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Okubo’s olfactory operation was nothing to sniff at

Nikkan Gendai May 16
Nikkan Gendai May 16
From its ongoing chronicle of sex industry business failures, Nikkan Gendai (May 16) introduces a shop in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward that opened in 1989 under the name Kagase-ya (literally meaning a shop where you’re allowed to sniff).

Its 40-year-old founder, “A-san,” wanted to diversify from his regular job in the apparel business. Hiring some thirtyish housewives, he came up with the idea of offering a unique new form of relaxation to salarymen.

“The scent of married women’s panties provides psychological healing,” A-san asserted. “These are hard times, and I think men will go for it.”

Circumstances proved him correct. On a busy day, as many as 60 men would flock to the shop, where they would lie supine on their backs and take in the heady aroma of females’ crotches hovering just above their noses.

Some customers would phone in with very specific requests, such as wanting the women to have worn their underthings for several days without laundering; some even requested that they be menstruating.

A 30-minute visit to the shop cost 10,000 yen. A hand job would be dispensed for 10,000 yen additional, and many customers requested one.

Only eight months into the odiferous operation, however, the flow of customers began to ebb. The main competition came from so-called “sexy pubs,” where customers could encounter married women clad in their underthings.

To revive his flagging business A-san experimented with a variety of new tactics, such as allowing customers to take home the women’s panties as souvenirs. These efforts, alas, proved futile. A survey of customers determined that men found the employees’ odor a bit too similar to what they could obtain for free at home. “Don’t you have anything younger?” some enquired.

But by that time growing numbers of customers had discovered the burusera shops, where high school girls’ panties could be purchased — in some cases packaged together with a Polaroid snap of the panties’ owner.

Meanwhile the bubble economy was in the process of deflating, and A-san found himself deeply in debt due to heavy speculation in securities. Fifteen months after opening, Kagase-ya closed its doors for good. Its owner vanished without a trace, and Nikkan Gendai was, alas, unable to pick up his scent. (K.S.)

Source: “Hitozuma no kokan no nioi de hanjo shita kagaseya,” Nikkan Gendai (May 16, page 28)