COVID-19 INFORMATION What you need to know about the coronavirus if you are living in Japan or planning a visit.

Here
and
Now

kuchikomi

Single mothers, squeezed by recession, turning to prostitution as last resort

51 Comments

”If I kill myself, what will become of my child?” emailed a distraught single mother late one night to a journalist who had covered her plight.

The plight is dire but not unique, writes investigative reporter Daisuke Suzuki in Shukan Asahi (May 8). It involves single mothers turning to prostitution out of sheer economic desperation.

There are 1.23 million single-mother households in Japan, Health and Labor Ministry statistics show. Their average annual income, government benefits included, is 2.11 million yen -- 40% of the overall household average. A revised welfare law shrank entitlements in 2002. The current recession is choking off employment opportunities. For the 28-year-old woman Suzuki calls “Ruriko Kumata,” prostitution seems her only means of survival. Her email suggests she wonders if it’s worth it.

Suzuki first met Ruriko on a “deaikei” (encounter/dating) website he started trolling to investigate a rumor that many of the come-ons were posted by single mothers in their 30s and 40s. Of the 50 women he contacted for his research, 20 were single mothers. He interviewed 15 of them. Ruriko, living in Shizuoka Prefecture, is one. Her posting reads, “If you can meet me tomorrow, please reply.” Her price is 20,000 yen plus the hotel bill. “I’m 28 and on the plump side. People tell me I’m nice.”

She wakes up at 7 a.m., Suzuki writes in Shukan Asahi, and reaches immediately for the cell phone at her pillow. How many messages came in overnight? Ten as a rule, more or less. Before she checks them, she sends off a “good morning note” to her child at a child care facility in a nearby town.

Most of the messages, if you’re on the brink of despair to begin with, are hardly encouraging. “Twenty-eight and you’re asking 20,000 yen plus? Are you crazy?” “No lying about your age, now!” “Drop dead.”

One man seems interested; she taps out a message confirming her availability, and drags herself out of bed.

She has been married and divorced twice, she tells Suzuki. Both her husbands were abusive. She sought refuge with her mother, but relations grew strained, and Ruriko fled with the child.

She registered with several temp employment agencies, but keeping a job has always been a problem for her -- owing, she says, to severe menstrual cramps that require her to take time off.

Two years ago, she placed the child in a facility. Unemployed for the past year, she has survived on unemployment insurance benefits supplemented by 30,000 yen-a-month allowances from her father and her first ex-husband (not the child’s father). But her father is about to retire and her ex, pinched by the depression, has served notice he can no longer help her.

“Honestly, I’m better off dead,” says Ruriko. “That’s what I think whenever the child comes home and I serve bread crusts I get at a pet store and gruel from dumplings I buy at the 100-yen shop.”

Hers is a sadder case than most -- but, writes Suzuki, “data show that 85% of single mothers are in fact working. Even so, their jobs don’t lift them up out of poverty.”

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

51 Comments
Login to comment

Life is cruel if you're a single mother, there is no doubt. I'm not usually one to put the blame on the mother (obviously, there are a lot of deadbeat scumbag dads out there) but women need to have some accountability when they allow themselves to be impregnated. The woman portrayed in this story quite obviously has a tendency to make very bad decisions concerning whom to mate with...

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

”If I kill myself, what will become of my child?” emailed a distraught single mother late one night to a journalist who had covered her plight.

If she needs some money I will gladly give to charity. How can I contact her?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Single mothers are suffering, from their lack of forsight, lack of intelligence,lack of common sense. Charity will not change this woman's karma, she will have to suffer first and learn the hard way. I feel so sorry for her child and for her parent's to have such an idiot of a daughter, but I have a feeling if she is prostituting herself now, she was already doing it before she had a child. Now whe can claim to be a victimized single mother suffering in Japan's long, long recession.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Maybe she should have taken the pill. This might solve both problems, having an unwanted child, and the monthly pain. She still can try, while doing her side business.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Tokyo, I was thinking the same thing. She did what she did and I can't judge her, especially since I only know of her through this story, but what I've never been able to understand is this -- how can you love someone who treats you badly? I've never been able to do that. From the time I was a teenager I had this plan in mind: date your bf a good amt of time before moving in with him, live with him before marrying him, and be married for a while before having children. This is a good base, but it won't be perfect because people usually change over their lifetimes. It's sad when it comes to this, but I think "life skills" or something like that needs to be taught in high school. How to calculate living expenses should be covered in such a class. Maybe this is taught in Japan. It's not taught here in the U.S. and we have quite a few in the same predicament as Ruriko.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The new Japan in bed with the old.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

She has been married and divorced twice, she tells Suzuki. Both her husbands were abusive

Why does women`s intuition seem to fail so often with regard to arseholes?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You know friends, getting married and having children is normal. Women in this country have been conditioned to think that being a housewife is a good thing. When it all goes to hell, there ought to be social safety nets. That is logical. It saves society money and pain in the long run.

