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Stimulus lacking: Japan’s sex workers left behind by ‘Abenomics’

Spa! Nov. 25
Spa! Nov. 25

On Monday, the government of Japan reported that the gross domestic product for the nation shrank by an annualized 1.6 percent in the July-September quarter.

With Japan now in recession, the plans by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to boost the consumption tax next year will likely be put on hold.

For women toiling in Japan’s fuzoku trade, or commercial sex industry, the results are hardly surprising: Since Abe entered office in late 2012, positive outcomes of “Abenomics” — a collection of economic initiatives conceived to end years of deflation — have been nonexistent.

To offer an insight into these hard times, weekly tabloid Spa! (Nov. 25) speaks with Miho Sakaguchi, a portly 26-year-old employee at a sex salon featuring overweight women in Nishi Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture.

“Since I have no money, I read used books,” says Sakaguchi, who provided the magazine with a pseudonym. “Each month, it is a battle just to keep going. So I gather up all the books I’ve finished and sell them back (to a used bookstore).”

After graduating from high school, Sakaguchi began working for a dry cleaning company, but it went bankrupt six years later. A subsequent stint at a medical firm ended after she suffered from bullying. With a descent into poverty looming, a billboard for a sex shop near her apartment caught her eye.

“The charge for 60 minutes is 10,000 yen,” Sakaguchi says. “I keep half that amount. Since this place is for real fanatics, I don’t see more than two customers over my eight-hour day.”

With an average monthly salary of 150,000 yen, her means of living are highly modest. The monthly rent in her 30-year-old apartment (measuring 23 square meters) runs 50,000 yen. Utilities require another 25,000 yen, and she spends 30,000 yen on food. She doesn’t own a television.

Sakaguchi admits that the work at the dry cleaning company was back-breaking and offered little in the way of remuneration it would be foolish to return given what can earn in 60 minutes in the fuzoku trade. “Plus, I like sex,” she says.

Though such an explanation may be humorous in some ways, Spa! views her predicament as no laughing matter. In addition to having no money left at the end of the month, Sakaguchi also faces a debt of one million yen and rent payments that are two months in arrears — the latter of which resulted after she took two weeks off work over the summer due to illness.

“I wonder if it’s the landlord every time the doorbell rings,” she says.

Sakaguchi has a boyfriend whom she met at the shop six months ago. For the benefit of their relationship, she wants to quit the industry.

“But if I quit this job now my boyfriend cannot serve as financial support,” she says. “With this kind of job, I don’t see how I could get married. Eventually, I’ll be cast aside.”

Source: “Nenshu 200 man-en ika ‘hinkon joshi’ no wo heya homon,” Spa! (Oct. 14-21, page 57)