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As I was circling sites on my Fukouka map I wanted to see, I cringed as my eyes read, “Nakasu-Kyushu’s biggest red-light district filled with countless small bars, cabaret clubs, pachinko parlors and game centers. Lots of neon lights too!”

I’ve heard stories that prostitution was legal (or loopholes in the law making it “legal”) in Japans so I wasn’t shocked to see machine vendors stocked with porn, sex parlors, or pictures of girls in the phone booth waiting for men to dial their commercial voicemails.

I knew the culture of prostitution would be completely different than Korea’s somewhat hidden, angry pimped out red-light districts, and much other places in the world, but wasn’t quite expecting what I experienced…

I talked to 2 Japanese guys that hosted me at my hostel about the prostitution in Japan.

I wasn’t expecting to visit any prostitute districts, but after I saw the map, I had to check it out.

The guy at the hostel encouraged me, “Tanya, it’s completely safe! We don’t hide it. It provides jobs for the girls. And the government helps protect them too.”

Our thoughts were different on prostitution. I wanted to tell him of the thousands of women trafficked here from all over SE Asia, or the high school girls being rapped on the street because of the common “business enjo koasi (compensated dating)” between older men and the girls. But I had to see it for myself…

I couldn’t believe it! Men dressed in their suits in front of every store calling out to passer byers (mostly men) to be entertained in their massage parlors, soap lands, and peep shows. I rode my bike as fast as I could snapping pictures praying I wouldn’t crash and fall.

As I pedaled my way, I could see that most of the men felt NO SHAME or disgrace going there. Typically our moral tendency is to feel guilt after doing something you know is wrong. But in Japan this isn’t a moral issue, but a mere outlet of entertainment.

My heart was filled with disgust and pain for both these men and women. My friend matter of factly stated and I quote, “It’s like a hobby.” The business men (Japanese men are known to go on sex tours) going to the “soap lands” or “image clubs” as if going to a movie.

Painfully, I heard his opinion trying to comprehend his so radically different mindset. I calmly tried to bring my perspective of the value of having a trusting husband/wife relationship with honor and lovingly respecting each other. I curiously asked, “Don’t these women feel any kind of shame and disgrace knowing their husbands are seeking love somewhere else other themselves?” (Simple question, right?) He couldn’t really give me a sound answer…

As I was researching about prostitution in Japan, I found a really interesting article about the outbreak of high school girls become prostitutes just for the sake of getting their idolized Chanel bags or Gucci clothes.

I’m not going to lie; one of my highlights about Japan was its fashion. But is fashion and image at the extent of sacrificing our bodies? Can we measure our identity and worth on a price tag? I was disgusted to hear business men coming up to teenage girls (not your typical prostitutes in underwear, but girls in their school uniforms) standing on the street corner wagering their price for the night.

Do we really devalue ourselves to the image of what society deems we should or shouldn’t have? What have we as a society come to that these men identify women has a matter of a product to be sold? As a mere hobby?

I discovered these men, who seemly have “everything” you could buy, are so empty…lost…hurting. Only filling their lost identity with something that only momentary fueling their addiction with emptiness. Why do they value women as “nothing”? Because they themselves perceive themselves as nothing…

It’s so easy to feel the pain for women that are locked and drugged behind closed doors, but are we willing to look at the pain that these men feel? Trapped as well in their world of pain?

I’ve realized the problem of human trafficking won’t stop no matter how many prostitutes are saved or laws will be put in place. It’s only when we can reach these lost men will human trafficking be stopped. When they see the problem and no longer have the need to go to prostitutes, then how can the pimps fill something that is no longer there?

A friend of mine posted this article that is a MUST READ: THE SKIN TRADE

It’s really hard to read, but I encourage you do not look away. Many people pass over articles thinking the problems too big or it doesn’t affect you so why should you care. Yes, this is an international problem that’s not going to be solved in one day, but CHANGE has to start somewhere.

If you asked me a year ago about prostitution, I was so ignorant I probably wouldn’t have been able to properly define a prostitute. But as I’ve educated myself, seen the injustice, and prayed for the Lord to give me His heart on this matter, I know He can and will make a difference through me. Even if I don’t change a nation or put any pimps in prison, I know the prayer of a righteous man will make a difference and I want to be that person. And you too can make that difference even if you never physically get involve, you have the power to be that light.


***Note-not all Japanese culture is like this. I just wanted to post the seriousness of what is really happening. Many people turn their heads away from reality only choosing (yes it’s a choice) to see what they want to see.

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October 26, 2010 - 10:17 pm

Angela - Tanya,
I think I’ve only maybe met you once at First Assembly in Fargo…
This is a really interesting post. I knew there was prostitution in East Asia, but I had no idea that it was like this. My head can’t wrap around the idea of feeling absolutely nothing when it comes to selling oneself for money and nice clothes – for prestige even! How degrading is it to do that, yet feel no shame? I pray God gives you and all of us who belong to Christ strategy and power to change the culture, to be a light.
Thanks for posting this along with the link to your friend’s article. I read it; how heart breaking, even though it was written in ’93! It’s time for change!!


p.s. I’m coming to S. Korea soon to teach English for a year – I’m excited!

November 2, 2010 - 5:19 am

Christian - Great article Tanya! It would be great to see all forms of prostitution go away… and I believe that reaching the customers is key to seeing many of these industries shrivel up. I’m not sure if prostitution will ever go away but my stance is – human trafficking and the exploitation of children for prostitution needs to end NOW! People trapped in these places need to be freed!

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