Prostitution in Japan
Prostitution in Japan has existed throughout the country's history. While the Prostitution Prevention Law of 1956 states that "No person may either do prostitution or become the customer of it", loopholes, liberal interpretations and a loose enforcement of the law have allowed the Japanese sex industry to prosper and earn an estimated 2.3 trillion yen ($24 billion) per year.
Sex trade and sex services may be referred to as "fūzoku" (風俗), which also means "manners", "customs" or "public morals".
Since Japanese law defines prostitution as "intercourse with an unspecified person in exchange for payment", most fūzoku services offer specifically non-coital services, such as conversation, dancing or bathing, sometimes accompanied by sexual acts that legally are not defined as "intercourse", in order to remain legal.
This practice later continued among visitors from "the Western regions", mainly European traders who often came with their South Asian lascar crew (in addition to African crew members, in some cases). This began with the arrival of Portuguese ships to Japan in the 1540s, when the local Japanese people assumed that the Portuguese were from Tenjiku (天竺, "Heavenly Abode"), the ancient Chinese name, thus later Japanese name, for the Indian subcontinent, and thus that Christianity was a new "Indian faith". These mistaken assumptions were due to the Indian state of Goa being a central base for the Portuguese East India Company and due to a significant portion of the crew on Portuguese ships being Indian Christians.
More than hundreds of Japanese, especially women, were sold as slaves. Portuguese visitors and their South Asian and African crew members (or slaves) often engaged in slavery in Japan. They bought or captured young Japanese women and girls, who were either used as sexual slaves on their ships or taken to Macau and other Portuguese colonies in Southeast Asia, the Americas, and India, where there was a community of Japanese slaves and traders in Goa by the early 17th century. Anti-Portuguese propaganda and exaggerations were actively promoted by the Japanese, particularly with regards to the Portuguese purchases of Japanese women for sexual purposes.
In 1505 syphilis started to appear in Japan, likely because of Japanese prostitutes having sex with Chinese sailors. In Sakai and Hakata ports Japanese brothels had already been patronized by Chinese visitors far before Europeans came to Japan. When the Europeans (Nanbanjin) came to Japan, they too patronized Japanese prostitutes. Traders of the various European "East India Companies", including those of the Dutch and British, engaged the services of prostitutes while visiting or staying in Japan.
In 1617, the Tokugawa Shogunate issued an order restricting prostitution to certain areas on the outskirts of cities, known as yūkaku (遊廓、遊郭, pleasure quarter). The three most famous were Yoshiwara in Edo (present-day Tokyo), Shinmachi in Osaka, and Shimabara in Kyoto.
Prostitutes and courtesans were licensed as yūjo (遊女), "women of pleasure", and ranked according to an elaborate hierarchy, with tayū and later oiran at the apex. The districts were walled and guarded for taxation and access control. The prostitutes were rarely allowed out of the walls, except to visit dying relatives and, once a year, for hanami (viewing cherry blossoms).
Japanese women engaged in sexual relations with foreign men like Chinese and Europeans at Hirado. In 1609 a post was set up there by the Dutch East India Company. Girls who were unmarried could be rented for a few months or weeks from her parents by stranded foreign sailors stuck there during typhoons. She would then retire from prostitution and then marry after getting a trousseau from the money she earned from sex work over several summers. Some Japanese women married the foreign traders or became their concubines for long term relationships. There were many choices in how to engage in relations between Japanese females and foreign men. leading to some strange situations. Two Japanese women bore daughters at the same time to Dutch merchant Cornelis van Nijenroode who in 1623 was made the Dutch trading posts' chief factor. Zheng Chenggong (Coxinga) was born to a Japanese woman and the Chinese Hokkien trader Zheng Zhilong. Tokugawa Ieyasu had hired William Adams, an Englishman who had in Hirado a Japanese concubine and also another Japanese woman as a wife, a daughter of a headman of a post-station in Honshu.
