Students tempted to enter sex trade

January 17, 1997

Police reports on Japan's sex industry have revealed that thousands of university students are working as hustlers, escorts and prostitutes in the country's red light districts.

Earning money from a part-time job has long been an integral part of student life in Japan. The absence of major pressures to attend lectures, and the need to raise money to pay for expensive tuition, living and socialising expenses, has resulted in the majority of students taking an arubaito or part-time job at some time during their undergraduate years.

"There is a lot of money to be made in the date clubs, bathhouses, massage parlours and brothels which make up Japan's thriving sex industry," explained undergraduate Michiko Ito.

"Some students are unable to resist the temptation to earn easy money by selling personal services."

Many universities, meanwhile, have taken steps to warn students of the dangers of getting involved in the sex industry.

"Students who travel from provincial areas to study in big cities are often unaware of the dangers of working in red light districts," said Kiyoshi Saito, a student counsellor. "Sex-related businesses are often controlled by underworld organisations."

Mr Saito said that some female students have been beaten by men they met through "date clubs", which offer male customers the opportunity to choose "dates" from groups of young women, and that a number of promising students had been persuaded to forfeit their studies to take up full-time jobs in the sex industry.

During 1995 Tokyo's police authorities informed over 150 of the city's high schools that some of their students were working for the date clubs. A spokesperson for the Tokyo police department said that some clubs were now making money by selling customers the opportunity to meet students. Other police reports reveal that students working in Tokyo's red light districts are from a wide range of family and social backgrounds.

"Some students are working in the sex industry to earn money to support their studies," said Michiko Ito. "But others only need money for designer label clothes, expensive holidays and other extravagances."

Several newspapers have suggested that Japan's younger generation has lost all sense of sexual morality and that the country is in danger of becoming a spiritual wasteland. Student groups have responded to the criticism by pointing out that most students have nothing to do with Japan's sordid sex industry and that it is the older generation which uses and sustains the industry.

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