Stacey Dooley Investigates: Young Sex for Sale in Japan

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p04t0h2b/stacey-dooley-investigates-young-sex-for-sale-in-japan

I watched this half-drunk on Tuesday night, after the Celtic horror show. I quite like Stacey Dooley, a kind of Miss Marple with sensible shoes sorting the world out, but she’s breezy and young and pretty. It depends, of course, what you mean by young and pretty. Japan has a bit of history here. You’re probably aware of the rewriting of history textbooks in which comfort women were omitted. The giant damages the Japanese government paid to South Korea which funded their neighbour’s modern steel industry. The Japanese proclivity for young girls in school uniform (and young boys?) which finds expression in popular culture in pop stars and their followers, otaku, mainly middle-aged men.

Stacey Dooley tells us that child pornography was banned in Japan, but up until three-years ago images of children being raped and abused were not illegal. Her first stop was a popular Tokyo shopping area where minders touted for business from middle-aged men and looked for talent among the young girls who could be persuaded to work in the sex trade. The minders warned Stacey that she couldn’t film them or they would phone the police, unless she scrubbed the film. When Stacey refused the police came and asked her to delete filmed images of the incipient sex trade.

Her next stop was a JK café. Young girls in school uniform serve middle-aged men drinks and food, but it’s them on the menu. They chat to their customers who pay a premium rate to talk dirty to them and gawk at them. They can pay even more and get to hold hands with them and admire their purity. That’s a word, ironically, you’ll hear a lot from child stalkers.

Sex is for sale in Japan, as it is everywhere else, but with Manga comics and nationwide talent shows its mainstream. Stacey interviews a young girl that has sex with three or four men every day and views it as a form of self-abuse, like cutting her arms, but better paid.

The commodification of sex extends to children as young as six in the grey area of Chako Ero. Stacey meets a photographer who tells her how much money he is making taking pictures of young children in a thin layer of erotic clothing, who are taught to pose for the camera. Stacey asks him what he would do if it was his own child being photographed or filmed. The businessman admitted he would kill her and himself. It’s an honour code that doesn’t extend to others.

Christian and Aristotelian ideas of virtue building character seem foreign, even to ourselves. Different epochs or cultures might impose different standards on what is true and what is a virtue. When the acquisition of money is the greatest virtue, and the commodification of young girls’ bodies is a cultural given, what is regarded as shameful shifts.

Tracy meets in the denouement a self-confessed paedophile who has the courage to appear in front of the camera. He’s a cultural stereotype, the sad loser with bad teeth, and shiny white ribbons in his hair. This marks him out as other, not part of the mainstream. Not really a threat. The kind of man the authorities would happily lock up for a very long time to prove, like Stacey, they are on the case. He carries a cardboard box. Inside it is a floppy doll. He admits to undressing it and imaging what would happen…when it does he puts on a condom. He doesn’t want to get the doll dirty. Paedophilia, he declares, is a person who loves children. He loves children, but scorns the idea he is a child molester. Molesters are people that make unlawful advances towards children. He would never do that. But if a child wanted to… and he wanted to, that might be cute. Cute is not illegal. Children are cute.  Young girls are cutest of all.

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Tokyo Girls, Storyville, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, directed by Kiyoko Miyake

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08w9lvb/storyville-tokyo-girls

This is creepy and weird. Japan is the kind of insular society that a oriental version of Nigel Farage would approve. In stereotypical fashion the Japanese are polite, but they don’t like foreigners much and tend to stick to their own kind. But they have an aging population and the number of births falls lower every year. Tokyo has one of the highest population densities in the world. Old housing is knocked down and rebuilt, smaller, every thirty years. London bedsits by contrast would be seen as roomy and inexpensive. Every year there is a scandal about houses the size of a coffin None of this is in Tokyo Girls. It’s a simple storyline with the tag ‘Pop idol Rio Hiiragi’s journey toward fame’. I’m giving you the context.  She is a quite pretty girl, twenty-one when the programme ends, but ironically, far too old for many otaku, Japanese idol fans who tend to be middle-aged men with an obsessive interest in young girls.

Otaku originally described a young person who is obsessed with computers or particular aspects of popular culture to the detriment of their social skills. The so called lost generation stuck in their coffin-sized room, locked in with their aging parents, never meet females in the real world but have an obsessive interest in anime and manga fandom. The shy kid that doesn’t go out, but locks himself in. Pop idols like Rio are ready made anime images that they can interact with for a price. They can subscribe to their channels and even attend meets and greets, but they tend to be super-fans such as ‘Pidl’ a middle-aged salary-man who left his job to dedicate his life to Rio. He reckons he spends on average $2000 a month on following her.

Meeting idols is big business, fans such as ‘Pidl’ get to shake their idols hands and look them in the eye. A bouncer is on hand to move them along after about another minute another middle-aged man takes their place and holds the girl’s hand.

Take, for example, Amu, who is thirteen and an idol in a band called Harajuru, where each child has to compete with other children wanting a spot in the band and on stage. She is successful. Male fans get to hold her hand. Amu’s mum, said at first ‘she was scared’ but now thinks of Amu’s fans ‘as fathers to her’.  One of the father-figures declared that he preferred the much younger idols. My guess there’s a Gary Glitter on every corner and this feeds that crazy. To misquote  Robert Pirsig Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, ‘the silt of tomorrow’ grows in the shit of today.