage in my life. Many girls who get into the industry share the same sentiments of "I am worthless" or "Nobody wants me." So when they are able to look after someone with their earnings, their heart is fulfilled.
Call girl services are next level
A lot of girls who work at soaplands move onto "deli-heru" (call girl "delivery") which emerged after a new law was enacted in 1999.
Satsuki, 22, is one of those girls. She had appeared in porn, and had worked at a soapland before she became a call girl. Her agency is high end and charges 45,000 yen for 90 minutes, while most of the "deli-heru" in Tokyo charge about 10,000 yen for 30 minutes. She resembles a model with her long arms and legs.
"My boyfriend is a club host and works at night. So I wanted to work at nighttime as well and be with him during the day. This job pays better and is a lot easier than the soapland," said Satsuki.
Of the 45,000 yen, she takes home 27,000 yen. It is the industry standard of 2:3 ratio between the manager and girls. According to Satsuki, the "optional fee" is what makes "deli-heru" more attractive than other jobs in the industry.
As for "optional," Satsuki explains: "We go to a customer's house or hotel room. Many times, men start to negotiate for intercourse. I accept anybody who pays over 20,000 yen on top of the 45,000 yen. At a soapland, the intercourse was part of the service, so I have no hesitation to have sex with a stranger."
Satsuki services 3 to 4 persons a day, but with the optional fee she makes over 100,000 yen a day and earns about 1.2 million yen per month. Her savings now total 8 million yen, she says.
Pink salons can be most demanding
Pink salons are more demanding when compared to soapland or "deli-heru."
Mari, 20, works at a pink salon in Ota Ward in Tokyo. Like any other typical pink salon, her salary is based upon the hourly rate. She makes 3,000 yen per hour and about 300,000 yen per month. She has to have a medical check-up for STDs every month at her own expense.
"I did not come into this world to earn big money. I was living with my boyfriend after graduating from high school. But his income was not enough, so I wanted to work as well to make a decent living for both of us," Mari said. "I decided to work here because it's based upon an hourly rate and not by how many customers I service, so there is a guarantee even if there are no customers."
Pink salons specialize in oral sex. Sometimes the girls have to handle as many as 50 "sticks" (their term for customers) a day, but it is not reflected in their income.
"Other than the hourly wage, we get 200 yen per customer. But that's nothing. Even with 50 sticks, we only get 10,000 yen," said Mari. "But we can receive a bonus of 2,000 yen, if the customer designates a certain girl. So that is what we want, and to us those customers who designate girls are like god."
Like Mari suggests, girls can expect a steady income at pink salons, so for many girls, pink salons are the "gateway" to the sex industry. They later climb up the ladder to work at "heru," and then soaplands.
SM clubs don't interact with other service
SM clubs have their own unique position in the industry and do not interact with other places. Girls do not actually perform any direct sexual services, so their salary is only a bit better than what girls at pink salons get.
Kyoko, 28, was an aesthetician before she became "the queen" at the SM club where she currently works. The club charges 15,000 yen for 90 minutes, and she gets 60%, which is 9,000 yen.
"I wanted cash, but I couldn't think of myself as a girl who was capable of handling any direct sexual services, so I settled with this job," she said, dressed in black. "To do this job, one needs to think a lot, and it exhausted me at first. For example, there was a customer who gets excited by being slapped with sashimi. I had to talk with him a bit to find out his interests, and as soon as I found out, I went out and bought sashimi at a supermarket for the next time round. This is like an ultimate place for many men to make their fantasy come true."
"The queen" has to sit on top of a customer's face, or play with customers in diapers. There are many options that are available for various services, and the girls get half of the optional service fees. In addition to the ordinary optional fee, there is also the "special option" fee.
"There are several customers who wish to be my personal slaves. At the moment I have two. One is a doctor, and all I have to do is tie him up in a park half-naked and leave him alone. He gets satisfaction from it. I have received as much as 300,000 yen in a month," said Kyoko.
"I have no intention to change my job. I feel like this is my ultimate job, so as long as I can be 'the queen,' I will continue," answered Kyoko when asked if she would move to another place in the sex business.
With the four interviews I conducted, I can see the changes in the industry since I left. The police are cracking down on sex businesses operating out of establishments, so a lot of them are making the transition to businesses with no location.
The competition in the "deli-heru" is becoming so fierce that some agencies are paying higher guarantees to attract better-looking girls. Soaplands, once known as the king of the business, are now falling down.