Chinese men visiting Edo period Tokugawa shogunate Japan patronized Japanese sex workers in brothels who were designated for them. Japanese women designated for Chinese male customers were known as Kara-yuki while Japanese women designated for Dutch men at Dejima were known as Oranda-yuki while Japanese women servicing Japanese men were called Nihon-yuki. Karayuki-san was then used for all Japanese women serving foreigners in sexual capacities during the Meiji period. The Japanese girls were offered to Japanese and Chinese customers at a low fee but the price of Japanese girls for Dutch customers was expensive and higher. Dutch traders were confined to the designated post at Dejima where Oranda-yuki prostitutes were sent. Initially Chinese men were much less restricted than the Dutch were at Dejimi, Chinese men could live all over Nagasaki and besides having sex with the kara-yuki Japanese prostitutes, the Chinese men could have sex with ordinary Japanese women since 1635 unlike Dutch men who were limited to prostitutes. Later the rules that applied to Dutch were applied to Chinese and Chinese were put in Jūzenji-mura into Tōjun-yashiki, a Chinese settlement in 1688 so they would have sex with the Kara-yuki Japanese prostitutes sent to them. Chinese men developed long term romances with the Japanese girls like the Chinese Suzhou (Su-chou) merchant Chen Renxie (Ch’ên Jên-hsieh) 陳仁謝 with the Japanese Azuyama girl Renzan 連山 who both committed suicide in a lover's pact in 1789, and the Chinese He Minde (Ho Min-tê) 何旻德 who pledged eternal love in Yoriai-machi with the Chikugoya Japanese girl Towa 登倭. She killed herself to join him in death when he was executed for forgery in 1690. The Chinese men were generous with their expensive presents to the Japanese girls and were praised by them for it. The Japanese girls violated Japan's laws which only permitted each to spend one night in the Chinese settlement by retracing their steps after reporting to the guards when they left the gate open in the morning. The Japanese issued laws and regulations considering the mixed children born to Japanese women from Maruyama and the foreigner Dutch and Chinese men in the Shōtoku era (1711-1716). The mixed children had to stay in Japan and could not be taken back to China or the Dutch country but their fathers could fund the children's education. The boy Kimpachi 金八 was born to the Iwataya Japanese girl Yakumo 八 and the Nanking Chinese captain Huang Zheqing 黃哲卿 (Huang Chê-ch’ing). He requested a permit from the Chief Administrator's Office of Nagasaki to trade goods to create a fund his son could live on for all his life, after coming back to Nagasaki at age 71 in 1723. A Hiketaya Japanese girl in Sodesaki 袖笑 gave birth to a son fathered by the Chinese Jiang Yunge 江芸閣 (Chiang Yün-ko) (Xinyi, Hsin-i 辛夷), a poet, painter and sea captain. Yanagawa Seigan and Rai Sanyu were his friends. Chinese dishes, delicacies, sweets and candies were introduced to Japan by Chinese men teaching their Japanese prostitute lover girls how to make them. In the Genroku era (1688-1704) a Chinese instructed the Japanese prostitute Ume how to make plum blossom shaped sugar and rice flour soft sweet called kōsakō. Her name also meant plum blossom. The songs were sung in the Tōsō-on The Kagetsu Entertainment (Kagetsu yokyō) booklet contained information about songs the Chinese men taught to their Japanese prostitute lovers showing that they were sang in Tōsō-on with instruments like hu-kung (two-stringed violin), ch’i-hsien-ch’in (seven-stringed dulcimer) and yüeh-ch’in (lute). The Japanese prostitutes of Maruyama who served the Chinese men in Nagasaki were taught dance, songs and music of Chinese origin. The gekkin (yüeh-ch’in) were used to play these Kyūrenhwan songs. The Kankan-odori dance accompanied one of these songs which spread in Edo and Kyōto as it gained fame. Exhibitions of the original Chinese style dance were performed in Edo by arranging for the sending of Nagasaki officials managing Chinese affairs and geisha to be sent there by Takahashi Sakuzaemon (1785-1829) who was the court astronomer of the Shogunate. He became famous due to the Siebold Incident. Later on the prostitutes were sent to service the Dutch at Dejima after they serviced Chinese at Maruyama being paid for by the Commissioners for Victualing. The Japanese prostitutes were provided by the Japanese government to Deshima where the Dutch were confined.
Prewar modern era
The opening of Japan and the subsequent flood of Western influences into Japan brought about a series of changes in the Meiji period. Japanese novelists, notably Higuchi Ichiyō, started to draw attention to the confinement and squalid existence of the lower-class prostitutes in the red-light districts. In 1872, the María Luz Incident led Government of Meiji Japan to make a new legislation, emancipating burakumin outcasts, prostitutes and other forms of bonded labor in Japan. The emancipating law for prostitution was named Geishōgi kaihō rei (芸娼妓解放令). In 1900, the Japanese Government promulgated Ordinance No. 44, Shōgi torishimari kisoku (娼妓取締規則), restricting the labor conditions of prostitution. The restriction neither reduced the total number of prostitution nor granted more liberty to women. Instead, prostitution thrived under the Meiji government. The name: "kingdom of whoring" (baishun o¯koku) was to describe Japan during the Meiji Period. Due to the development of the modern transportation system, the demand and the supply of prostitution increased, and the population of the female population drastically increased. The government, therefore, with the legislation, could legally collect taxation from prostitution. Rather than improving human rights or liberty, the legislation intended to facilitate government revenue. The prostitution industry contributed a large part of government revenue from the late Tokugawa period to the Meiji period.
In 1908, the Ministry of Home Affairs' Ordinance No. 16 penalized unregulated prostitution.
