"Living in desperation" is the title of a new column that commenced in Nikkan Gendai from Nov 26, and for its start, writer Kaoru Natsume tells the tale of a worker at one of the S&M bars in Shinjuku that was forced to halt business due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"The corona pandemic made me feel love in our family," says the former temp-help worker named Yumi. The 23-year-old Tokyo resident supplemented her daytime employment with a variety of nocturnal "underground" jobs.
Described as appealingly cute with a face somewhat resembling Yuko Oshima, an actress and former member of the AKB48 performing group, Yumi, while still in high school, "befriended" an older man for monetary considerations, an activity referred to as papa katsu.
She graduated from an occupational training school, but after being struck by an acute condition that caused significant hearing loss she was unable to find regular work.
One day Yumi was approached on the street by a "scout," which led to her debut as a performer in adult videos, but she found the job physically demanding and quit after less than one year.
At age 21, Yumi had developed an interest in the lifestyle of the old yukaku (licensed brothel quarters) of pre-modern times, and wanting to live out her fantasies, she took up employment at a high-class soapland (erotic bathhouse) in Tokyo's Yoshiwara red-light district. A session cost the customer 80,000 yen.
Unfortunately Yumi was unable to attract repeat customers, a prerequisite in the soapland trade, and decided to call it quits after just two months.
She subsequently took up employment in a massage parlor that involved erotic manipulation without going all the way. Then via Twitter she made the acquaintance of a single man in his 40s who operated an S&M salon -- an establishment catering to the incurably kinky who enjoy meting out, or receiving, pain.
"While a salaried employee he worked in investment," she relates. "He'd developed a fetish for S&M while in high school. But I myself wasn't really into the heavy stuff. Since I was willing to let him tie me up and engage in 'soft' play, we started going together.
When the man made it clear to Yumi he had no interest in marriage, her affection toward him cooled. But they remained on cordial terms and he introduced her to an S&M bar in Shinjuku.
"The atmosphere was like a regular snack establishment but the clientele were into S&M," she describes. "The mama, a woman of indeterminate age, was totally into 'S' (on the dispensing end) and at customers' requests would put a chastity belt or diapers on customers, spank them with a whip, or tie them up -- but strictly soft play, if you get my drift."
A typical week involved Yumi reporting for four- to six-hour shifts on three evenings a week --- enough to earn 250,000 yen a month in take-home pay.
Unfortunately with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, the shop suspended business from March 2020.
"When they laid me off, the mama handed me 50,000 yen, which I really appreciated," Yumi said. "Since I'm not physically robust, at first during the corona disaster there's not much I could do except papa katsu, which involves taking tea with a customer for between 10,000 to 20,000 yen per session."
From last July, Yumi thought she had settled into a stable existence working part-time at an office job, but perhaps while socializing with her former employer (the mama-san), she contracted the coronavirus.
"Fortunately my symptoms weren't severe, and I was over it in about three days," she said. "Then I spent another 10 days recuperating at my parents' house.
"I had almost broken off contact with them," she recalls tearfully, "but it was during this time that I felt a real sense of gratitude toward my parents, and have given up the shady work to be a more filial daughter."
In a happy turn of events, Yumi recently got back together with her former boyfriend from the S&M salon. The two of them are now jointly operating a fully legitimate storage rental business.© Japan Today