Despite the changes in the industry, some aspects have remained the same since the old days. All the girls came into the business for the money. But at the same time, the girls have found something else other than cash. Obviously, some are confused and maybe depressed about their lives, but I like to think that they are trying to make better lives for themselves. (Translated by Toshiya Fujii)
July 25, 2005
Posted 09 October 2005 - 02:19 AM
Edited by Georgie-Porgie, 09 October 2005 - 02:20 AM.
Posted 22 July 2006 - 11:23 AM
Booming host club industry another indicator of economic recovery
22 July 2006. Mainichi News
"Two years ago, the 'Super TV' channel did a special on us, and after than, we became the focus of attention," says Yu Ayukawa, who was once rated the top club host in his profession. "That led to manga, dramas and documentaries featuring hosts. Good publicity for us, of course."
Ayukawa tells Spa! (7/18) he estimates there are some 200 host clubs -- offering the companionship of pretty boys for ladies with money -- operating in Shinjuku's Kabukicho district alone, employing as many as 3,000 males.
This has attracted increasing numbers of women seeking to be pampered by attentive young hunks, expanding the customer base for such clubs from what was formerly bar madames and wealthy divorcees to female office workers and even college students.
Economist Takashi Kadokura, an analyst for Dai-ichi Mutual Insurance and recognized authority on Japan's underground economy, estimates this market raked in an estimated club 860 billion yen in 2005, and -- as yet another indicator that Japan's economy is finally recovering from its prolonged recession -- projects revenues to break through the 1 trillion yen barrier this year.
An industry of that size simply cannot be ignored.
Spa! introduces 26-year-old "Akio-kun," a "bucho" (division manager) at a Shinjuku host club named "Romance". Akio came to Tokyo and began working as a host three years ago. In a really bad month, he earns 4 million yen; in an exceptionally good one, over four times that amount.
"When I first started out, I lived in the club's dormitory and borrowed to the hilt to buy clothes and so on," Akio relates. "At one time I was in hock for 4 million yen. But that was really a startup investment, because I was determined to promote myself and make good at the job."
Although Akio's various expenditures are high (80,000 yen a month for taxi fares, 100,000 yen a month for hair treatments and 500,000 yen for out-of-pocket miscellany), rather remarkably, he manages to save 70 percent of his income.
Spa! runs a photo of Akio at home in his cozy bachelor pad (his monthly rent, 280,000 yen) with the fruits of his labors spread about: famous designer goods with a market value of 10 million yen; watches worth 2.5 million yen; a set of golf clubs worth 400,000 yen; two guitars worth 300,000 yen; books and DVDs worth 1 million yen ("I don't have time to rent so I just buy them outright.")
The blog Akio set up for his many female fans gets as many as 20,000 hits a day.
Interestingly, Spa! notes, the clubs themselves are not that profitable. After paying out rents, salaries advertising and other expenses, a host club with 70 million yen in monthly revenues, Spa reports, only realizes a gross profit of 7.9 million yen. The biggest bite comes from personnel costs, in the form of commissions to top employees. While a newly-hired host may take home as little as 150,000 yen a month -- subsistence wages in Japan -- and a mid-level host earn perhaps 400,000 to 500,000 yen, or about the same as a regular office worker -- it costs the shop big bucks to keep a top star on the payroll: as much as 10 million yen a month.
Many of these high-income earners, incidentally, parlay their earnings into clubs of their own, further expanding the host club business.
"Behind the growth of the market for host businesses is increasing patronage by female sex industry workers and hostesses with high incomes," explains the aforementioned analyst Kadokura. "These women, on the average, have 10 percent or more disposable income than do ordinary white-collar salarymen. So another way to look at it is that, the money flowing into the host clubs originates from what ordinary salarymen pay out to the bar hostesses, massage parlor workers and so on, who then wind up patronizing those host clubs when they're off duty."
Despite the huge amounts of money getting circulated, Japan's domestic economy receives few benefits.
"The hosts working in Kabukicho might recycle some of the money back into the district's bars and sex shops," Kadokura points out. "But that money just keeps circulating in the same confined area. Even when large amounts do flow outside, a lot of it goes to investment in overseas funds or imported brand goods, such as clothing or accessories. Which means one way or the other, the money leaves Japan." (By Masuo Kamiyama, People's Pick contributor)
Posted 23 July 2006 - 08:13 AM
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