Japan’s sex business is legal and at the same time illegal.
There are sporadic crackdowns throughout the year.
Working inside the industry for years could put you through such happenings on the spot. You get to know people who have experienced them firsthand.
Let me write about a case of mine.
I had just started to work in Japan’s sex business back then, probably for two or three months. I’d been confused with everything, but I gradually got used to everyday tasks. My bosses sometimes let me meet customers at the front desk.
The sex establishment I worked at back then fell into “hoteheru.” It was a hotel-related.
The desk was in a condominium. Customers press buttons of an intercom on the first floor. We checked who was there via camera beforehand, and unlocked the door. And then they came in.
After going through the front desk, customers traveled a bit to a rendezvous point. They met a woman there, and checked in a love hotel just one or two minutes’ walk from there.
Staff members knew who they were going to meet in advance.
It was a unique kind of system compared to others.
I was sitting on the reception on that day. We hadn’t met any customers for over an hour. I was concentrating on PC jobs.
Suddenly, the door opened. There were no intercom call or knocking at all.
Four men in dark suits walked in. A tall one at the front told me, “We’re police,” and showed me his identification.
I hadn’t seen it coming. I was just surprised and did nothing.
There was a co-worker there who had worked there for over a year. He was the one who took care of them.
The place where the shop manager and women were was at another condominium. We were connected with a chat service called Skype.
I sent a text to the manager that the police were there. He began to send me messages after messages. As I was answering them, one of the policemen asked me a question.
I forgot what he said. I just remember me telling him, “I don’t know.” And he told me, “Impossible. You must know!”
I really didn’t know. So I ignored him and kept on answering the messages. He asked me, “What are you doing?” I told him, “I’m doing a chat.”
The police visited there because the front desk was technically registered as a ready room. Operating of the reception required another notification, but it had not been handed in properly.
After a while, the guy who showed me his license started to talk on a mobile phone.
He said something like, “… Yes. I understand. But it’s a huge group, and …”
The sex establishment I belonged to was one of the biggest groups in Japan’s sex industry.
I’m not sure if it had some influence. After finishing his phone conversation, they told us, “That’s it for now. Thank you for cooperating,” and left.
One more story. I heard it from a boss.
He had used to work at an “imekura.”
It’s short for “image club,” which is an old-fashioned word and is rarely used today. It’s almost the same with herusu or cosplay establishments.
He had a late shift. One evening, he went to the workplace as usual. He found it surrounded by many cars and people in suits. It looked like something irregular was going on.
He decided to go back home and turned around, as a man talked to him, “What are you doing here?” He answered, “Nothing.” And then the man said, “You’re kidding. I know you work here. I was here yesterday as a customer, and I remember your face.” He was a policeman.
He told him that the club hadn’t completed proper procedures in legal manners. It did the same thing as legal ones, but it was illegal.
The policeman suggested, “We won’t charge you with anything. I guess you actually knew nothing. If you did, we will condone you. Instead, tell us where the manager is and how to reach him.”
He really didn’t know. He insisted so. The cop asked the same question many times. After a while, he gave up and told him, “Okay. You can go home now, ” and let him go.
Such crackdowns occur sporadically on a daily basis.
In my opinion, regardless of legal procedures, almost all of what sex clubs offer in Japan falls into gray zones.
The sex business has been around over the course of human history. It’s impossible to eliminate its root and branch. Putting it under control, even though in an ambiguous state, enables continual regulation and minor improvement. That’s the attitude of the police.
If they clamp down on each and every sex business, the whole industry will go underground. When one place becomes impossible to make money, people involved just move to another place. Or they just do the same thing secretively.
I don’t think that becomes reality. If it did, worsened security and fallen credibility of the police would be inevitable.
The law enforcement agencies have already suffered from shortage of manpower. They wouldn’t like to increase the amount of work.
I believe Japan’s sex industry is a system maintained by ambiguity.