Once upon a time, when Japan was still a far and mysterious place, morbid westerners loved to feel scandalized by lolicon, the ‘lolita complex’, or lust for adolescent females. Given the nation’s high average age and a whole slew of cultural and social factors which I’ll maybe write about some other time, a sizeable part of Japanese male adults is in fact unwholesomely attracted to very young girls. Until thirty years ago this was commonly expressed by embarrassedly drooling over manga characters, but in the past century Eighties things began to change with a growing offer of commercial items more and more tuned to this peculiar demographics: knowing videos and magazines, equivocal statuettes, videogames and special venues. The youthful looks, mannerisms and teen-like clothes of many Oriental women allowed them to show 20 or 30 years old “kids” to their many customers’ enjoyment.
Lately however two problems have been on the rise with this. The first of them is the involvement of real minors, as in the recent cases of the maid café (a kind of bar where the staff dresses as sexy maids) employing a 14-years old girl, or the webcam “studio” with half-naked sixteen-years old schoolgirls. This kind of excesses often receive much-too-light fines: the venues get closed for a couple of weeks, the owners issue a formal apology “for not having checked their staff thoroughly enough”, then it’s business as usual.
The other problem is more traditional and it is called bottakuri mise, or rip-off joints. They are a staple of adult entertainment worldwide, but they reached the state of the art in Japan, where they prey on the guilt complexes of their clientele to shamelessly hit them with overinflated bills. A coffee cup will set you 6 dollars back, a omelette goes for over 30 dollars, choosing a girl is 12 dollars (but having a thirty-minutes conversation with her is billed at 60 dollars), and so on with an abundance of surprise items.
A journalistic inquiry by the Mainichi Shimbun daily revealed an even worse situation among the joshi kosei establishments, where high school girls finance their high fashion addiction offering more direct “entertainment services” in special private rooms. I know what you are thinking, but the price list (the official one, at least) tells another story. Quoting verbatim: a five-seconds hug is 12 dollars like a kiss while resting your head in the girl’s lap, a one-hour walk goes for 100 dollars and to be faceslapped once – yep, you read it right – you need to fork out 6 dollars. Oh well, at least it’s cheap!
The real point however is that the global crisis is making even otakus more financially wise, and Tokyo’s bottakuri mise are faltering due to the constant decrease of foo… er, clients. The solution? Moving shop to less cosmopolitan cities like Osaka – where, accidentally, a one-hour walk is more than enough to come and go to the “strangely” close love hotels, and police is said to keep an even looser control.