Karayuki-san was the name given to Japanese girls and women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who were trafficked from poverty stricken agricultural prefectures in Japan to destinations in East Asia, Southeast Asia, Siberia (Russian Far East), Manchuria, and India to serve as prostitutes and sexually serviced men from a variety of races, including Chinese, Europeans, native Southeast Asians, and others.
Immediately after World War II, the Recreation and Amusement Association was formed by Naruhiko Higashikuni's government to organize brothels to serve the Allied armed forces occupying Japan. On 19 August 1945, the Home Ministry ordered local government offices to establish a prostitution service for Allied soldiers to preserve the "purity" of the Japanese race. This prostitution system was similar to the comfort system, because the Japanese police force was responsible for mobilizing the women to serve in these stations similarly to the way that Japanese Military during the Pacific War mobilized women. The police forces mobilized both licensed and unlicensed prostitutes to serve in these camps. The official declaration stated that "Through the sacrifice of thousands of 'Okichis' of the Shōwa era, we shall construct a dike to hold back the mad frenzy of the occupation troops and cultivate and preserve the purity of our race long into the future." Such clubs were soon established by cabinet councilor Yoshio Kodama and Ryoichi Sasakawa.
SCAP abolished the licensed prostitution system (including the RAA) in 1946, which led to the so-called akasen (赤線, red line) system, under which licensed nightlife establishments offered sexual services under the guise of being an ordinary club or cafe. Local police authorities traditionally regulated the location of such establishments by drawing red lines on a map. In other areas, so-called "blue line" establishments offered sexual services under the guise of being restaurants, bars or other less strictly-regulated establishments. In Tokyo, the best-known "red line" districts were Yoshiwara and Shinjuku 2-chome, while the best-known "blue line" district was Kabuki-cho.
In 1947, Imperial Ordinance No. 9 punished persons for enticing women to act as prostitutes, but prostitution itself remained legal. Several bills were introduced in the Diet to add further legal penalties for soliciting prostitutes but were not passed due to disputes over the appropriate extent of punishment.
On 24 May 1956, the Diet of Japan passed the Anti-Prostitution Law, which came into force in April 1958. The Anti-Prostitution Law criminalized the act of committing sexual intercourse in exchange for actual or promised compensation. This eliminated the "red line" and "blue line" systems and allowed a number of paid sexual services to continue under "sexual entertainment" regulations, e.g., "soaplands" and "fashion health" parlors.
In 2013, Toru Hashimoto, co-leads the Japan Restoration Party proposed "There are places where people can legally release their sexual energy in Japan", and "Unless they make use of these facilities, it will be difficult to control the sexual energies of the wild Marines." The U.S. Department of State later criticized Hashimoto's remarks.
Buddhist teachings regarding sex are quite reserved: "It is true to say that Buddhism, in keeping with the principle of the Middle Way, would advocate neither extreme puritanism nor extreme permissiveness." Buddhism has rules and protocols for those that are to live the Buddhist principles in the monasteries and the secular part of the [Shanga]. For the Buddhist monks or nuns, chastity is mandatory since they live on the premise of getting rid of any feelings of attachment. Their way of living is regulated by very strict rules concerning behavior and this includes sex.
As for the secular Buddhists, there are no specific rules to be followed about sex; although any kind of abuse is regarded as "misconduct".
Article 3 of the Prostitution Prevention Law (売春防止法, Baishun Bōshi Hō) of 1956 states that "No person may either do prostitution or become the customer of it", but no judicial penalty is defined for this act. Instead, the following are prohibited on pain of penalty: soliciting for purposes of prostitution, procuring a person for prostitution, coercing a person into prostitution, receiving compensation from the prostitution of others, inducing a person to be a prostitute by paying an "advance", concluding a contract for making a person a prostitute, furnishing a place for prostitution, engaging in the business of making a person a prostitute, and the furnishing of funds for prostitution.
The definition of prostitution is strictly limited to coitus with an "unspecified person". This means sale of numerous acts such as oral sex, anal sex, mammary intercourse and other non-coital sex acts are legal. Paid sex between "specified persons" (acquaintances) is not prohibited. Soaplands exploit this by providing a massage, during which the prostitute and client become "acquainted", as a preliminary to sexual services.
The Businesses Affecting Public Morals Regulation Law of 1948 (風俗営業取締法, Fūzoku Eigyō Torishimari Hō), also known as the "Law to Regulate Adult Entertainment Businesses", amended in 1985, 1999 and 2005, regulates these businesses.
The sex industry in Japan uses a variety of names. Soaplands are bath houses where customers are soaped up and serviced by staff. Fashion health shops and pink salons are notionally massage or esthetic treatment parlors; image clubs are themed versions of the same. Call girls operate via delivery health services. Freelancers can get in contact with potential customers via deai sites (Internet dating sites).
