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In post-WWII Japan, American-style striptease clubs became a thriving part of the sex entertainment industry, but now they are facing a crisis. During the years of rapid economic growth mid-century, more than 200 of this particular type of strip revue club could be found in the metropolises and hot spring resorts of Japan, but with the end of the bubble era, the number began to fall and has kept on falling. Today, only about 20 remain. The decline is partly due to the easy availability of idol videos and internet porn, but there are also causes within the industry itself, as one reporter found out. Are Japan’s strip clubs doomed?

The Pressure Towards Prostitution

“In our heyday, this place was packed to the rafters every day. You could actually hear the floors creaking. Now all you hear is the clock, most days,” laments a staff member from a club in Osaka.

Osaka is usually on the cutting edge when it comes to Japan’s sexual culture, and at one time, you could find about 20 striptease clubs in town. Now the remaining ones can be counted on one hand.

According to one writer who knows the sex industry here well, the biggest reason for the decline in strip clubs is the availability of adult videos. “A striptease is only for watching, you know. These days, on the internet, you can easily find all kinds of extreme porn to watch. So, for the same amount of money you pay for a tame striptease, you can get a more direct sexual service… well, that’s just human nature.”

In order to attract customers, strip clubs have been offering more “extreme” services, which has attracted the attention of the police. Just this September, the management staff of a famous strip club in Osaka was arrested for violating the Entertainment Business Act when a dancer was caught performing an obscene act in a private room of the club.

International Relations Have Unexpected Side Effects

Another recent trend has had a big impact on the business, and that is the worsening of Sino-Japanese relations.

According to the owner of a club in Tokyo, “Certainly, the low price of nudity in the digital age is one reason for declining customer interest, but in recent years, we’ve had large numbers of Chinese tourists, which really shored up the business. Now, with the Senkaku Islands issue and other problems, the numbers have dropped off remarkably.” One busy days, the club might have had around 200 Chinese tourists, but now the number is usually about 10-odd.

The owner added gravely, “Whether this is a passing issue with China or something that is going to drag on is really a life or death question for us.”

The Damage Done by Porn Stars as Guest Dancers

“Of course the police attention and the availability of digital porn have contributed to the decline of the industry, but there are internal causes as well,” says Masahiko Taniguchi, a photographer who has exclusively covered the strip industry for 20 years.

“On the business side, not bothering to train and develop dancers, but just booking popular porn stars has been a real problem,” he says.

“Stripping is an art form with a long history. It’s not about just showing a naked body. It’s about dancing with a sexy grace, about making people feel like the can see more than they actually can, S&M shows, hanadensha… These were things that you could only see at a strip club, and they fascinated clients, engaging them with two-way communication.”

Then, as adult videos rose in popularity, clubs began booking the stars and other popular sex workers as guest dancers.

“Booking a porn star is an easy way to bring in clients. But much like your average Japanese talento, they have a short shelf life. Of course, there are porn actresses that experience stripping as a kind of awakening and do their best to become a good dancer, but the majority of them lose popularity and just drift off.”

And as a result, even dancers who possess a lot of skills are kept from the stage. “One dancer I know told me her club just closed so now she has nowhere to perform. If new dancers are not brought up, then the number of true artists falls over time. And if there are fewer true artists, there won’t be fans who learn to love stripping as an art form, as there were in the past. It’s a vicious circle.”

According to Taniguchi, this trend became very noticeable around 2000, when the number of clubs closing really began to accelerate.

Back to Basics

We asked the Tokyo club owner what the industry needed to do to survive.

“Money spent in the sex industry is generally spare cash, so in tough economic times such as these, there’s not much of it. We need something that is going to make business men and the like have a beer and think ‘Hmm, that seems interesting, let’s go check it out.’ We need a star on the level of AKB48 or Momoiro Clover Z, but not one pulled in from somewhere else. We need a star of our own,” he said.

Taniguchi, however, insists that a return to stripping as performance art was the only way to go.

“Stripping is the convergence of the sex industry and the entertainment industry. Customers wonder if a performance is the real thing or just an act, and the ability to make them believe it with a look is intoxicating. That connection you get from a live performance is something you can’t get from digital porn. If we can devote ourselves to developing this craft, we may be able to survive.”

Source: Goo News
Image: Pouch