In a case like Ruriko's it is wrong to blame the victim or her "karma." What happened was her bad luck but not her fault. There are a lot of people who seem very good but turn out to be monsters once you are married to them. If anyone of you here has a fool-proof way saving people from marrying "arseholes" you will be a millionaire as soon as you published. In the meantime, something other than blaming the victim ought to be done so that single mothers do not have to turn to prostitution to earn a living wage.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Huh ?

"Ruriko"...

-She has been married and divorced twice.

-She sought refuge with her mother, but relations grew strained.

-Ruriko fled with the child.

-She registered with several temp employment agencies, but keeping a job has always been a problem...

-Two years ago, she placed the child in a facility.

-Unemployed for the past year, she has survived on unemployment insurance benefits supplemented by 30,000 yen-a-month allowances from her father and her first ex-husband (not the child’s father).

-Honestly, I’m better off dead,” says Ruriko. “That’s what I think whenever the child comes home and I serve bread crusts I get at a pet store and gruel from dumplings I buy at the 100-yen shop.”

Ummm, Jean, the problem obviously is Ruriko ! Two husbands, a strained relationship with mom, and the inability to hold down a job because of "menstrual cramps" has "I'm a spoiled lazy no good who can't control my mouth and won't change" written all over it ! I've seen these girls before, dozens as a matter of cat. I've had to live in the same apartment building for 3 years once as the building manager was a softy when it came to these types of women. The single mother directly in front of my back door had 3 kids of various ages. Men came and went at all hours of the day, and the constant screaming of children was unbearable. I have no sympathy for the vast majority of these women who clam their "husbands were abusive"... more like tired of being shouted at and bullied at all hours of the day !

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sorry, up to ten customers a day? That's 200000 yen a day!!! Plus an allowance from her poor ex and money from her father...and benefits! With that kind of dosh she can live a life of Reilly. But, there needs to be a prostitutes union to protect her health, safety and future...and that of her kid.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Den Den

But, there needs to be a prostitutes union...

You would have to legalize prostitution first. Good luck.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You would have to legalize prostitution first. Good luck.

Both DenDen and USNinJapan2 appear to be mistaken. I did some hunting on the web. It seems the Asahi Shimbun of Feb. 16, 2001 reported that a a group of 10 women in Tokyo founded a "Fuzoku Union" the previous September. If a sex shop is legal (and they are, as long as the shop does not engage in intercourse), then the workers may engage in collective bargaining, etc., with management.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Beelzebub

Fuzoku is not prostitution, particularly in the eyes of the Japanese authorities. I don't know about you but I would also interpret 'prostitute' as being someone who engages in actual sexual intercourse with a client in exchange for money. If it was anything short of intercourse the john can simply go to a fuzoku establishment and not go to the trouble of illegally contacting potential prostitutes on deai-kei sites.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Den Den 10 emails, not 10 customers... One working e-mail it seems. 20,000 on this day - could be 100,000/week. Say 80,000/week. Seems about double what she'd make as a waitress in a chain food place.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Single" is also applied to women who got married twice? Was the child the consequence of her second marriage? A child is "made" by two people, so I guess one way to deal with this would be to transfer half or more of the burden of raising a child to the father, whether or not he is/was the husband?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You people are discussing this article as if it was some scholarly comment on Japanese society. It's not, it's the kuchikomi section. You know, those same weekly rags that publish those "101 ways OLs secretly wish they were sexually harassed by the boss" lists.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Life is cruel if you're a single mother, there is no doubt"

Many single mothers would strongly disagree with that.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Confirm supportive husband, friends, relatives and community before conceiving or your child will fall to the depths of the underprivileged dragging you down too.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Remembering that this woman is one out of many and we have only the newspaper's profile, I'd like you to consider how this woman who obviously comes from an abusive family and had the misfortune of marrying abusive men would have fared before the economic meltdown. She very likely would not have had to resort to prostitution. She would have had enough temporary jobs to pull her through. No, this is not simply the woman's problem. This is a lousy time to be a temporary worker, even if you are socially adjusted. That's the reality. That's the reality for not only this particular single mother but a lot of other single mothers.

