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Japan’s sex industry to go both ways after tax hike

Ore no Tabi September
Ore no Tabi September

After Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced last Tuesday that Japan would raise its consumption tax beginning in April 2014, television programs began speculating on how the hike — from five to eight percent — will impact household spending.

Likewise, evening tabloid Tokyo Sports (Oct. 5) speaks with Akira Ikoma, the editor of a guide to men’s entertainment called Ore no Tabi (My Journey), to see what lies ahead for the fuzoku (or commercial sex) trade.

Ikoma says that the bi-polarization taking place in the industry’s pricing structure (as previously reported in July) will accelerate.

“With material prices going up, shops will have no choice but to raise entry fees,” says Ikoma. “Crude oil prices are higher, and soaplands (bathhouses in) Yoshiwara are already raising prices.”

Of course, it is only natural that this will put a damper on foot traffic.

“A benefit of ‘Abenomics‘” — Abe’s pledge to raise government spending in an effort to boost prices — “is that it brought the wealthy into high-end soaplands,” says the editor. “So (with the tax rise) they will be fine. The mid-level shops are the ones facing problems. When prices rise, they’ll lose customers.”

Yet, says Ikoma, the working girls will still want to work. “So they’ll migrate down the pecking order to the bargain shops,” he argues. Those shops will see a boost in quality as far as the working talent, which will result in a jump in customer numbers.

In 1997, the consumption tax rate was raised from three to five percent. Tokyo Sports says that a number of sex shops were busted for tax evasion after they attempted to illegally write off expenses.

For 2014, Ikoma predicts that girls in the deri heru (“delivery health”) trade, or out-call sex industry, will be negatively affected.

“It used to be where an office lady would supplement her income with deri heru work at night,” the editor says. “After the tax hike, it will be working gals doubling up on the number of shops in which they are employed. The girls will target the most lucrative time slots in order to sock away as much as possible in savings.”

Hard times await, concludes Tokyo Sports.

Source: “Shohizai 8% de fuzoku gyokai ga nikyokuka he,” Tokyo Sports (Oct. 5)