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Olympic-sized crackdown on Tokyo sex trade possibly overblown

Shukan Post Nov. 28
Shukan Post Nov. 28
On November 9, Kenichi Yoshizumi, 42, was elected as mayor of Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward.

With the ward being home to Kabukicho, the nation’s largest red-light district, a number of tabloids have been speculating on what the future holds for the area’s businesses in the fuzoku industry, or the commercial sex trade — and it is not all bad.

According to Shukan Post (Nov. 28), Yoshizumi is succeeding Hiroko Nakayama, who has used the catchphrase “Kabukicho Renaissance” to describe the ongoing elimination of fuzoku-related parlors and clubs in the district. She also played a leading role in the most prominent real estate investment in memory — the re-development of the site of the Koma Theater, the symbolic heart of the Kabukicho.

“In comparison to other entertainment areas, it has become difficult to do business (in Kabukicho) due to the crackdowns,” says the manager of kyabakura hostess club. “Recently, a lot of shops have been running their businesses in places like Ikebukuro and Gotanda.”

With preparations for the 2020 Olympic Games under way, it is being rumored that Yoshizumi will continue with similarly strict policies.

Any clean up of Kabukicho is not exactly news.

In June of 2003, then Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara appointed former National Police Agency officer Yutaka Takehana as vice governor in charge of security.

The following year, the vice governor initiated a crackdown upon Tokyo’s fuzoku trade. Among the hardest hit areas was Kabukicho. Takehana ordered the shutting of adult-goods stores, underground casinos, hostess clubs, and erotic massage parlors.

For the upcoming go around, Tokyo Sports (Nov. 11) cites insiders who say that the sex trade will shift a few blocks away to the gay quarter of Shinjuku 2-chome.

Ore no Tabi November
Ore no Tabi November
However, Akira Ikoma, the editor of a guide to the men’s entertainment called Ore no Tabi (My Journey), finds such a move unrealistic.

“After World War II, Kabukicho evolved from that of a black market to where one went to visit a ‘fashion health‘ club or a soapland (erotic bathhouse),” says the editor. “So the area has the sex trade in its history. 2-chome is known for being a place with gay bars. Plus, it is much smaller. It is just not realistic.”

Though he believes a clean up of some kind is inevitable, Ikoma mainly foresees an opportunity for the sex trade in the lead up to the Olympics.

“With a boost in public works projects, male migrant workers will arrive from rural areas,” says the editor. “Then, with demand for sex services increasing, the number of sex workers will swell.”

For the event itself, Ikoma thinks that shops will tailor their services to accommodate an international sporting exhibition, such as communicating in English and attiring staff members in athletic costumes. “I predict that competition will intensify,” says the editor. (A.T.)

Source: “Shin kucho Kabukicho no joka sakusen,” Shukan Post (Nov. 28, page 61)