One must remember that this a weekly and weeklies are notoriously unreliable. This human interest story may be a concoction. But the statistic on the income of single mothers can be checked out. I tend to trust at least that part of the article.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Uh, married and divorced twice means that prostituting herself certainly isn't her first bad decision. A woman needs a career or a salaryman husband before she has kids and that applies anywhere in the world. Who in hell did she expect to pay her way when she has neither?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I agree this is a sensational story. But if I was her and I got 10 emails, I would try to block them to reduce traveling time. I could do 3 in the afternoons and then go shopping. Maybe Coach or Louis Vitton. Then have diner and do a regular customer or two(good tips) to get drinking money. Maybe the odd weekend to buy the kid some clothes or toys to hide the guilt.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

JackDorff - some men lie is why women's intuition can fail. Not all men are liars, but some present themselves very well when they want a certain woman. This is why a woman should date a man for a while before jumping into a relationship. He'll show his true colors sooner or later. But not all women do this. Some think "he's the one!" and jump in with both feet, and not even all of these relationships go south. Some do, some don't. Of course, we hear about the ones that do go bad.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There are a lot of people who jump into bad relationships with both feet apart. I think of the guy who was getting a ¥500 allowance each day from his wife. Pretty rotten on both accounts. But some people are so desperate that they will fall for this. Ruriko seems to have some really bad karma and an inability to learn from experience though. A pity. May it get better for her and her kid.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well, "better" prositute to take care also of her kid, than jump with him from a roof...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You guys have no sense of reality about the situation here. The woman is obviously doing her best, but what are her ex-husbands doing? Do you know how many ex-husbands refuse to pay up even when they have the money? If you allot blame by saying, "she could have conceived of this happening", then yes she is guilty, because Japan is certainly still an unfair place to be for a woman. But it is her right to take the chance that her husbands won't be abusive and that the economy won't suddenly fail, and have a child if she wishes. That's a chance everyone takes.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sad story. No sense in blaming the victim here as regardless she needs help, and unfortunately Koizumi's LDP winner dog/loser dog strategy leaves this woman in the latter category.

All you rabid anti-choice wingers out there be aware that this is what life sometimes, more now that ever before, leads to unfortunately. Its called misery. And you folks offer nothing once a child is born.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ruriko just sounds lazy to me.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Kosodate" is a hard job in any country. Japanese making it too much hard for them. Japanese think they should rear a child like a prince. If someone fails to do so, he/she will turn to immoral activities like prostitution. No debate. This is very simple. Look at the developing muslim countries. Child rearing is not as hard as you think. Child rearing is a mix of Sorrow and Joy. Joy overcomes sorrow. No one has to kill himself or do prostitution. If you do so, you are a looser impatient bastard.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ex husband still paying for sex he had years ago and a kid that isnt his?. sounds like just another form of prostitution...and menstral cramps so she cant keep a job? give me a break. we reap what we sow.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I somehow admire her, for thinking of her child and not killing the two of them, via suicide, as we see frequently. It must not be easy to sell your body. Even for a living. And those of us wanting to help her, we don´t need to go after her. There must be someone living the same hell just around your corner.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

you cant help someone who wont help themselves

0 ( +0 / -0 )

do not be fooled with the pity scheme. I felt for it with my ex but I soon realized I had to divorce her in order to keep my mental state and for the good of the kids. She moved on, re-married another loser, (for yes, I was one of them), divorced him and went for another loser again, and separated from the last loser, and went for yet another lose younger than her. So, so people will always put the blame on the other person for sympathy. But you do not what screwed-up head each one has. You have t check around with friends, ex, and even her own family. The problem is, when you are in love, your defense mechanisms become disabled to the point you justify any injury or anything bad the other person does.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Pretty sad either way you look at it. I know this is somewhat of a generalisation but I always find the death escape comment discomforting and a bit too pervasive in Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Suicide is the act of a coward! Or rather, 30,000+ cowards every year in Japan. If this person depicted in this story is so mentally ill she is suicidal the kid should not be living with her. But, hang on, this is Japan. What are social services?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A Girl, Lady, Woman, Female or QUEEN seem to be, more or less, been able to play the victim role when it comes to relationships. Ms. Suzuki, seems to be very intelligent and sweet, plus cute. That is on the outside. I would surmize that the real problem is her TONGUE. IF so, She is vindictive and greedy. Not to sure if her ex-husbands were really abusive. (Poor reporting:, if your not going to check both sides, then hmmm, it should not have been a story or you more should have picked someone else with a more solid foundation) She just wants her cake and eat it too. tsk tsk

She really doesn't want to work, and is looking for a Sugar Daddy. There is always a price to pay when your not an university graduate.

