German media calls maid cafes “cover for the child sex industry”

Every few weeks an article does the rounds of the world media — typically a translated news wire piece or something rustled up by a foreign stringer according to overseas editors’ demands. The narrative is predictable. Japan is full of sexless youth; Japan is full of sexual fetishes. Japanese anime is child porn; Akihabara is a den of immorality and vice.

Of course, there are elements of truth in all of this but such nuanced, sympathetic approaches are not what gets traffic.

So you see articles like this on Deutsche Welle by Julian Ryall, saying that “Japan’s ‘maid cafes’ [are] a cover for the child sex industry”. Wow, that’s quite a bold statement to make about an entire and varied scene!

But make it they do.

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The focus this time is on Akihabara and maid cafes offering illegal “walking dates” with possibly underaged girls, ending with a trip to a love hotel or somewhere else private.

Today, every couple of meters down both sides of the street are girls in their mid-to-late-teens handing out fliers and encouraging male passers-by to step into a nearby stairwell that will take them to a “cafe” on an upper level.

They wear schoolgirl uniforms with revealingly low skirts and their shirts are undone at the neck; others wear clothes similar to those worn by famous “manga” characters. More menacing are the young men who stand back and monitor what the girls are doing.

These men similarly work for the numerous cafes that dot the area, but they’re not interested in the front business of young women in costumes serving coffee and cake.

They are motivated by the far more lucrative income from the services that are not on the menu but can be quietly negotiated later. The shop encourages its girls to go on what is termed a “Joshi kosei (JK) osampo,” which literally translates as going for a walk with a high-school girl.

The price of a 30-minute stroll with a girl in uniform is around 5,000 yen (37 euros), of which her shop will take half. Other options include the girl hugging the customer, slapping him or laying next to him — although the shops say that no sexual acts are allowed.

Given the easy money available, the girls quickly learn to freelance and a customer can ask for the “ura op,” or secret menu.

The owners of the cafes are able to deny all knowledge and say they are merely offering a legitimate service, but Yumeno Nito, who used to work at a maid cafe, is adamant that they are responsible.

Yes, osanpo (not written with an “m” like in the article) but it’s not new. The hysteria about it has been floating around for some time now, leading to a police crackdown. Every few years there is a new social panic about something — in the past it was enjo kosai or “compensated dating”.

Goodness knows why Mr. Ryall wanted to write up a sensational piece like this now. We wonder what the hook was to make it timely.

As we walk through Akihabara, a … volunteer quietly points out a reflexology shop that is really a front for the JK business while nearby a video store stocks child pornography.

“My feeling is that child pornography is an extreme case and the majority of Japanese society is disgusted by it,” Makoto Watanabe, a lecturer in communications and media at Hokkaido Bunkyo University, told DW. “But it is available,” he admits.

“But I believe this whole JK business has been enhanced by the Japanese media,” he said. “Television programs constantly seek new, younger faces and even in the past 10 years or so there has been a clear decline into what could be described as soft porn on mainstream TV here.”

This takes the form of bands such as AKB48, which is made up of teenage girls who perform in a variety of revealing costumes and who frequently appear in advertisements in similarly skimpy outfits.

“That looks abnormal in the West, but it has become mainstream here and nobody even thinks about it any more,” Watanabe said.

So AKB48 are to blame and the media? Hmm… not a theory with much acceptance. There have been teenage idol groups for decades. None of this started overnight, as much as we despise Yasuhi Akimoto.

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We’ve seen this posturing all before. Schoolgirl prostitution, real or faked (i.e girls sold as underage but not) will never die away, even if you bulldoze the whole of Akihabara or Kabukicho. So let’s not start pointing the finger at the entire maid cafe industry, please.

We don’t like young girls being exploited and forced into doing something they don’t want to do — but we also abhor the media tainting unrelated things with their own moralistic judgments.

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1 Comment

  • Chris July 21, 2015

    Those who really think that way must go see a shrink, thay statement is simply retarted.

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