Last April 23, while comedian Takashi Okamura was at the mic during the "All Night Nippon" talk show broadcast by NBS radio, he read a comment from a listener who complained about the shutdown of the sex industry due to the pandemic. In encouragement, Okamura said that "Korona ga shusoku shitara monosugoku zettai omoshiroi koto ga aru. Bijin san ga ojo yarimasu" ("After the coronavirus is over, something really interesting is going to happen. Pretty girls will be entering the sex industry.")
"You will think, 'I've never seen a girl like this' (in the industry) after the coronavirus is over," Okamura bantered, "...so please hold on, and save your money for going to 'fuzoku' (sexual businesses) after the pandemic is over,"
These comments infuriated some listeners and Okamura was forced to issue an apology on the website of Yoshimoto Kogyo Holdings Co, his contracted entertainment agency. Eating humble pie, he explained he had not "considered circumstances in the world," adding that his remarks had been "extremely inappropriate toward people who are in a difficult situation."
NBS radio preceded that apology with one on its website, criticizing Okamura's remarks for a "lack of understanding of the current coronavirus calamities as well as lack of respect for women."
Now two and a half months since Okamura's gaffe, Flash (July 21) has been investigating the ways in which the pandemic has affected sex businesses. One street "scout" (recruiter) for the industry tells the magazine, "Basically it's happening just the way Okamura predicted. More girls have been making their debut in the trade. But as the number of rooms in soaplands are limited, there's competition for the space, and the overflow in personnel have become dekasegi (migrant workers).
Flash then proceeds to introduce "Soapland masseuse Version 2.0," Ms Yumi, age 36 and an 18-year veteran sex worker, who tells the reporter "If a shop accepts you to work on a dekasegi basis, you might be sent anywhere in the country, and be billed as a shinjin (new hiree) on a two-week rotation. After the stay-home advisory was lifted, I've gone all over the country. But since there are many shops that won't go along with the dekasegi system, I've been meeting up with customers directly who had previously asked for me at the shop."
Over the past month Yumi, who lives in the greater Tokyo area, has hit the road, taking jobs from Kansai to west Japan. Rather than use public transport with its greater risk of contracting the coronavirus, she drives from place to place using a car sharing system.
"I'm in touch with more than 400 customers via LINE, so I'll message them that 'I'll be in a certain prefecture from such-and-such a date.' Then some might respond, 'Hey, let's meet up on such and such a day.'"
"Actually I had been thinking of quitting the shop over worries about picking up the virus from a customer. But I took an antibody test that came back negative. I sent that out to customers via LINE and some started contacting me. Realizing that there's a demand for my services even if I don't work at the shop, I went into business for myself."
Described as a beauty with a resemblance to actress Ryoko Yonekura, Yumi poses in front of her rented vehicle. ("Sometimes I've slept in it overnight," she said.) In her present work as a "migratory sex worker," she said she clears 500,000 yen a month.© Japan Today