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Dateline Tokyo: First ‘alibi-ya’ busted

Nikkan Gendai Sep. 8
Nikkan Gendai Sep. 8

“Alibi-ya” is a uniquely Japanese service that skirts the boundaries of legality. Its typical function is to assist women in concealing their participation in the world’s oldest profession by providing them, for a set fee, with a respectable identity. The alternate identity is mainly used to conceal knowledge of the women’s employment from their families. The alibi-ya, upon request, will provide women with spurious tax payment certificates and other documentation needed to lease apartments or secure loans.

In recent years the service has also been alleged to create false identities for foreigners lacking legal status in Japan.

Nikkan Gendai (Sep. 8) reports the first known incident of an alibi-ya being busted. According to the police, Tatsuhiro Sawada, the 64-year-old president of a construction company, and Shiori Suzuki, a 27-year-old woman with no visible means of support were arrested in Sapporo, Hokkaido on charges of fraud. Specifically, between January and April of 2010, Suzuki transferred a total of 56 million yen to Sawada’s account as settlement for the purchase of a local building.

“The two used a Tokyo-based alibi service,” says a source in the police. “They supplied Suzuki with falsified documents from a government office certifying her income was 8 million yen per year. With these, she was able to take out a loan.”

On September 6, the police undertook a search of the alibi-ya’s office in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward, seeking evidence of further foul play — the Mainichi Shimbun (Sep. 8) reports that authorities arrested two employees at the firm Aribai Dottukomu — and word has since spread that this case marks the first time an alibi-ya has been busted.

“A lot of girls who’ve graduated from university but couldn’t find any employment except in the sex industry will go to an alibi-ya and ask them to falsify a certificate of employment, which they can send to their parents back in the countryside,” says “pink” journalist Yukio Murakami. “They’ll also fix the girls up with phony business cards. Some use IT companies with catchy foreign-sounding names written in katakana, or the cards might be from subsidiaries that are part of major conglomerates.”

Even if parents telephone their daughter’s office, the alibi-ya will be ready to keep up the deception, as women, trained in proper business manners, are employed to answer the phone in graciously polite Japanese and take messages.

“Typically, as soon as the call is completed, the alibi-ya office will telephone to the woman’s mobile and tell her to call home. Even if she phones from her mobile, there’s a way to fix it so the caller ID will indicate she’s phoning from a land line at her ‘office,'” Murakami adds.

With so many college grads unable to land a job these days, Nikkan Gendai remarks that alibi-ya services may be something of a necessary evil.

Source: “‘Aribai-ya’ to fuzokujo no kittemo kirenai kankei,” Nikkan Gendai (Sep. 8, page 4)