One thing about Shibuya never changes. On any day of the week, you'll see throngs of young people hanging around looking flamboyant in anything from denim miniskirts to traditional yukata, their dyed hair and loud colors seeming an extension of the ubiquitous big-screen advertising that flashes and blares perpetually here in Tokyo's premier youth haunt.
Miyu and a friend are sitting on a stairwell at Fashion Plaza 109, the famous tower full of boutiques. Miyu extends her hand. "Got any money?"
She is wearing an orange camisole and work pants. Her braided hair is dyed blonde. She said at first she was a college student, but as we talk, it emerges that she is 16, a first-year student at a Tokyo private senior high school.
However much money she has, it's never enough. On her fingers she ticks off her list of necessities: "Food, makeup, clubs, games, meals." The 10,000 yen a month she gets from her parents doesn't cover her expenses.
So three months ago, she started what she calls a part-time job: enjo kosai, enko for short--sex or quasi-sex with generally middle-aged men in return for cash handouts.
"Enko is everywhere," she says. "You just stand there in your school uniform and men'll come up to you, asking for enko."
If she accompanies a man to a restaurant or a karaoke box, she gets 5,000 yen to 10,000 yen an hour. If the man wants to take pictures, she'll spend 10 minutes posing in a parking lot for 3,000 yen.
She has a friend, she says, who works at an unsavory establishment where men pay to feel girls through their clothes. Four hours' work nets her 20,000 yen. The girls consider it easy money--and since it's not really sex, they say, it's not prostitution either.
Yuka (not her real name) is 17, a second-year senior high school student. She carries a flashy bag and, during the summer vacation at least, lives more or less homeless. She sleeps at friends' houses.
Yuka has a part-time job which she describes as "selling." Selling what? Underwear and socks, which she removes in front of the customer. Her junior high school uniform. Her saliva.
"At first, I thought, `No way!'" she admits. "But they pay real money for it."
Her parents don't seem to care that she's hardly ever home, but on one point their discipline is firm. Her allowance is 5,000 yen a month and not a penny more. What kind of fun can you have on 5,000 yen a month?
That aside, she and her mother have little to say to each other. Her mother, she says, is too busy playing the piano to take much of an interest in what her daughter is up to.
Yuka says it would be scary to cross the line into actual prostitution. But when she encounters a man on the Internet who proposes meeting at a karaoke box or in a department store stairwell so he can buy her panties, she sees no reason to refuse.
"It's money," she says simply. "It's not dangerous for me, and it gives him pleasure. But if someone offers me 50,000 yen to 60,000 yen for underwear and karaoke, I say no. That's dangerous. You see how careful I am."
Last March, on an Internet chat site, a man said to her, "All I want is five minutes of your time-I want to buy your saliva."
They arranged to meet at the Yamanote Line platform of Ikebukuro Station. He would be wearing a black business suit, he said.
They recognized each other without difficulty, and everything went as planned. The man produced a glass bottle; Yuka spit into it several times; the man handed her 5,000 yen and vanished into the crowd.
The transaction, incidentally, is illegal. An amendment last year to Tokyo's ordinance on the healthy development of youth bans traffic in such personal items as underwear, saliva and urine when the seller is a girl under 18.
Some seedy shops in Shibuya selling saliva and underwear offer an added attraction: The girls will spit, or remove their panties, in full view of the customer.
A price list on the counter of one reads: "B--8,000 yen. S--11,000 yen. D--12,000 yen."
The shop is one of many commercial establishments crammed into one building. B means bloomers. S stands for a Japanese word for urine. D, also from the Japanese, means saliva.
The man at the counter gives me a thorough pat-down at the entrance. He checks my pockets and shoes. "Some guys take pictures with concealed cameras," he explains.
I clear the inspection and am led to a one-way mirror, behind which I see six girls in a room, watching TV. They are talking loudly and laughing.
I indicate my choice--a relatively quiet girl with black hair. She is dressed in a school uniform consisting of a pink blouse with a ribbon tie and a plaid skirt.
I am led into a small room, about the size of one tatami mat. A moment later a door opens and the girl appears. She says hello and sits down.
In her hands she holds a bottle about 5 centimeters tall. Into this she spits and spits repeatedly, her cheeks swelling and deflating, swelling and deflating. It takes her 10 minutes to fill the bottle. Throughout, she is the very model of detached aloofness, her gaze distant, her expression blank.
"Thank you," she says, politely but indifferently, as she gets up to leave.
