The JK Business

An exploration into the schoolgirl dating industry of Japan

What is the JK business?

What is the JK Business?

The JK business refers to compensated dating with high school girls. The word JK stands for "joshi kousei," (女子高生) translated as "highschool girls." It basically stems from the phrase "enjo kousai" (援助交際) which became popular during the 1980's economic boom, which refers to men paying girls to go on dates (usually older men paying younger girls).

What do older men pay younger girls to do?

Walking dates (osampo), fortune-telling, massages, workshops, etc. However, the end destination of the dates might be at a love hotel.

Where are the JK hotspots in Tokyo?

Akihabara and Ikebukuro. Girls in the business can be seen on the streets or in cafes and private rooms.

Is sex something promised to the older men?

No, it is not explicitly advertised or sold, however sex is often in the equation. Men may expect sex after paying, and girls may feel obligated to have sex with them at the end of the date or at a later meeting. There have been many reports of sexual victimisation. The JK business is highly associated with human trafficking and sexual exploitation of teenagers.

What are some of the reasons girls join the JK business?

Curiosity and the intrigue that comes along with its taboo nature. Some may do it because their parents prohibit it, or for other social reasons outlined in the catalysts section below. Some are tricked into doing it because it is usually a high-paying job to pay for college, and girls are tricked into thinking all they have to do is spend time with the older men. Others feel alone and do not really have anyone they can trust, taking emotional refuge in the JK business.

What are some of the reasons men patronise JK business?

Some may enjoy the taboo nature of “dating” a high school girl. Others may not feel confident or have the social skills to approach women their age, so they seek out these younger girls who are less experienced and unlikely to reject them. Some may be influenced by the promotion and sexualization of high school girls in anime, manga and visual novels.

Is there a link between idol groups like AKB48 and the JK business?

AKB48 is an “idol group” of young girls who sing pop songs with provocative lyrics and pose in bikinis for magazines. Yasushi Akimoto created this accessible idol group who perform regularly in their own theater in Tokyo, where girls meet with their fans daily. They released a controversial song called 制服が邪魔をする (School uniform is getting in the way), which is a song sung from the point of view of a girl in the JK business expressing sexual desire for her customer and her belief that there is nothing wrong with their relationship. Other idol groups also frequently show their members being sexualized while in school uniforms.

Catalysts

What factors contribute to the existence of the JK business in Japan?

  • Japan's shame-based culture prevents many from stepping forward with the problems they've faced working in JK business. As a result, justice is not served and the problems of JK business go largely unnoticed by the general public.

  • Unlike many other developed countries, Japan never had a sexual revolution. The morality issues surrounding premarital sex that often arise in Western countries are not an issue in Japan, where premarital sex is seen as a norm.

  • Japanese education facilitates girls entering JK business in several ways beyond the obvious fetishization of the Japanese schoolgirl uniform.

    • Girls that feel excluded from school may seek validation from the men they meet through JK business. Even girls that feel included in school often base their inclusion on commercialism. They turn to JK business as a way to afford the status objects and outings with friends necessary to stay inside a group.

    • Japan lacks comprehensive sex education. The sex education many teenagers receive varies wildly in content and number of hours depending on the school and teacher's preferences. Therefore, many enter into JK business without fully realizing the dangers of what could happen to them.

    • The relationship between JK business and girl's education is self-reinforcing. Having been raised with low expectations from school, parents, and society, many girls value the short-term cash intake of JK business over the long-term opportunity of a career. In turn, the profits they make from JK business lower their educational aspirations, as many see the profits as more important.

  • Tough economic times make high paying, officially sanctioned part-time jobs difficult to find. Young girls increasingly turn to the highly profitable JK business to earn money. While some use this money for necessities, such as food and shelter, others use it for luxury goods, such as designer bags and clothing.

  • Japan lacks any comprehensive human trafficking laws. The anti-prostitution laws that are in place put blame on the pimps and the prostitutes, but not the customers. This creates a climate of victim-blaming that makes it difficult and dangerous for victims to come forward and seek legal action. Moreover, since these cases are only prosecuted in Japan when the victim steps forward, very few JK business cases are ever actually brought to court.

  • Japan’s child pornography laws are severely outdated, which is ironic since they were only signed into effect in 2014. In other words, before 2014, child pornography in Japan was completely legal. Though banning the production of live-action child pornography, erotic anime and manga are still protected under the freedom of speech. While this is not necessarily a problem in itself, many erotic anime and manga feature girls who look much younger than their "real" ages.

Survey

We conducted a survey to get an idea of the general attitude towards the JK business. The survey was distributed in English and Japanese, with 124 respondents. It was distributed through word-of-mouth and social media. Over 80% of the respondents were between age 18 and 22 and were currently in university.

Note: an answer of "1" means strongly disagree/strongly negative/"absolutely not", a "3" is neutral or unsure, and a "5" is strongly agree/strongly positive/"absolutely".

