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Photo credit: Jean Marc Roche and Various

SLOPPY SECONDS OVER TOKYO  Enter Kabuki Cho

Japanese society is a pressure cooker, so when the residents need to let off steam, they do it in a major way And that a period of jishuku (self-restraint usually when the Emperor's is ill), the bars of these glitzy alley- . ways were filled with middle-aged Japanese males and females doing things which would paralyze many gaijin males in a rictus of guilt. The thing which sets Kabuki-cho and the other Japanese pleasure centers apart from what are called "combat zones" in American cities is the lack of puritan shame. While U.s. legislators seek to regulate fantasy by eliminating sexual dreams from . the media, they do little or nothing to strengthen· rape laws or protect victims from the burgeoning legion of serial murderers.

But the Japanese find success in staunch adherence to the social structure, compensating with an outrageous fantasy life. The fantasies emerge full blown on television, on video, in theaters, and manga (Japanese comics). You can find, on a fairly regular basis, comic book tales of robot rapists, sadistic schoolboys, and aother assailantsof various sexes, who force sweet things to have their unearthly offspring. All these artistic visions heap abuse on the cutest of uniformed schoolgirlsand are enjoyed by the schoolgirls themselves as well. Ironically some of the biggest fans of this genre are Japanese women.

Perhaps stimulated by all these creative variations on the old in and out, on the streets of Tokyo, real-life schoolgirls, are discovering the unapparent joys of edgy sex compensated or not. They are attracted by the bright lights which promise kicks of every kind. And not just the sort of stuff Kabuki-cho is best known for.

On the polite streets of Kabuki Cho

Every weekend, hundreds of 18 something teens wander its streets, moving in huge packs, looking for a little wish fulfillment of their own. Thousands of teenagers are finding thrills above and beyond the sins of the flesh. The district's most (in)famous youths, however, still ply their trade on the other side of the wall. Not as much becasue they really need the money, but as a way to fulfill their need for fast cash to buy luxuries and satiate their own sexual fantasies and curiosities. They are the players in the theaters (sleaze and tease; the peep~shows, cabarets; and massage parlors.

Take a peep

One typical peep show in the district charges an entry fee of¥2,000 and offers a ¥500 discount for students. Their 20 minute shows involve more than just peeping. Customers enter a tiny, darkened, private cubicle and, through a two-way mirror, watch a well endowed Japanese girl engaged in "erotic" dancing - which starts with the girl reading a fashion magazine, then makes its way through fondling, stroking herself sensually, and, for the exciting finale, feigning masturbation to the tune of "My Way."

Meanwhile during the show, two other girls make the rounds to each cubicle and provide (optional) sensual massage to a predictable conclusion. A sign on the wall informs customers of this service "from one of our beautiful girls" at the mere push of a button Price:¥3,000. You may touch the girls while the service is being performed.

The real Japanese paradox is how come men, brought up in a society where family members bathe together and nudity is supposedly "ignored" out of politeness, display such an intense curiosity over the naked female body? And specifically, over female genitalia?

The vernacular magazines are no help, since the government censors still aren't willing to give those who want to get the explicit photographic evidence they crave. Another alternative: pay for the privilege of viewing female exhibitionists at the neighborhood strip show, where the graceful art of disrobing as developed by Sally Rand and Gypsy Rose Lee has givein way to something that more closely resembles a visit to the gynecologist

Life in the Cabaret

Many Kabuki-cho visitors find the native-run cabarets unsatisfying. The establishments which cater to Japanese concentrate on getting the patron drunk, rather than satiated. In these places, depending on the mood of the management and staff, you may leave satiated, but you will also pay pay pay.

Over-charging is systematic and widespread. The Japanese have a saying seemingly created specifically for these places: "Shiri no ke made nukereta". "They even took me for the hairs on my rear."

Filling the gap are newer hostess bars, which feature a one-price system - said to be an Osaka innovation - with the price of entry pegged at from ¥l0,000 to ¥12,000 per head; but that is all that you pay for the rest of evening, with no time limit.

Since the charge is fixed, drinks are not hustled; like coffee shops in the daytime, the bar merely determines what it hopes to obtain from the lease of a chair for the evening. So you are welcome to stay until closing time, eat, drink, sing and make merry to your heart's content without concern over being monetarily shafted.

Conversation and karaoke are merely the preliminaries; it is hoped that patrons will succumb to the urges of the flesh. For that purpose, the places are well stocked with hostesses. They are available in many shapes, sizes and hues, but come in only two categories: short-timers or allnighters. They can be taken to one of the many love hotels a few minutes' walk out the door, or even back to your Roppongi apartment for all night.

Depending on the establishment and availability, you can take your choice of Thai, Filipina, Chinese, Malaysian, Taiwanese, or Korean women. (The happy Japanese hooker is becoming as rare as a good metaphor in this wealthy day and age. Although some ladies appeared to be pushing 30 and had clearly seen better days before coming to try their luck in Japan, others were still in their late teens. The going rate: ¥30,000 for two hours, ¥40,000 for all night.

Rub Out

On a street nicknamed Ebi-dori (Prawn Street) near Seibu Shinjuku station, a cluster of nearly a half-dozen "fashion health" massage parlors displays the masseuse of your dreams through two-way mirrors. The 30-minute service usually includes a shower au pair, with the girl disrobing along with the customer, although she remains at least partially clad.

The male client is then led to a massage table where he is treated to an allover massage, not always limited to the hands of the masseuse. Prices for this service in the better Kabuki-cho establishments run around ¥10,000.

Getting more than you bargin for

At a "health" emporium, however, it is agreed upon as a matter of course that intercourse is strictly verboten, but at certain times of the month, women are more randy than usual and on more than one occassion I have had a woman, turned on by all that constant sensuality suggest and offer to consumate the friendship. Hint: Be polite, smell good, (being fairly goodlooking helps) and over emphasize the pleasure you feel when she attends to you. Moan and groan and arch your give her a lot of positive feedback. You will be suprised how it can turn a so called "bored and jaded " sex worker on. Deep down inside many women working in this business do so with an apreciation of the reprocitity and human arousal that sex really is. The money is an added plus.

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Earnings from such ministrations tend to be generous. One ad seeking volunteers for an Ikebukuro fashion health establishment states, "Boredom and Poverty are Our Enemies!" Young women, who used to be known somewhat cynically in the trade as shasei (ejaculation) girls, are enticed to work at these establishments by the offer of minimum per diem earnings of ¥50,000, disbursed in cash upon leaving the premises each day. Some recruiters offer an immediate recruitment bonus of ¥l00,000($1,125.00) when signing up. Twenty-five is the age ceiling for such work.

But times have changed, and the old flair which used to characterize these businesses is gone. Some ofthe more renowned kinks of past decades that come to mind include one Shibuya establishment with a "Baby Room" where male customers went to be mothered. Customers were decked out in a diaper and put in a crib, where they were able to nurse off a bottle. In another now-defunct establishment named "Uranai" (divination), the male customer was invited to lie inside a coffin with his face exposed, while a girl fondled him through a small hinged window furtherdown.

But as the nation gets richer, the businessman's sexual imagination gets plainer. His kinks are straight nowadays; even so, sexual fantasy is so well designed and presented in Kabuki-cho that many enthusiasts are more than satisfied by the titillation alone

In fact, actual sex might seem crass after such elaborate foreplay. Contrary to critics who decry Kabuki-cho's sexual exploitation, the area is more accurately described as a place for sensual stimulation. Especially in this age of disease and danger, Kabuki-cho's amusement park air remains powerful and potent.