In central Tokyo, one never knows where the most flourishing neighborhoods are. One alleyway from a main street could lead to a quiet neighborhood of small offices and high-end apartments, but just the other alleyway over may very much be the center of all action, a line of neon lights attracting the tired white-collar workers with no work-life balance into establishments that offer everything from the cheapest fast foods to the priciest female companions. This is especially true on a Friday night, when the obligatory drinks with the coworkers to end the tough workweek, is of course, in session.
It is, then, also the highlight of the week for the legions of young lads and ladies that roam the neon-lit streets, smilingly striking up casual conversations with the passerby in the hopes that the looser wallets and attitudes of TGIF will bring a spike in sales for the shops and places of entertainment that employ them for such solicitations. In this battle of wills among places serving similar alcohols, services, and girls at similar price ranges, no strategy was left unused to get every last potential customer on the streets. Running through the several blocks of endless shops, they chase and talk tirelessly throughout the night.
"Sirs, we have the finest female companions in the entire neighborhood. Only 5000 Yen for 60 minutes, inclusively of drinks and finger food." One young lad quickly inserted himself into the middle of some middle-aged, neatly suited salarymen, who, by the red hues of their faces, have already settled their dinner and first rounds of drink. Having caught the attention of the salarymen, the young lad boldly continued to describe the extra services on offer, with polite languages but loud enough for everyone around the little street intersection to hear. No blushing, no embarrassment, just Friday night business as usual.
But the customers are just as matter-of-fact-like in dealing with these solicitations as the youngsters making the offers. The salarymen began to seriously consider the offer, very much aware of but not at all offended by the sexual nature of the services being clearly and vocally iterated by the young men. They seem to have no problem being perceived by strangers on the street that they are sexually active, and they are willing to pay for those services, despite, well, most would speculate, having wives of many years and children who are probably not much younger than the female companions being offered to them.
This is the biggest difference between Japan and the rest of Asia. Yes, this sort of shady business exist in all part of Asia (perhaps happening at much larger scale in some other parts of Asia) but none are as open about it as the Japanese. Some commonly-perceived sexual services being legal in Japan may be one reason for the openness, but much bigger reason would be the general low morality and tolerance toward casual purchase of sex for entertainment among the Japanese populace (or, at the very least, among males of certain age groups). Such open attitude toward sex is not seen anywhere else in Asia.
The origin of the attitude is stress from work the average Japanese worker receive on a daily basis. Feeling inadequate and incapable in the workplace is an everyday affair in Japan, and not surprisingly, such feelings of involuntary submissiveness is very perceptively damaging for the "masculinity" of the male workers in question. To get the manliness back, they, in a rather morally devious way, purchase companionship of young females. They talk and play with professionals who pretty much specialize in rebuilding the confidence of the male clients that they serve.
For the author himself, having not been in Japan for some three years since leaving Rakuten, all this seems refreshing, but in a rather painful way. Having been in town for a job interview, he once again felt the immediate gruesome tiredness that was the bane of his year-long tenure at Rakuten, and began to doubt just whether he can handle that once more, no matter how reputed of a company he works for and how much he will be paid for doing it. Last years of growing up and experiencing different jobs seemed to not have prepared him for this moment, much to his surprise.
Interestingly, at the very moment that he finished his job interview rather late at night and devoid of last bits of energy, the first thing that came to his mind was going out to get something to eat, and then fulfill his carnal desires. While the thought quickly went away, the very natural tendency of having such thoughts in the first place goes to show just how being in Japan can change a man rather quickly. For the author, this, rather than any job pressure, is the scariest aspect of working in Japan. Assuaging the downs of work life through unhealthy indulgence in sex, while necessary, should not become routine or morally unquestioned.