While Japan’s capital does indeed have the giant TV screens and vivid neon signs that Hollywood movies use as shorthand for “Tokyo,” a lot of advertising in the cities comes from plain old-fashioned legwork, particularly in the entertainment and red light districts. Opening a new restaurant? Trying to drum up business for you hostess bar? In either case, you put an employee on the street, flagging down prospective customers and giving them your establishment’s sales pitch, and even guiding them to the entrance if need be.
However, officials are looking to shut down this face-to-face marketing practice, known in Japanese as "kyaku hiki" (literally “customer pulling”) in one of Tokyo’s biggest tourist draws, the anime and video gaming mecca of Akihabara.
Akihabara doesn’t have quite the level of in-your-face nightlife as Shinjuku’s Kabukicho or the backstreets of Roppongi. Still, the neighborhood’s heavy concentration of anime and video game shops attract hordes of young men who bring their wallets, and in recent years the district has seen the opening of more and more drinking establishments, maid cafes, and other, more risqué businesses willing to meet the desires of their male clientele.
But as animation and interactive entertainment become increasingly mainstream, Akihabara is also attracting a wider demographic than local males age 15-29. Not only is a stop by Akihabara to take a peek at the otaku lifestyle becoming a regular part of domestic travelers’ Tokyo itinerary, as the number of Japanese fans around the globe increases, the neighborhood is seeing more and more visitors from overseas.
Concerned about the image projected by kyaku hiki activities catering to man’s more lascivious desires, officials from Chiyoda Ward, of which Akihabara is a part, have put together a proposal to ban the practice within the ward, regardless of the type of business being represented.
“Akihabara receives a wide variety of visitors, both from inside the country and abroad,” Ward Chief Masami Ishikawa told reporters, “so we want to make it a safe and clean environment.”
At the current time, Chiyoda Ward officials have yet to declare an intention to outright ban any of these businesses themselves. Nor does the proposed kyaku hiki prohibition carry any sort of criminal punishment. The plan calls for officials to patrol the neighborhood, and order violators to cease and desist. Those who fail to comply may have their names publicly announced by the ward.
One reason for officials’ new stance is thought to be the recent popularity in Akihabara of the service known as “JK osanpo.” JK is an abbreviation for joshi kosei, or high school girl, while "osanpo" means a walk or stroll. Just as it sounds, in JK osanpo customers pay for the privilege of walking around Akihabara with a female high school student. While ostensibly no unchaste acts are performed, the fact that many of the girls involved in kyaku hiki for it are still minors has critics worried that it could become a breeding ground for juvenile prostitution.
In light of the shifting legal environment, it seems the best way to go for a walk with a high school girl is still to, you know, work up the guts to ask one you go to school with. If you’re old enough that that’s no longer an option, it’s probably wise to move on to girls a little closer to your own age.
Sources: Jin, NHK
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