Japan has a well-deserved reputation as a country with stimulating night life. Every major city has at least one "neon-gai" (entertainment zone), and Tokyo has dozens.
But according to J-Cast News (April 2), the varieties of so-called "fuzoku" (adult entertainment) businesses -- with one major exception, which we'll get to in a minute -- are showing signs of rapid decline.
"Fuzoku" businesses can be categorized into three major groups. The first are "settai-fuzoku," places where customers can eat and drink while accompanied by employees of the establishment. These include bars, cabarets, clubs, cabaret-clubs, certain types of restaurants, cafes, and so on.
According to data complied by the National Police Agency at the end of 2016, over the previous five years, the number of this type of business had declined nationwide from 68,558 (in 2012) to 64,599.
"These types of businesses are the easiest to be affected by business conditions," explained a knowledgeable magazine journalist. "Another factor is the aging of society. As the customer base ages, they tend to go out less. Companies have less budget for business entertainment, so use of cabaret-clubs and night clubs is also on the decline."
The second type of "fuzoku" is made up mainly of pachinko and mahjongg parlors and game arcades. Business has also been slumping badly over the past five years. There were 12,149 pachinko shops in 2012; last year, the figure was down by more than 1,000, to 10,986. Likewise for mahjongg establishments (down by more than 2,000) and game arcades (down by 1,600).
A writer for a magazine appealing to those interested in gambling told J-Cast News, "Mahjongg has been affected by electronic games, as young people in particular prefer games. But an even bigger factor in the decline, I suppose, is that the biggest segment of mahjongg players are reaching retirement age.
"Fewer young people are inclined to gamble as well, and that affects both pachinko and game arcade use," he added.
Actually, one of the reasons the numbers of pachinko shops and game arcades have been declining is due to the fact that individual businesses are becoming much bigger. For example, the average number of pachinko machines per shop was 378.0 in 2012; by 2016 the figure had ballooned to 411.9. Likewise, although 2,355 pachinko shops had between 501 to 1,000 machines in 2012 (19.4% of the total), by 2016, the number of shops with 501 to 1,000 machines had risen to 2,585 -- 23.5% of the total. Commensurate increases were also seen in the game centers.
What this means, then, is that the small and medium pachinko shops and game arcades have been losing business and shutting down, as more customers head for the giant-size shops.
Then there's the third spoke on the "fuzoku" wheel: the sex industry. Between 2012 and 2016, this sector posted an increase of over 1,700 new businesses, rising from 30,133 to 31,892. Broken down by four types are businesses that operate from a fixed locale; those which do not depend on a fixed locale; those that transmit video images; and those that specialize in introducing a member of the opposite via telephone. Of the above, only businesses that do not depend on a fixed locale and those that transmit video images showed an increase.
Those operating from a fixed locale include soaplands, erotic massage parlors, motels, love hotels, adult sex aids shops and so on. All of these have declined in number over the past five years. However, those not operating from a fixed locale, such as massage dispatch services, sellers of adult video via mail order and so on, increased by 9.6%, from 18,119 in 2012 to 19,856 in 2016. Adult video businesses also rose by 11.3%, and thanks to adult sites on the internet, companies specializing in transmission of images appealing to adult viewers increased by a whopping 35.0%.
At the beginning of 2017, president and five other staff operating Caribbean.com, said to be the most popular site for uncensored adult films, were arrested by the Tokyo police on suspicion of distributing obscene materials.
"The arrest has put the operators of other adult sites on their guard," a reporter for a men's magazine was quoted as saying. "I think we can expect to see the crackdown shutting down sites offering uncensored contents."
The general consensus of writers covering the trade is that due to Japan's lower birth rate and aging of the population, for better or worse these types of "fuzoku" businesses can't expect much of a future. Trends in the economy and wages might influence matters to some degree, but the main factor is that Japanese don't seem to have the energy, vitality, drive -- or whatever you want to call it -- to cavort as they once did.© Japan Today