However, I truely believe in L<3ve. And l<3ve conquers all. Your KNIGHT, Your Prince Charming, your man, your future 3rd husband, your boy toy... is just around the corner. Good things sometimes, takes time (to find/ have). BUT THE REAL QUESTION IS CAN YOU WAIT FOR IT?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A lame excuse!

My 55 year old Japanese teacher is cleaning the house, doing household chores for a wealthy Japanese family. Her work includes cleaning the three toilets in the house. I am sure, Ms. Suzuki can do a better job than my teacher.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Unemployed for the past year, she has survived on unemployment insurance benefits supplemented by 30,000 yen-a-month allowances from her father and her first ex-husband (not the child’s father)."

It's a shame the child's father is not paying some support.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's the first time I hear someone say she can not find a job because of menstrual cramps. Come on, many women have painful menstruations but there is medication for it. I recommend her to try Ibuprofen and stop prostituting herself.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

mix feelings after reading this. at least she did not just murder her kid and get on with her life.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Disillusioned

Your take on suicide is rather narrow-minded and obviously based on your Western-style upbringing. Suicide isn't thought of in the same way in Japan so get used to it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Knews, how do you know Disillusioned was raised in the West unless you know the person personally? Many of my Japanese friends say the same thing about suicide. Especially with the population shortage. I believe you are judging from a pre-Meiji perspective. Things here have changed since 1873.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Suicide is obviously always an option. I don't get the point, that it will be an act of a coward. It's (sometimes) beyond imagine to think, what happend to someone jumping off a skyscraper. I feel sorry for everyone, who commit suicide, whatever the reason may be...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Monoflow, how about because it takes courage to live life even through the rough times. Give things time and they work out fine. The problem today is that people place far TOO MUCH on material success. Instead of facing their own faults and how they ****ed everything up, they choose suicide with no thought of the family left behind to pick up the pieces of THEIR shattered lives without them. That is why it is a cowards way out. It takes courage to live through the tough times. Sorry, my sympathy lies with folks who have to live through hell through no fault of their own. Like people left paralyzed by drunk divers. Cry for a whimp choosing to end it all instead of living through difficulty, not me. I had an uncle who committed suicide 25 years ago and his wife (my aunt) still is left in shock and trying to rearrange her life without him. Too bad he didn't think of her - huh? Too bad indeed. He was a coward. Feel sorry for the family left behind.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Spanishwoman is Ibuprofen allowed here? remember the strict laws against good medicine.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

hmmmgin,

how do you know she's cute?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If I put the link then might be my comment will be deleted; but just finished reading similar news about how Taiwanese jobless are surviving in BBC news site. They have come up with innovative temporary jobs like errand-running, mosquito controlling, etc. (some examples were single mothers there also). Just meant to say - there are other ways to surviving. Then, another question : what is wrong with prostitution? If she does not do it, someone else will be doing it. It is the whole society that has to show the responsibility - not just her.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Does she have a Louis Vuitton bag? Or several?

If her plight is genuine, I feel for her. But, if she owns just one of those boring, expensive bags, then no sympathy - learn to manage your money properly.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Not being from Japan, I do not know, do divorced fathers have to make alimony payments until a child is 18 years of age? Here in the USA, lawyers sometimes get sweet deals for divorced mothers. It depends how affluent the father is.,

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As Good ole Rocky Balboa says, "It's not how hard you can hit. It's how hard you can get hit and still keep moving forward. That's how winning is done." Young People now a days are just mental weaklings! They give up too easily and blame others for their problems!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

did daisuke suzuki pay for ruriko's service? or just he met for an interview?

i might be doing this kind of research too. i need 2man yen per 50 women. anyone would like to finance my research?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

She should have no trouble making 20,000 - 30,000 a day. She should be thankful for her cellphone - no need for a pimp.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites