The lengthy, multi-syllabic nature of Japanese vocabulary means that words used in discussing social phenomena often evolve into abbreviated versions in order to streamline conversations. A prime example is “JK.”
JK is the shortened version of joshikosei, which means “female high school student.” After the schoolgirl pop culture boom picked up speed in the 1990s, JK became a commonly used shorthand in media headlines and online communication starting about a dozen years ago. Recently, it’s been showing up in the term “JK business,” which refers to the burgeoning industry in which businesses offer close, personalized customer service from high school girls to male patrons.
“Close, personalized customer service” might sound like a euphemism for sexual acts, but JK businesses don’t offer such things, at least not officially. Instead, a customer might pay to have a girl sit and talk with him, one-on-one, in a semi-private setting, go for a walk through the city, or give him a massage. However, critics feel that the ostensibly chaste services provided by JK businesses, which are often provided in a manner that facilitates clandestine communication, have the potential to be a jumping-off point to prostitution and other illicit and illegal indecency in exchange for additional fees.
The industry even has its own jargon for such arrangements: ura opu, a truncated version of ura opushon or “secret options.” Concerns about ura opu have led Tokyo to pass a municipal ordinance which will prohibit individuals under the age of 18 from working in JK businesses. The legislation is the first in Japan to target the JK industry by name, although similar provisions can be found elsewhere, such as in Aichi Prefecture’s Ordinance of Juvenile Protection.
Tokyo’s new ordinance describes JK businesses as meeting the following three criteria:
● Offering services in which the worker comes into contact with customers solely of the opposite sex
● Explicitly stating that the services are performed by a minor
● Run the risk of arousing a customer’s sexual interest towards a minor
It’s worth noting that the new law wouldn’t be applicable to massage parlors, hostess bars, and other such enterprises in which women over the age of 18 dress or act like school girls. It’s also unclear where exactly the authorities will be drawing the line on what constitutes a JK business. Maid cafes, for example, in which employees dress in frilly maid costumes and sit with customers, but generally in an open, non-private shared dining area, appear to be a gray area. For organizations which promise a secluded block of time with an actual high school girl, though, time is running out on their business model, as Tokyo’s under-18 JK business ban is set to go into effect on July 1.
Sources: Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Mainichi Shimbun via Niconico News via Jin, Sankei News
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