Kabukicho, an entertainment and red-light district in Shinjuku, Tokyo, measures only 0.34 km2, and has approximately 3,500 sex parlors, strip theaters, peep shows, "soaplands", 'lovers' banks, porno shops, sex telephone clubs, karaoke bars and clubs, etc.
It was reported in 2003 that as many as 150,000 non-Japanese women were then involved in prostitution in Japan. According to National Police Agency records, out of 50 non-Japanese people arrested for prostitution offences (売春防止法違反) in 2013, 31 (62%) were mainland Chinese, 13 (26%) were Koreans and 4 (8%) were Thai. According to National Police Agency records, out of 224 non-Japanese people arrested for prostitution offences (風営適正化法) in 2018, 160 (71%) were mainland Chinese, 19 (8%) were Thai.
Many businesses related to prostitution voluntarily (i.e. despite there being no regulation requiring it) ban entry to foreigners, including tourists, people who cannot speak Japanese, and even people who do not have Asian traits. However in recent years, several businesses have been set up to specifically cater to the foreigner market.
In Tokyo, prostitution dates back several hundred years. In the early 17th century, the first attempts were made to regulate prostitution in the Yoshiwara district of Edo (present-day Tokyo). A law was passed that required prostitutes to register and work in secured facilities, its main purpose being for tax collection.
Because of Tokyo's position as a top five global business and trade city, prostitution continues to thrive in Tokyo.
- Baishun (売春), literally "selling spring" or "selling youth", refers to the act of selling sex. Originally a euphemism, it has become a legal term used in, for instance, the title of the 1956 Anti-Prostitution Law (Baishun-bōshi-hō, 売春防止法); the modern meaning of the word is quite specific and it is usually only used for actual (i.e., illegal) prostitution. The word for "prostitute" in Japanese is baishunfu (売春婦).
- Kaishun or baishun (買春) refers to the act of buying sex. The title of the law (Jidō-kaishun-shobatsu-hō, 児童買春処罰法) was used in 1999. The reading kaishun is yutō-yomi, and it is used because the alternative reading baishun would be easily confused with the baishun above.
- Collectively, both baishun and kai/baishun above form baibaishun (売買春 or 買売春), or "prostitution".
- Mizu shōbai (水商売), the "water trade", is a wider term covering the entire entertainment industry. An older term originating in the pleasure quarters of the previous centuries, the mizu-shōbai referred to not only yujo, but also their higher-class cousins the oiran, kabuki actors, and geisha; while the former two were legitimate in selling sex, the latter two did not do so officially, though some either chose to sell sex for money, or, in the case of the famous geisha Teruha, may have been coerced or even forced into it. In the present day, the "mizu-shōbai" mostly refers to kabuki actors and geisha, with no expectations of prostitution.
- Fūzoku (風俗), also "manners", "customs" or "public morals", is commonly used to refer specifically to the sex industry, although in legal use this covers, e.g., dance halls and gambling, and the more specific term seifūzoku (性風俗), is used instead. The term originates from a law regulating business affecting public morals.
Japan is a destination, source, and transit country for men, women and children subjected to sex trafficking. Men, women, and children from Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Russia, East Europe, South America, and Africa travel to Japan for employment or fraudulent marriage and are subjected to sex trafficking. Traffickers use fraudulent marriages between foreign women and Japanese men to facilitate the entry of women into Japan for forced prostitution in bars, clubs, brothels, and massage parlors. Traffickers keep victims in forced prostitution using debt bondage, threats of violence or deportation, blackmail, passport retention, and other psychologically coercive methods. Brothel operators sometimes arbitrarily impose "fines" on victims for alleged misbehavior as a tactic to extend their indebtedness. Trafficking victims reportedly transit Japan before being exploited in onward destinations, including East Asia and North America.
Japanese citizens—particularly runaway teenage girls—are also subjected to sex trafficking. Enjo kosai, also known as "compensated dating", and variants of the "JK" business continue to facilitate the sex trafficking of Japanese children. Highly organized prostitution networks target vulnerable Japanese women and girls—often living in poverty or with cognitive disabilities—in public spaces such as subways, popular youth hangouts, schools, and online, and subject them to sex trafficking. Private Japanese immigration brokers help Japanese-Filipino children and their Filipina mothers move to Japan and acquire citizenship for a significant fee, which the mothers often incur large debts to pay; upon arrival, some of these women and their children are subjected to sex trafficking to pay off the debts.
The United States Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons ranks Japan as a 'Tier 1' country.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Prostitution in Japan.|
- Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific Facts and Statistics Trafficking and Prostitution in Asia and the Pacific, See under Japan category. Accessed online 27 September 2007.
- Sex Industry category, Japan Subculture Research Center—a news blog on "the hidden side of Japan".
- Fact-book on global sexual exploitation
- Global March Statistics