Occupying Power: Sex Workers and Servicemen in Postwar Japan

By Sarah Kovner | Go to book overview

A Note on Names and Nomenclature

The use of the term prostitution by authorities makes it impossible to avoid using it in this book, especially when referring to law and legal authorities. For instance, I refer to the law that stands at the heart of the study by its official translation, the Prostitution Prevention Law (Baishun Bōshi Hō). But in English, the word prostitute has clearly negative connotations: for example, “I prostitute myself to my job.” Japanese has a richer vocabulary than English for sex workers, some specific examples of which are discussed in the following pages. Today, the general word signifying prostitution in the Japanese language is baishun, and baishunfu designates the women who perform sexual work. But these terms are mostly a product of the postwar era, when the phrase baishun mondai (prostitution problem) became commonplace.1 The term sex worker is more neutral and therefore more appropriate in a study of how selling sex for money came to be seen as inherently illicit.

Although a few people who witnessed this history agreed to interviews, much of it was off the record, and none of them was herself a sex worker. As this book seeks to show, sex workers were ostracized and made to feel ashamed for what they did. The Japanese state made a deliberate attempt to reintegrate them into society, to the point that even their own spouses do not know their past. Out of respect for their privacy, all names of sex workers— with the exception of those already available through the mass media or the Diet debates—have been changed. I have also changed the names of interviewees I thought would prefer anonymity.

Japanese names are given in Japanese order (family name first). Macrons are omitted in cases of words commonly used in English (e.g. Osaka, not Ōsaka).

* See Yunomae Kazuko, “Baibaishun,” in Inoue Teruko et al. eds., Joseigaku jiten (Tokyo:
Iwanami Shoten, 2000), 643–644.

-xi-

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