In a country that hosts game shows featuring ‘orgasm competitions’, and parlours offering sex with robots that talk and feel real, it’s definitely a place where people can feel quite normal no matter how they get off, or what they get off on. The sexual entertainment industry is called fuzoku, and is unapologetic and all-inclusive.
While prostitution is technically illegal, law enforcement is remarkably lax, and many establishments protect themselves from prosecution by registering businesses as massage parlours or bath houses. Many fuzoku establishments are completely legal, as Joan Sinclair notes in her book Pink Box many places “offer absolutely everything imaginable but sex.”
It’s considerably difficult to find a run-of-the-mill strip club in Japan, and as noted by Phoenix and Phoenix, “the Japanese sex-menu is convincingly dominated by fetishes, very specific ones, and the residents of the world’s most modern civilisation are highly prone to it.”
It’s not all sex robots and crazy gameshows, however, there are also very innocuous things that are fetishised in Japan. The upper thigh is something we’re quite used to seeing in western countries, but in Japan that sacred space between a thigh-high sock and a short skirt is a part some find otherworldly erotic and is called zettai ryoiki, or ‘absolute territory’. There’s also entire magazines dedicated to images of girls smiling and showing off their naturally pointed canine teeth, which some also find very arousing.
“It’s quite normal to take a work colleague out to dinner, which is served on a naked woman’s body, or to kick back at a love massage parlour.”
In a country with the 4th lowest crime rate in the world according to Numebo, clearly Japanese people are doing something right, and perhaps this unashamed seen-it-all attitude towards sexual entertainment is one way they let off steam without causing trouble. Really, how could you feel murderous or destructive when there are establishments dedicated to cuddling? Yes, just cuddling.
So while rope-tying bondage or shibari is as popular as ever and arguably the most exported fetish, there’s a whole other world to Japanese fuzoku. Those with a fetish some might find out of the ordinary can take heart knowing they’re unlikely to be alone in Japan.