Teen Prostitutes Sell Favors after School in Tokyo

By Witter, Willis | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 6, 1997 | Go to article overview

Teen Prostitutes Sell Favors after School in Tokyo


Witter, Willis, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


****A CITY POLICE OFFICIAL SAYS "IT'S VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO ARREST AN ADULT FOR HAVING SEX WITH TEEN-AGERS."****

TOKYO - Thousands of girls like 16-year-old Emi spend their after-school hours selling their bodies to middle-aged men, and police say they can do nothing to stop it.

In a dimly lit karaoke booth the size of a walk-in closet, men old enough to be Emi's father pay $100 for an hour spent caressing her breasts and thighs.

For sexual relations in a nearby "love hotel," where rooms rent by the hour, clients pay Emi up to $700 for an afternoon tryst.

"It's virtually impossible to arrest an adult for having sex with teen-agers," said Yoshikatsu Nakamura, deputy director of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department's juvenile division.

Tokyo remains one of two places in Japan with no prohibition against sexual relations with teen-agers. The other is Nagano, site of the 1998 Winter Olympics.

The age of consent is 14, and anti-prostitution laws do not apply unless a pimp is involved. Even then, the woman gets punished, not the customer.

A recent survey of 110 Tokyo schools found that 4 percent of high school girls and 3.8 percent of junior high girls had acted as a paid escort at least once.

Thursday, Tokyo authorities started a legal process that would punish adults who buy sexual relations from minors by prohibiting adults from engaging in "obscene" acts with children under 18, Reuters news agency reported.

The new measure would punish only those who make payments in cash or gifts in exchange for sexual favors.

"An ordinance that punished adults who pay for sex with minors would work as a deterrent; it would at least frighten men away," Mr. Nakamura said.

He worries that Tokyo is becoming a magnet for men from distant prefectures who head for trendy downtown neighborhoods where pleated skirts and white socks stand out like a hooker's miniskirt.

Girls say they earn as little as $30 for listening to an old man over a cup of coffee to more than $5,000 if they find a rich "papa" with whom to spend entire weekends.

"It's a miserable situation," fumes Tokyo Assemblywoman Nobuko Oba, a sponsor of the legislation to punish adults who pay for sex acts with anyone under 18.

But passage of the measure, she said, is far from a sure thing. Many in the male-dominated assembly continue to argue that the government has no business restricting sex, even among minors.

Japan is known for its libertine view of sex and fondness for bizarre fetishes, such as a craving by men for girls' panties, which were sold in vending machines just a few years ago.

Nevertheless, the openly displayed appetite for sexual relations with teen-agers, known as the "Lolita complex," or "lolicon" for short, has taken the nation by surprise.

"This is a first for Japan. We've never had anything like this before," said Katsushi Kuronuma, author of a best-selling book on the practice known by the euphemism "enjo kosai," or compensated dating.

Mr. Kuronuma spent months interviewing dozens of girls who hang out at popular pickup spots, their hair streaked blond and uniform skirts tucked at the waist to bring the hem halfway up the thigh.

The girls have become celebrities of sorts, sought by TV camera crews and welcomed by shopkeepers, who stock the Gucci bags and designer clothes the girls crave.

They wait for men dressed in dull gray business suits to approach directly. …

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