Confessions of a foreign female about compensated dating in Japan

We stumbled upon this confessional post on Amina du Jean’s Substack, billed as “a digital temple for positive femininity.” The title, “Crazy Sexy Tokyo,” is provocative and sounds like another “wacky Japan” story at first, but we were especially intrigued to read the author’s insights into compensated dating (enjo kosai).

Writing about her personal experiences of participating in this social “custom” of young women, in which they go on dates with (older) men and receive monetary “compensation” for their troubles, the author is very candid and doesn’t resort to the more obvious arguments.

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At the time she started compensated dating, the author was at university.

I was also quick to learn that a good portion of my university classmates engaged in some form of sex work. I would frequently see the cute and nerdy Midwestern girl from Psych class in arms with a pudgy middle aged Japanese shachou [CEO, president], hand in hand around Dogenzaka. I know that because I too walked in a similar predicament and our eyes met. We made a reassuring smile to the other and never mentioned it in class. Girls, foreign and Japanese alike would murmur in school computer labs about which Roppongi Hills girls’ bars or hostess clubs were profitable. And when a friend and I were approached by a classmate who admitted to money problems, she confided that she had been engaging in street-based sex work. There was one instance where I was the other woman to a famous Japanese writer in the otaku world. When I was caught, girlfriend (Japanese) had lunch with me and gave me advice on navigating sex work safely. She too, tried it, as a young woman.

She also talks about the legalities of doing sex work in Japan, since the law against prostitution is specifically about sex between “strangers.”

“Made a ‘private arrangement’ (i.e., chat with someone for five minutes, meet someone online, set up a sugar daddy thing?), all fine because that isn’t a stranger.”

Of course, the line is penetrative sex. Prostitutions often nominally, at least, don’t offer clients full service.

“The ever-so-creative Japanese have made a big business by catering to niche fetishes,” writes the author.

In addition to her time as a college student doing compensated dating, Amina du Jean also worked in a “massage agency that marketed Western women.”

The business model was laughably closer to a regular office job than it was to pornography. There was water cooler gossip, workplace affairs and awkward elevator rides with workers from other businesses. These other workers were also sex workers as the entire building was dedicated to adult industry office spaces. Whether you want a lactating mature woman, a busty dominatrix or a space to act out a train groping fantasy, all of these services are widely offered in the Tokyo sex industry. Quiet as its kept, penetration is not uncommon and the cops aren’t bothered about it.

Did she have any run-ins with the police?

As a (legal) teenager, I was stopped by the police in Shinjuku as I walked hand in hand with a man near love hotels. The officer was concerned that I was underaged and made no remark on my nationality or sex work. He just threatened to call my parents. I was quite annoyed at the time but now I look back on it with fondness. It was totally something out of Leave It to Beaver. In fact, random street punks came to my defense demanding the officer to leave me alone and that it was useless to stop a woman for something such as this. I was left with a paternal demand to return home. This has happened to two other foreign women I know who worked as sex workers in Japan, an officer merely asking if they had drugs and letting them go when they did not. I only knew of one girl being arrested who was my Japanese friend. She said at 16 she was sent to a juvenile delinquency center.

The image of the blonde, foreign hostess is well established in Japan, but a lot of sex workers are also migrants (from places like China, Korea, the Philippines, and, increasingly, Vietnam). Of course, there is an exploitative element to this and sex trafficking certainly exists, but the author is surprisingly sanguine.

Since there’s loads of foreign sex workers in Japan It’s easy to assume this is racialized. Most of them are from previously occupied (colonized) by Japan or fallen Soviet states. While there is a racial component to this, Japanese society makes it hard for working-class women to enter gainful employment. Although there are human rights’ violations, specifically in pornography, the sex industry is Japan is equitable in my opinion.

She also doesn’t give credence to the argument that sex work, like porn, is responsible for the low birth rate in Japan.

Sex has always been for sale in Japan and that isn’t the sole cause for the dangerously low birthrate. Society has a far more favorable view of sex workers than most Western countries do. Late stage capitalism has made it so that there is absolutely no reason to get married and have a child. In fact, it’d be a foolish decision to make. Outside of personal choice, there is hardly any reason for women not to sell sex. Especially when offers are regularly made on the streets. In Tokyo, everything is for sale. Cuddles, sex, and love.

You can read the full article on Amina du Jean’s Substack.

Following a career in Japan as an underground (chika) idol, the author now says she is a homemaker living in San Francisco. She has written a book, Kabukicho Idol, which she is currently shopping around to publishers with the help of Jake Adelstein.

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1 Comment

  • Midnightpromises June 7, 2022

    It’s all about choice, isn’t it?

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