"Is she a high school student?" I ask the manager.
"No comment. In view of the law, you see," he replies.
Business is brisk, here and at similar establishments. The Internet is the place to find them. Customers range in age from their 20s to their 50s. Their occupation can be anything--banker, teacher, what have you. One man, an interior decorator, came all the way from Kobe, the manager tells me.
"We all have our secret pleasures," he says. "People will pay any price for them. Thanks to the Internet, we get them coming in from all over the country."
For girls looking for even bigger profits, there are ways to earn them. One particularly profitable enterprise goes by the mangled English name "delivery health." "Health" is a euphemism for sex, and "delivery" means the girl goes to your place. The trade is reportedly rife with underage girls--high school students, junior high school students, runaways--working illegally.
In a one-room apartment off Center-gai, Shibuya's main drag, a man of 40 introduces himself as the general manager. His business is delivery health.
"The girls ask me: `How much can I make a day? Thirty thousand? Forty?'" Many of them are in senior high school. The manager turns them away, he says--even though, he adds, "Most of the customers say they prefer somebody young."
Enjo kosai prices have fallen lately. Even so, enko can be worth 30,000 yen to 50,000 yen for a girl willing to go all the way. In the delivery health trade, that fee is expected.
Writer Misato Nakayama, 28, spent a year as a high school student engaged in enko. She wrote a book about her experiences called "16-sai datta" (I was 16).
Why did she do it? "It gratified me to think that someone was willing to pay good money for me," she explains. "The reward was tangible. There it was--money in your hand."
The scene has changed since her day, she says.
"I have the impression that girls today think nothing of selling their bodies, their underwear, whatever. The erotic entertainment industry is growing and growing--that too is an influence. `Everyone else is doing it,' they say, `so I may as well do it, too.'"
Tsuneo Akaeda is a gynecologist who offers free health consultations at a table at the back of a hamburger restaurant in Tokyo's Roppongi entertainment district and also runs a clinic nearby. He is the author of a book whose title says a good deal: "Sekkusu ga Chikyu o Horobosu" (Sex is ruining the Earth).
"These kids have no idea that sex can be dangerous," he says. "What are they--schoolgirls? Prostitutes? The boundaries are disappearing."
The past seven or eight years have seen a particularly rapid descent into unrestrained sexual behavior, Akaeda says. Abortion is on the rise; chlamydia and gonorrhea are spreading.
"These girls have just had abortions, and there they are, cell phones in hand, chattering and giggling. It's astonishing.
"They are so ignorant of the possible risks," he says.
On a Saturday evening in late July, I met an 18-year-old on Center-gai. She had this to say about enjo kosai:
"If men didn't approach me, I'd quit. But they do approach me. And so I do it."(IHT/Asahi: October 8,2005)
Anime News Network - 1.72 Million Otaku in Japan: "Survey Finds Japanese Otaku Market to be Worth �411 Billion a YearThe Nomura Research Institute has published a survey of the Japanese otaku market. According to the survey, there are 1.72 million otaku in Japan and the market for otaku related products and services is worth �400 billion (US$3.6 billion) a year.
The otaku are not limited to anime and manga otaku, but include those obsessed with electronics, computer games, idols and so on. In all, the study breaks otaku down into 12 different groups, based on their obsessions.
Manga otaku were identified as the largest group, numbering 350,000 and spending �83 billion a year on manga and related products.
The second largest group, dedicated to idols and other celebrities, numbers 280,000 and spends �61 billion a year.
Travel lovers were fewer but spent more, numbering 250,000 and spending �81 billion. Next were computer otaku, numbering 190,000 and spending �36 billion, followed by video game otaku who number 160,000 and drive a �21 billion market.
The study also identified a number of different behavioural categories of otaku. The largest group, accounting for some 25% of all otaku, were 'closet otaku,' people who have little time or money for their obsession and often keep it a secret. Many of the closet otaku are married and have children, so their family lives leave them with very little time to devote to their hobbies.
Other categories included 'Internet otaku', those who devote time online to their hobbies and 'proselytising otaku,' those that try to get other people into their hobby.
While otaku are generally looked down upon in Japan (the word itself is somewhat derogatory) the report suggests that companies market directly to the various otaku markets, 'The otaku who lavish as much money as possible in the areas they are particular about are a group that should not be ignored in making corporate marketing strategies.'
The Study was conducted over the Internet using a sample of 10,000 Japanese citizens."