I had the fortune of a quick visit to Japan, where I met with a local college student who showed me around and catered to my lust for seeing various forms of sex work. The trip was meant to be a vacation, but I always want to find out about sex and gender wherever I go. Though I learnt a lot in the few days I was there, I know that I didn't get a full prospective of everything that I saw. I would love an opportunity to go back and learn more! (Pssst, wanna send me to Japan??)
Today I am going to write about sex work.
There are numerous form of sex work in Japan, and the select few that I learnt about had sub categories that went on and on. I'm sure to some they are going to come as a surprise or seem ridiculous, but remember, what is weird to you is normal to another.
A "Host" (or "Hostess" for females) is a sex worker that I came across in almost every busy urban area. The concept of a host is to literally "host" someone, aka spend time with them and make them feel special. In the American sex world this is sometimes referred to as a "boy/girlfriend experience" where the customer is paying for companionship rather than sex. As far as I understand, various forms of sex work, like hosting, are legal in Japan as long as there is no penetration, though many times this is overlooked. Hosting doesn't always involve sex, because the expectation is that this person is going to spend time with you, and if the host chooses so, will do sexual things with you, but not always. I experienced hosts while walking across a bridge that is a main walkway for people in the downtown shopping area where there are bars and clubs. The hosts and hostesses will stand in certain area and approach you, but only if they feel like you would be the right customer. Since I was obviously a foreigner, as well as dressed in jeans and a frumpy shirt, they ignored me. Oh well. By the way, most hosts do not work with same gendered folk.
There is a typical style for hosts. For men they have big rock star straightened hair that reminds me of shaggy emo kids, that is usually bleached or dyed light.
They also wear snazzy suits and nice shoes. Hostesses dress very similar, with VERY big hair (usually wigs) and lots of fancy jewelry.
Hosts often work for "Host Clubs" which are bars where a customer pays to hang out with the hosts and have conversations. These are also all over populated urban areas, with lots of advertisements for the clubs on billboards and posters, as seen above.
What really interested me was the relation between prostitutes and hosts. According to my local tour guide, many time hosts will do trade with other hosts or prostitutes (aka sex workers where sex is required in their work life). The reason behind this is because many times sex workers just need to feel emotionally pampered and have a hard time connecting to people who don't work in the industry. I was also told that hosts that end up trading with each other can get confusing as to what is real and what is performed emotions. But isn't that true of any profession where you fake sincerity, like customer service or retail?
If one were to trade with a sex worker, where would this occur? One option is a Love Hotel, which is a hotel set up specifically for sex. There are many reasons why someone would want to use a Love Hotel:
1. It is traditional to live with your family until you start your own. If you want private time, these offer perfect places to go.
2. If you want to trade with a sex worker.
3. If you want to have an affair. According to my tour guide, since some people marry young and many times through family pressure, having an affair is a pretty common occurrence in Love Hotels.
4. It's Christmas. It is a tradition to have sex at a Love Hotel on Christmas.
Love Hotels offer many different fun options, like different themed rooms....
...and options of toys and costumes for rent
So how can you tell if a building is a love hotel, or just a hotel? Love hotels will have their windows blackened....
Or look something a little like this...
Love hotels are known to cater only to male/female couples, though if located in the "gay districts" will cater otherwise.
Some may not consider this a form of sex work, but I certainly do. Maid cafes tend to be what the name implies, they are cafes where the servers are dressed in maid costumes and serve you in a polite and cheery manner.
I compare these cafes to Hooters, not because the girls are dressed in skimpy outfits, but because they work to create a certain experience for customers. The maids are overly enthusiastic, often doing cute girly things like playing with dolls or stuffed animals and asking customers to write them happy messages in their notebooks.
Here is our menu:
When I got served, the maid would get on her knees to take our order of tea and ice cream, and would give us compliments about how pretty and nice we were. The cafe was decorated with stuffed animals and hearts and anime pictures. Customers pay by the hour to hang out, and can pay extra for special accommodations, like having the girls karaoke, or having one of them be your personal bartender and hang out with you.
I honestly didn't get the chance to see any sex clubs, but they do exist! Again, like some host clubs, though penetration isn't legal, some do cater to it without detection. Here is a building that houses various forms of sex clubs, ranging from kinky, to transgendered, to I don't know what (Strawberry Time?).