|The story below is originally published on Mainichi Daily News by Mainichi Shinbun (http://mdn.mainichi.jp).|
|They admitted inventing its kinky features, or rather deliberately mistranslating them from the original gossip magazine.|
|In fact, this is far from the general Japanese' behavior or sense of worth.|
Discarded women sell spring out of crumbling 'chon-no-ma' brothel
Jitsuwa Knuckles (August) By Masuo Kamiyama
"Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable."
Economist John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) made the above remark in response to the citation by Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898), who had proclaimed, "Politics is the art of the possible."
That's a pretty pedantic lead-in for an article on housewife prostitution in a Japanese subculture magazine like Jitsuwa Knuckles (August).
But contributor Chimata Hiramura thinks he has a point.
Galbraith's remarks regarding politics being a choice between disaster and unpalatability may be somewhat analogous to tolerance for what many regard as a necessary social evil -- prostitution.
Be that as it may, legalized prostitution in the form of licensed brothels came to an end in Japan in 1958.
Yet half a century later, some terms from former times remain with us.
One is "chon-no-ma" (or "choi-no-ma" in some parts of Japan), rows of small sheds, cribs or cubicles, outside of which women would stand in inviting poses, under dim, pink-hued lights, awaiting male patrons for short-time trysts.
"Chon" means to come to an end, and "ma" is a room.
As the current remuneration in such establishments is around 10,000 yen -- or even 5,000 yen on nights when business is exceptionally slow -- the women working therein generally make every effort to keep the time as brief as possible.
While officially illegal, these places still operated quite openly until fairly recently, staffed mostly by Thai and Chinese women.
But Jitsuwa Knuckles points out that after Japan came under international criticism for trafficking in foreign women, the authorities were obliged to launch cleanup drives from around 2005, and the chon-no-ma operations that had thrived in Yokohama, Machida (Tokyo) and Kawaguchi (Saitama) were successively shut down.
Or, shall we say, driven underground.
And that was that, Hiramura believed, until he was approached by a colleague, a writer on the sex trade, who suggested the two collaborate on a project.
"I live in Kunitachi City," the friend explained, naming an upscale west Tokyo suburb.
"Near my house, I spotted a woman that I'm sure I saw working in Yokohama's Kogane-cho red-light district a couple of years ago."
Well, Hiramura replied, so what?
There's nothing strange about women getting out of the skin trade and leading normal lives.
"Yeah, but I also see others I recognize from Machida or Kawaguchi prowling around the same neighborhood.
And they are often accompanied by different men."
The women had apparently converged on a decaying, 1920's-era apartment building and set up shop, using an elderly woman as a procuress.
"That place is definitely a chon-no-ma!" he exclaimed with a tearful gleam in his eyes.
"When I heard that old woman greet me, it really brought back a lot of memories."
The two writers visited together.
"How did you find out about this place?" the old woman challenged.
"We, uh, were introduced by an acquaintance," Hiramura replied. "Via the internet."
The crone's expression softened to a smile, revealing teeth in dire need of extensive cosmetic dentistry.
"Okay, come on in then."
She led them to the back of the building, and lo and behold, smiling young women lined up outside doors to the small units.
It was just like the good old days.
"Now this gal," said the crone by way of introduction, "is a lot of fun.
And she's really tight down there, as good as it gets."
Hiramura picked a 29-year-old woman who resembled former "Onyanko Club" cutsie Minayo Watanabe and passed her a 10,000 yen bill, which gained him immediate access to her chon-no-ma.
They undressed, and she soon straddled him, humping away as a mixture female fragrances and the odor of old tatami mats wafted through the air.
Hiramura spent himself and was soon ready to depart, with a somewhat lukewarm invitation to make the scene again.
Hiramura's companion said he had set up a private meeting with a woman who he had formerly run into in Kogane-cho, the chon-no-ma section of Yokohama.
"The women who work here (in Kunitachi) aren't interested in being interviewed," explains "Midori," in a surprisingly tiny voice.
"That's because most of them have been busted at one time or another for prostitution, and had a rough time of it.
They all understand that there's nothing in it for them to speak to men.
"In the old days, after most girls at these places got out of the life it used to be an unwritten rule that they'd marry a yakuza," continues Midori, who Hiramura describes as still feisty and attractive at 32.
"It had been that way since feudal times, but these days men are no good.
"So this place is kind of like a 'whore post' for women nobody wants," she says, referring to the 'baby post' recently installed in a Kumamoto hospital where parents can deposit infants they are unable to raise.
"Today's a special exception for you," the woman tells Hiramura.
"Normally we don't waste time talking -- our job is just to get the guy off and out the door as fast as we can."
On that note she smiled, shook his hand and walked off, leaving him alone, looking at the weather-beaten exterior of building in which she toiled.
(By Masuo Kamiyama, People's Pick contributor).
(Mainichi Japan） July 14, 2007