Winners and losers in the 'papa-katsu' game


There are winners and losers, it seems, everywhere. The modern dream of equality retreats ever farther.

Gaps open everywhere – power gaps, gender gaps, the steadily widening gap between rich and poor.

Take, for example, papa-katsu. The Japanese character katsu (activity) shows up everywhere lately. There is shukatsu (job-seeking), konkatsu (pursuit of a marriage partner), and, lately, papa-katsu, the pursuit by young women of older, preferably well-heeled men for financial security and whatever other reassurance that only maturity can offer. (“Mama-katsu,” the pursuit by young men of older women, is a spin-off of papa-katsu.)

 It’s a new variation on an old theme. Spa! (March 19-26) traces its origin back to the “mistress banks” of the pre-internet 1980s. In between came enjo kosai (literally “support dating”), featuring mostly senior high school girls dating older men for meals and pocket money. Sexual favors were often but not necessarily part of the bargain.

Now it’s papa-katsu – a return to the mistress bank tradition in the sense that the women are older, usually in their early 20s; but now the matchups occur primarily online via smartphone apps linked to specialized encounter sites.

“Tomomi,” as Spa! calls her, is 22, a 3rd-year university student, and, decidedly, one of the papa-katsu winners. Her philosophy: “Why not turn my youth into a financial asset?” We’re not told what she’s studying, but whatever it is, it’s unlikely to lead to a career more lucrative than her present one. In 10 months of activity she claims to have earned 10 million yen. She’s no beauty, Spa! tells us. How does she do it?

With subtlety and finesse. She’ll meet face to face with anyone who seems likable online. If the man in person meets her standards, she’ll date him; otherwise, not. They dine, he pays. They drink, he pays. And it’s top quality dining. The men she’s careful to choose aren’t the sort to balk at spending 100,000 for an evening’s entertainment.

He makes his move. She pretends not to understand. They meet again, and again. Playing the innocent schoolgirl, she strings him along – “I keep him guessing” – until finally he’ll pay any price to have her. She knows her moment – “I learned working as a cabaret club hostess.” She’ll settle for nothing less than 70,000 yen, and so effective are her softening-up techniques that she never has to. She recalls with a smile the man to whom, blushing, she promised, “You’ll be my first man – as soon as I turn 20.”

She’s especially busy now, during spring break. Ten or so men fill her weekly schedule.

Once, she admits ruefully, clever though she is, she met her match – a man who slipped out of their hotel room and vanished into the night while she was in the shower. An occupational hazard, the loss easily made up.

That’s how it is for a papa-katsu winner. For others – probably for most – it’s a lot more modest. “Misaki,” a 20-year-old second-year university student, lives with her mother, on whom she “doesn’t want to be a burden.” Her current customer list is three names long, but her earnings are minimal – not much more than meals, in fact. The truth is, she says, that, having grown up without a father, her object is more a father figure than a sugar daddy. She lost her virginity to one of the three, and didn’t haggle over the fee. “I’m afraid,” she says, “that if I raise my price they’ll leave me. What can I do? I guess I’m one of the losers!”

© Japan Today

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

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I think the word "prostitute" is the proper word.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Have your fun now I guess, since once your youth runs out and the men are no longer interested you'll face the harsh realities of life. Makes me laugh when there are all these feminist movements at universities in the news recently, shouldn't they be looking at what goes on at their own schools before trying to change things in the corporate world?

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Some of that might work with a Japanese nerd, but not happening in my neck of the woods. Her juvenile scheme is laughable.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Articles like this are one of the reasons I like reading JT.

They just don't tell you about this kind of stuff in the tourist brochures.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

It sounds like they are simple prostitutes rather than women looking for an older man who will offer them financial security.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The men she’s careful to choose aren’t the sort to balk at spending 100,000 for an evening’s entertainment.

Never met such a man in all my years in Osaka and Tokyo. Most guys making good money know a scam. If they want a young lady there are plenty of call services with straight cash payment of 30,000 yen.

4 ( +4 / -0 )


Maybe the guys who do pay these women literally have “money to burn” and want a taste of “real game.” 100,000 is lunch money for a guy who makes Ichi-oku a month.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

You’d read this thinking it wouldn’t work, but if you watch any Japanese drama, you realize ignorance (or the feigning of it) is rampant here.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

“Why not turn my youth into a financial asset?”

I was skim-reading this article, and for a moment I read the word "mouth" instead of "youth".

Might not have been far wrong.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

These kind of relationships has been around for a while, and the amount of "papa-katsu" dating sites is higher than ever:

It also sounds a bit like the phenomena "auction dating"...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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