|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.|
'Clean' Nagano's dark, dirty secret AIDS 2006,07,15
Shukan Shincho 7/13 By Masuo Kamiyama
"Among Japan's 47 prefectures, Nagano is a rarity in that its public morals laws and ordinances prohibit sex businesses like 'soaplands' and 'fashion health' salons," the unnamed "pink" journalist tells Shukan Shincho (7/13).
"That's why even in urban entertainment areas you'll only see a few pubs where customers can grope skimpily clad hostesses, but no real action.
But behind this facade of health and cleanliness are lots of underground businesses where foreign hookers ply their trade."
One of the more unpleasant repercussions of this prudish position on public morals came to light during a regular session of the prefectural assembly on June 22, when Nagano Governor Yasuo Tanaka proclaimed his prefecture faced a "life or death crisis."
"Our rate of AIDS sufferers or people testing positive for HIV relative to overall population exceeds that of Osaka, Kanagawa or Aichi, putting Nagano in second place after Tokyo," Tanaka announced.
What's more scary, notes Shukan Shincho, is that AIDS transmission follows the "African" pattern, i.e., not from blood transfusions or homosexual contact, but due mainly to heterosexual intercourse.
For all Japan, this figure averaged 28 percent; in Nagano, it is 85 percent.
The cause appears fairly clear: among known HIVpositive cases, 70 to 80 percent were Japanese males; a roughly similar percentage were non-Japanese females.
While only 360 cases of HIV have been officially recorded by the prefectural government, in immunological terms, the number of latent cases may be considerably higher, anywhere from 100 to 1,000 times that figure.
Ironically, Nagano, famous for its pristine mountain scenery and year-round recreation, is known for being Japan's "education prefecture," where learning is deeply embedded in the culture and fostered from an early age.
Unfortunately, boys will be boys, even in Nagano.
In its cities and towns, hostesses from the Philippines, Thailand and other third-world countries can be found working in clubs where a "dating system" permits them to be taken out for sexual trysts.
"The ladies don't apply any hard and fast rules about condom use," the reporter continues.
"Since almost all of them are on the pill, they have no fear of pregnancy.
There's also a rapid turnover of workers, so the girls often don't stick around long enough to undergo blood tests, and this also provides a ripe breeding ground for AIDS."
A veteran newspaper reporter recalls his experience in Matsumoto, a picturesque castle town, about 20 years ago, when the first AIDS scare occurred in Nagano.
"About a 15-minute taxi ride from the center of town, there were several ramshackle Philippine 'snack' establishments in the middle of lettuce fields," he recalls.
"The girls would come over while you drank a beer and invite you, in broken Japanese, asking 'Asobanai?' (You want to do it?).
A short-time session ran 25,000 yen and overnighter 35,000 yen.
"Since then the number of Filipinas has gone down, and instead there are more Thais and Koreans.
Otherwise the situation, and prices, are pretty much the same as they were back then."
"Most of the customers are either locals or people who drive over from Karuizawa (a well known resort town)," a Thai gal working in the eastern part of the prefecture, winks to Shukan Shincho's reporter.
"On weekends we're really busy.
I've been in Japan for three months.
Just working as a hostess I only get 20,000 a week, so it's hard to make ends meet on that.
Lots of my friends who work at clubs sleep with the customers.
They don't always insist on condoms."
"I think the AIDS data currently made public is just a fraction of the reality," says Takashi Yokota, an interpreter who has worked at medical clinics in the prefecture.
"According to the Japanese testing system, people who show a first-time positive are added to the statistics; but many are so scared when they're told they've tested positive they're afraid to undergo a second test."
What's worse, Yokota adds, many HIV-positive people continue engaging in sexual activity.
Yokota has encountered several people who contracted HIV through tertiary or quaternary transmissions.
To his credit, governor Tanaka is taking his usual frank and open approach to the problem.
"Nagano people are known for their purity and righteousness, which is why our prefecture permits neither soaplands nor off-track betting," he tells Shukan Shincho.
"But sex is something anybody does.
AIDS is a disease that may be latent for up to 10 years before showing symptoms, and is still incurable.
I think we may have to organize a campaign to give tests to as many people as possible."
Pending such action, Yoshiaki Yamada, professor emeritus at Shinshu University School of Medicine, offers this eminently sensible advice:
"Be careful where you play.
And if you play, take precautions."
(By Masuo Kamiyama, People's Pick contributor)
July 15, 2006