Pick a question topic:

Solutions

Explore some possible recommendations for solutions that can help reduce the prevalence of the JK business in Japan.

  • There can be more establishments that are able to provide “IBASHO” (a place where someone feels included and at home) for the girls who feel lost and lonely and might seek validation of their worth. These establishments can come in the form of clubs that the girls can join, support groups, and organisations who can provide a safe place for the girls to go to.

  • Organisations can try to raise awareness about the JK business in Japan.

  • Organisations can give talks in schools to educate both girls and boys about the JK business and the dangers of engaging in them. If the girls allow, they can tell stories of how girls are being exploited by the JK business and if possible the girls can be ambassadors and advocate against the JK business as well.

  • Organisations can work with media outlets to provide coverage about what is going on currently about the JK business in Japan and the exploitations of girls.

  • Japan can establish a comprehensive anti-human trafficking law and a department to support the law and crack down on human trafficking.

  • Japan can also revise prostitution law and make it such that they prosecute the customers as well, instead of only the girls.

  • Celebrities can be ambassadors and promoters of gender equality.

  • Media should shift their focus from objectifying females to providing more information about the gender gap in Japan.

  • Media should work together with organisations to showcase exploitations of girls in JK business to educate the public and promote awareness. This can be done through documentaries, news, fiction, and other forms of mass media.

Organizations

Colabo logo
Colabo

Colabo is a Tokyo-based foundation that focuses specifically on the plight of teenage girls. Their two main goals are to 1) provide support to teenage girls in difficult situations and 2) empower girls in hopes to eventually foster self-reliant girls who do not feel the need to enter into such dangerous businesses. They have several activities they run to help accomplish these goals including:

  • Running a shelter, providing consultation
  • Accompanying girls to police, school, etc.
  • Night patrols, night tours (for those interested in learning more about JK business)
  • Meal shares (sharing a home-cooked meal in order to provide a sense of family/belonging for girls who often had neither)

In fact, the organization has been so successful in empowering girls that some of the previous victims helped by Colabo have in turn, started their own self-empowerment group called Tsubomi. This group works in collaboration with Colabo to help host events for girls in need and raise public awareness.

English Website
Japanese Website



Lighthouse hotline
Lighthouse

Lighthouse is a Tokyo-based, nonprofit organization working to eliminate human trafficking. Founded by Shihoko Fujiwara, Lighthouse works to accomplish this goal through three aspects:

  • Provide consultation to those in need
  • Raise awareness by educating the government and the public
  • Lobby to change Japan's current human trafficking laws (or lack thereof)

In 2015, they released a manga about the sexual victimization of teenagers entitled "Blue Heart." It consists the three episodes: JK business, the assault of a young boy, and "Revenge porn." If you want more information about Blue Heart, click here.

English Website
Japanese Website



Learn More

Want to know more about the JK business? Below is an explanation of how the JK business connects to Confucianism and Japanese values in education and society. To get a better idea of recent events related to the JK business, also explore the news articles linked below.

diagram

The Confucian nationalism of Japan affects how society views females in general, as in Confucianism a woman has to be a “good wife, wise mother,” which leads to a discriminatory workplace culture. This culture adds pressure on women as they have to be able to take good care of their family and work at the same time. This then affects their career goals, and women tend to choose to become housewives when they meet their significant other because it is too hard to both work and have a family at the same time. A lack of desire to have a strong career affects girls’ motivation towards education and their education standards as well.

When girls have lower academic achievements, it affects their achievements in life such as getting a good job, and it also affects girls’ self esteem. In many other ways, girls’ self esteem has already been affected negatively due to what society thinks and expects of them, where they are deemed less worthy than men and should focus only on becoming a housewife.

These factors lead to girls turning to different avenues, such as the JK business, to try to find their self-worth. Yet at the same time the JK business affects society’s views towards girls and objectifies them even more.

This cycle repeats and is hard to break out of, unless drastic change occurs in society. There are certain organizations trying to help girls in the JK business, but it is not enough. So we came up with some solutions that might be able to help this situation even if by just a little bit. What we are trying to do now is to help raise awareness globally of the problematic JK industry.


News articles

More sources

  • Ueno, C. (2003). Self-determination on sexuality? Commercialization of sex among teenage girls in Japan 1. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 4(2), 317-324.
  • Fujiwara, S. (2016, May 26). Center for Human Trafficking Victims: Lighthouse. PowerPoint overview on Lighthouse Organization.

Created for Professor Tokunaga's Minorities in Japanese Education Spring 2016 class at Keio University

Website by: Kate Boyd

Photos by: Carrie Gudenkauf

Information formatted for web by: Annelisa Chong, Carrie Gudenkauf, Kate Boyd

Original research by: Hikari Hosoda, Carrie Gudenkauf, Annelisa Chong, Austin Park, Kate Boyd, Tracy Cui, Yuriko Obayashi, and Vincent Do