Press "Enter" to skip to content

Japan’s females forced to work off debts on hands and knees

Nikkan Gendai Feb. 10
Nikkan Gendai Feb. 10

In September 2008, a 23-year-old employee of a cabaret club (kyabakura) approached real estate operator Yu Shimojo, 41, for a loan, saying she needed money to care for her sick parents. Shimojo said he would lend her 850,000 yen on the condition that she work it off in a Yoshiwara soapland.

With interest added, reports Nikkan Gendai (Feb. 10), the woman agreed to pay back Shimojo 1,030,000 yen. The shop where she toiled was one of the more reasonable places in Yoshiwara, charging customers a comparatively cheap 20,000 yen for 70 minutes of sudsy recreation.

The woman took up residence in the bathhouse’s dormitory, from which she was not permitted to leave outside of her working hours.

The timing of her bathhouse employment was particularly inauspicious in that she began servicing the debt just when the “Lehman Shock” precipitated a worldwide recession. Bathhouse clientele tapered off drastically, while the remaining balance of her loan more than tripled.

Realizing she faced an eternity of white slavery, the woman fled the shop and took her tale of woe to the police, who found that Shimojo had lined up similar jobs for several other women.

Shimojo and erotic bathhouse manager Minoru Nagashima, 64, were subsequently arrested on suspicion of violating the Anti-Prostitution Law.

“The shop’s entire monthly turnover only came to around 3 million yen,” says a source in the sex industry. “The girls’ earnings ran from 10,000 to 15,000 per day, and at that rate there was no way they could pay off their debt.

“Before, when times were good, a popular girl could have easily worked off a debt of 3 million in a year’s time, but not these days,” the source adds. “Some soapland masseuses at Yoshiwara who have fallen behind on their payments even moonlight as call girls. The typical pattern is for them work at the soaplands until midnight, then go to date clubs at Uguisudani.

“The soaplands know about the moonlighting but look the other way. They aren’t able to pay the girls a decent wage, after all.”

It seems increasing numbers of hard-up young women in their 20s are turning to soaplands for their livelihood. But a glut of females working in the sex industry can also create problems for society, Nikkan Gendai frets. (K.S.)

Source: “Sooputen kara nigedasu shakkin jigoku no onnatachi,” Nikkan Gendai (Feb. 10, page 7)