The sex industry has been and is one of the most flourishing in any culture. Japan is no exception, as this business is estimated to generate about 2.3 trillion yen a year (about $ 22 billion), according to Havocscope. Even the sex doll culture in Japan has contributed to the emergence of sites like joylovedolls.com.
Until 1956 the practice of prostitution was legal in Japan. However, in that year the Anti-Prostitution Law or Baishun Bōshi Hō was promulgated, which made it illegal, in the middle of the American occupation. And it is that the US occupation government was concerned about its own vision of morality and about turning Japan into a modern country without this type of practice.
Although this meant turning away from the traditional customs and practices that had made prostitution relatively natural in Japan in previous centuries. The definition of prostitution given in the law (Anti-Prostitution) referred only and exclusively to intercourse, with which all sexual practices that did not imply intercourse were legal.
The fact that the practice of prostitution in Japan was legal in the past did not make it something without problems. In fact, the attitude of the Japanese was to accept their existence but outside the city center and in fenced neighborhoods. Thus the "good citizens" did not have to see or know what was happening within those neighborhoods, being able to turn a blind eye. At that time, prostitution was practiced in the so-called pleasure neighborhoods, among which we can highlight Yoshiwara in Edo (now Tokyo), Shimabara in Kyoto, and Shinmachi in Osaka.
If the competent authorities detected an unlicensed brothel located outside these pleasure neighborhoods, they closed it immediately and sent all the employees to live in these neighborhoods, forcing them to work for one of the already established brothels.
But having legal neighborhoods for prostitution was something that did not fit with the strict morals of the Americans or with a modern country. And as is always the case, by prohibiting or outlawing certain sexual behaviors until then legal, they encouraged the picaresque. Thus, entrepreneurs sought - and found - ways to take advantage of the ins and outs of the law to continue to earn large amounts of money from sex. This was so because the recently passed law gave vague definitions of what it considered "sex."
Today, the red districts are the inheritors of the old pleasure districts. These neighborhoods, logically, are no longer on the outskirts of the cities, since they have grown so much that they have been absorbed. An example is Kabukicho, in the Shinjuku neighborhood, which is full of clearly visible sex businesses. However, these neighborhoods also have hotels, restaurants and a lot of leisure life unrelated to sex. But behind, the Japanese mafia or yakuza controls these businesses with a heavy hand.
How was it possible that schemes to trade sex were found without breaking the law? Much of the confusion regarding the sex industry in Japan stems from a poor understanding of this anti-prostitution law. The law did not actually make prostitution illegal. What they declared illegal was seeking sexual services, forcing someone to prostitute himself, obtaining compensation for the prostitution of third parties, inducing prostitution, opening premises for the exercise of prostitution or obtaining funds for prostitution. Interestingly, the definition of prostitution given in this law referred only and exclusively to intercourse. In this way, all sexual practices that did not involve intercourse were not only legal but also not considered prostitution. Sex entrepreneurs in Japan, then, saw an opportunity to create a multitude of businesses with great imagination to circumvent the law. Thus, arose the soapland, establishments where customers are covered in lubricant and then prostitutes bring them to orgasm. But without penetration so as not to break the law. Other sex businesses are erotic massage parlors or pink salons, where only oral sex is practiced. We can also talk about image clubs or imekura, themed brothels where rooms and prostitutes interpret the most recurrent fantasies.