Occupying Power: Sex Workers and Servicemen in Postwar Japan

By Sarah Kovner | Go to book overview

FIVE
The High Politics of Base Pleasures
Regulating Morality for the Postwar Era

In July 1955, the Committee on Judicial Affairs called some remarkable witnesses to the Diet’s hallowed chambers to once again consider whether the country should criminalize prostitution. Conservative member Sekō Kōichi, a longtime Lower House member from Wakayama, chaired the committee. He had a reputation for fighting corruption, having blown the whistle on the sale of military supplies on the black market. The others included journalists, professors, and the chair of the Prostitution Problem Countermeasure Conference, all of them supporters of the Prostitution Prevention Bill.1 But there were also brothel owners and sex workers who opposed the law, a curiosity to observers in the Diet’s balconies and reported at length on the radio and in newspapers, including the major dailies Mainichi Shimbun and Asahi Shimbun. Reporters focused on Kondō Haruko and Ikegami Yoshiko, a pair of sex workers who were identified in print by the pseudonyms A-ko and B-ko. The two women worked at the lower end of the sex industry in Tokyo, employed by a “Turkish salon” (saron toruko). Ikegami testified that she and her coworker had quit their former employment because conditions in the salon were too hard to tolerate. They worked long hours for bad food and could not come and go freely.2

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