Last month’s incident in the Minami district of Osaka in which comedian Tamotsu Kuroda of the group Messenger was arrested for assaulting a bar manager following a dispute over a 250,000-yen bill highlights the increasingly common practice of bottakuri, or to rip off, that is ongoing in Japan’s entertainment areas, reports Spa! (Jan. 26)
“Those rip-off joints in Osaka scrutinize their targets beforehand,” says the owner of a near where Kuroda’s altercation took place. “There’s a possibility that the bar was assuming Kuroda could afford a certain level of tab just because he is a popular comedian. There have been an increasing number of bottakuri cases here in the Minami area.”
There are about 100 “girl’s bars” in Minami. Their sales reps solicit pedestrians with coupons that can be used inside. Cases involving fraud, however, are gaining attention. The local chamber of commerce has sent out a warning and the Osaka prefectural police has said it will take necessary measures, including legal penalties for violations, where applicable.
“With the recession, there are so many vacancies in buildings,” explains one owner, who used to operate 4 to 5 girl’s bars in Minami and claims to have earned about 10 million yen per location via fraud. “You can simply move in since most of the infrastructure is still intact from the previous owner. With no guarantee money required, you can rent a place for about 150,000 yen a month. There are many former hosts and those who used to work in that line of business who are starting up operations.”
With a revised law prohibiting solicitation of customers on the streets and imposing a closing curfew of 1 a.m. on host clubs, these new owners are recruiting gals to open girl’s bars and start bottakuri businesses.
In contrast to expensive hostess clubs, initial per client outlays are around 5,000 yen. The rip off, however, doesn’t come via, say, a 10,000-yen beer. “What they will do is a petit rip-off, or puchi-botta,” says the same owner. “Unlike kyabakura, customers do order drinks, so it’s easier to manipulate the pricing. Girls get 30 percent of what a customer pays on a commission basis. So even quiet girls become aggressive in engaging in bottakuri because they think it’s acceptable to rip a guy off for 10,000 or 20,000 yen.”
The main way to execute a bottakuri is via the size of the beverage container, where different sized glasses have different prices, maybe between 500 and 3,000 yen. Another girl’s bar operator tells Spa!, “Not knowing these price levels, drunk customers let the girls order the drinks, assuming that he will get changed for around 10,000 yen only to discover a final bill of 40,000 yen.”
Maid cafes, too, are getting in on the act. A 28-year-old gentleman was wooed by this opening line uttered by a female Minami street solicitor: “You are very handsome, please come to our place.” Upon entry, he was surrounded by three ladies. “They gave me a shoulder massage and then danced when the music went on,” he relates. “Even though they asked permission beforehand, I became bit suspicious as they were overly accommodating. Then the bill came to a whopping 15,000 yen for 30 minutes. The conversation with the maids was priced by the minute and both the massage and dancing were options. In the end, I regret that I didn’t check the pricing more carefully.”
Tokyo’s Kabukicho entertainment district is also seeing similar bottakuri scenes unfold, “but last February’s death of a customer, who had been slipped a mickey, has reduced substantial activities and things have shifted to puchi-botta,” says a karaoke pub owner.
The types of rip offs are varied and include overly priced pub snacks, the application of incremental fees at each step of a sexual service that culminates in intercourse and an additional charge for providing said intercourse in the first place — something of a forced gratuity.
“Small places cost you 70,000 to 80,000 yen to rent,” says an unnamed owner. “With that kind of small investment, you can start up a bottakuri and leave after six months. If you steal a client’s credit card, you will have probably have to deal with a specialized section of the police that deals with organized crimes. However, just taking some cash from the wallets of customers may not result in too many complaints if the bar operates only for a short period of time. In the long run, you can make a profit.”
A police source says, “To raid a bottakuri place, the key thing is the collection of enough complaints. Most people, however, don’t file claims, thus it is hard for us to make a bust.” (K.N.)
Source: “Fukkatsu ‘bottakuri baa’ ga oh-abare,” Spa! (Jan. 26, pages )