During the 17th century Yoshiwara, in North-Eastern Tokyo, was one of the famous of red-light districts. Both female and male prostitutes walked the streets, offering all kind of services. Four hundred years later, Yoshiwara still remains a center of the sex trade; however customers’ needs are becoming less explicit. Scores of “soap lands” (or massage), such as “Female Emperor” offer men a scrub by a lingerie-clad woman, for around ¥10,000 yen ($94).
So how exactly Yoshiwara is has changed nowadays? We will discuss more on this in the next section
1- The Transformation of Yoshiwara:
Yoshiwara’s transformation reflects wider changes in Japan’s sex industry. It’s hard to provide a reliable data on this, but softer services seem to be gaining popularity at the expense of harder ones such as vaginal sex (which is illegal service but widely available) or oral sex (which is legal). Masahiro Yamada, a sociologist, stated that the sex trade in Japan has long been about not only intercourse, but also the yearning for intimacy, romance, and these are the services that are growing.
There are, for example, more kyabakura, places where men go to be served drinks and be flattered by women, and “image clubs”, where men could dress like doctor’s surgeries or sailors. Onakura shops allow men to masturbate, while female employees watch. The pornography industry is in rude health, too.
The shift to less sensual services started after the 2nd World War, when the prudish American occupiers urged the Japanese authorities to allow payment for vaginal sex in 1958. More recently, however, demographic and economic factors have accelerated the change. Some 28% of the population is over 65, the highest proportion in the world. Based on the Yano Research Institute in Tokyo, Katsuhito Matsushima said that the old stay healthy for longer, but are after “softer, less explicit services”.
2- Elderly, not abstinent:
A recent edition of Shukan Post, a weekly magazine, described how some elderly men visit “soap lands” just for a small talk with girls. One of the owners of a “delivery-health” business (or pimp) says that older people have replaced those in their 20s as his main customers. Rather than demanding intercourse service, he says, they simply want to spend time in the company of young women.
According to Akira Ikoma who is the editor of My Journey (a sex magazine) says that today his magazines are focused mainly at men from age 50s to 60s. The photos are well-present: no genitalia and not many breasts. An elderly man with a walking stick shuffling around an outlet of M’s Pop Life, a chain of adult stores, can find much aimed at him. One example is “silver porn”, starring the likes of Maori Tezuka; she retired last year, at 80, after a nine-year career.
At the same time, the sex industry is adjusting to cater to young Japanese who are also less interested in carnal pleasures. A recent survey found that 42% of unmarried men and 44% of unmarried women had never had sex by the age of 35 (over 50% of Japanese men and over 60% of Japanese women are married by the time they are 30-34). Many young people see sex as mendokusai (troublesome), or tiresome, say Mr. Yamada.
Nowadays, most of young people prefer masturbation instead, that’s why services that make masturbation more enjoyable are booming, such as websites that offer chats with naked girls or streaming adult DVDs in a private booth.
Some see all this as a sign of the decreasing confidence of Japanese men. There are many kind of services are available to help men feel more confidence, such as: Maid cafés, where women will use mouth to cool your food and feed you spoon by spoon, or Cuddle cafés, clients pay to lie next to a girl, pay extra to have the lady looking at you straight to the eyes.
Some other businesses provide to men a chance to walk or even lie with someone dressed like schoolgirl, which is legal as long as the sex workers involved are not actually of school age (18+).
Economics may be playing a part in the sex industry’s evolution, too. Sex nowadays is expensive whereas a visit to a maid café could cost you at lease ¥1,000 (around 10$) .But even it expensive does not mean no one wants to care about it.
A study by Yano Research Institute found that sex-related facilities and services grew by 2.1% in 2014, and sales in sex shops by just under 1%, despite Japan’s ageing and shrinking population.
Many companies still see fit to entertain clients in the equivalent of strip clubs, while pornographic magazines are sold in most convenience stores. Japanese men are just somehow losing their taste for penetrative sex but they are still very creative for alternative ways.
Pornhub, the world’s largest porn site, says Japan is its fourth-largest source of traffic, just right behind US, England and India. This means that Japanese still enjoy sex, it just their way is different to the rest of the world.