Chinese massage parlors in Tokyo turn to vigilante groups to protect sex workers
When you use a sex worker of some description in Japan, they may well be operating under yakuza protection if they belong to a brothel or other such service. This is especially the case with sex workers and services based out of areas like Kabukicho in Tokyo.
Many sex workers in Japan are actually Chinese, especially the ones you see plying their trade out in the open on the streets of Dogenzaka or who work at venues advertised as “Chinese massage” or a similar euphemism. They too are probably (hopefully?) protected in some way from police, rivals, and violent customers.
If a client gets rough, the sex worker may be in danger. If the service is provided in a love hotel room, they are very isolated, but services provided in a parlor are easier to monitor and, if push comes to shove, defend.
According to a recent report by the weekly tabloid Friday, Chinese massage parlors are not relying on the yakuza for protection but on their own vigilante groups.
It is prompted by an uptick in crimes targeting such parlors and Chinese workers.
Apparently, one in five massage parlors in Kanto have been hit by robberies. During the robberies, the man will demand money from the sex worker, who is typically alone at the tiny venue. These men are sometimes armed and may also operate in groups controlled by criminal gangs.
On May 3 in Ikebukuro, a man stabbed a Chinese sex worker and made off with ¥20,000 and a phone.
Receiving no help from police (because they are operating prostitution services) and yakuza (because they are rivals and/or because the operators and workers are Chinese), the parlors have turned to vigilante groups who patrol the nightlight districts of the city, ready for trouble.
At a call, they can be there in minutes. Parlor workers are told by owners to resist and buy time so that the vigilantes can be contacted and arrive, even at the risk of being assaulted.
The vigilantes get ¥10,000 a day to be on standby and a ¥50,000 bonus if they catch a thief in the act. Friday spoke to a Chinese parlor operator who relies on a gang of about 10 people.
Legally, this is a very gray area. The law recognizes a certain degree of self-defense during robbery or intrusion, but you may find yourself charged with assault if you rather proactively seek out a means of defending yourself like this.
The parlors also have cameras, so they have records of people’s faces should they steal or assault a worker, plus sometimes even phone numbers if a reservation was made in advance.
There are around 100 Chinese massage parlors in Kanto offering sex services, concentrated in Urawa, Ikebukuro, Kawaguchi, and Ueno areas. They might be small shop-like spaces inside multi-tenant buildings in nightlife districts, or operate out of apartments.