Strip clubs face existential crisis in era of digital porn

Strip clubs face existential crisis in era of digital porn

TOKYO —

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?

“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. Last 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.”

On 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 businessmen 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

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  • -1

    HonestDictator

    Pfft even in the US I've always wondered why anyone would pay to only look at women's boobs when I could actually find some women who would let me play with their boobs for free. Now we have websites that not only offer the porn, but the ones that help people hook up just for plain old sexual encounters. Never been to a strip club in my entire life, but I don't think anyone is really going to miss them. Better turn into a hostess/gentleman bar an they might keep afloat.

  • 3

    Onniyama

    Too bad. Strip clubs in Japan are a lot of fun. Sorry to see them go.

  • 10

    paulinusa

    "The decline is partly due to the easy availability of idol videos and internet porn,..."

    Whatever your opinion of stripping I'd say there no substitute for a naked woman standing in front of you.

  • 6

    Alphaape

    I would say that price has a lot to do with it. There is internet porn in the USA and other countries, but the price difference between other countries and Japan is remarkable. A strip club visit in Vegas would probably cost you about $20 to enter, and drinks would probably be a bit on the high end but withing reason. In most Japanese strip clubs, you are looking upwards of around 5000-10000 yen just to enter, and the price just goes up from there.

    The prices in places like the P.I. or Thailand are much cheaper than the USA, and there's plenty of internet action there, yet they continue to strive.

    Japan may have just "out priced" themselves out of the business.

  • -5

    paulinusa

    "...a dancer was caught performing an obscene act in a private room of the club."

    I assume prostitution?

  • 0

    smithinjapan

    While there's a whole lot more to see, and obviously various sexual acts in porn whereas stripping is just a naked body in front of you (or half in front of you), and maybe a lap dance, I think anyone who would prefer to see a naked body on film rather than right there in the flesh is rather said.

  • -2

    smithinjapan

    Sorry, that's "rather sad".

  • 2

    kurisupisu

    To think that the future depends on the future of Chinese tourists is absurd....

  • 4

    Lowly

    Good dancing really is an art, belly dancing, the dance of the seven veils, and many other dance forms are basically a kind of "stripping". I have only been to a strip club once in the US, o and once in Thailand, they were pretty mechanical "I am being sexy now, look, a body part" type of performances, thoroughly boring. Seeing a real artist like the tout mentions in the article would be great, but I doubt they are easy to find.

  • -2

    Lowly

    But Daijoubu!, I just remembered that pole dancing has gone mainstream in the US as exercise for women with a lot of gym clubs having pole rooms where average housewives and young professionals take lessons on the pole. Perhaps this fad will catch on in Japan and maybe it will even become a school club.

  • 1

    edojin

    Started going to strip clubs at The Block in Baltimore, Maryland, when I was in my mid-teens. Not only were they entertaining, but (at my tender age) educational. I always wondered how the drummer could keep up the beat to which the dancer's danced. Also was taken in by the joke tellers between acts, which was a profession in itself.

    Upon coming to Japan I encountered strip joints at Asakusa in Tokyo. They were first class, and well done. The only thing missing was the live band ... and, of course ... the drummer. All the music was produced by records. As I didn't understand Japanese, I never could figure out what the joke tellers were saying ... and thus found them boring.

    I have heard about really wild strip joints here in Japan ... but have never been to any.

    And ... I haven't been to a strip joint in ages. As the story above says ... all the action is available right here on the internet ... except for that excellent drummer who keeps everything in tune ...

  • 2

    Darren Brannan

    I miss Juso music and it's entertainment. :(

  • 3

    jessebaybay

    I dont understand why the feature photo is an image from that robot restaurant? That place is NOT a strip club.

  • 0

    kansaifun

    Been there, done that in Fuse, Osaka...

    It was worth the 5000Yen admittance fee to see all of the dancers, but the place was obviously suffering....

    Too many OTAKU hanging around the place; no clear place to buy alcoholic beverages; bad lighting and music for each performace...

    Still, I hope this place and the handful of others survive to pass on this dying erotic art...

  • 1

    Fadamor

    The strip clubs in the U.S. devolved in only the 10 or so years I patronized them. The "dancers" at the end of that time all had the same dance: alternate twitching the pectoral muscles; stand still while moving hips left and right in time with the music; bend over while grabbing their ankles; then jump on the pole (there always is a pole) and hold themselves up with their thighs and lean back to touch the floor. Repeat until the end of the dance. It was like watching a 1 minute video clip on a closed loop. I'm not surprised at all that the business is dying out.

  • -1

    sau133

    Oh well.

  • 0

    Yubaru

    "...a dancer was caught performing an obscene act in a private room of the club." I assume prostitution?

    Obscene acts dont necessarily mean hooking you know.

  • 1

    paulinusa

    Yubaru: That's why I phrased my sentence that way. Because what might be considered "obscene" in Japan is anything but to western thinking.

  • 1

    Alphaape

    As I have stated, I have gone to strip clubs around the world, and I find that the ones here in Japan are just way too expensive. I think a lot of it has to do with the attitude of the workers and the owners. Some seem to think that this business is designed to make them multi-millionares and that the profits will just keep rolling in. I hate to say it, but very few strippers really make that kind of money, and just because you own a club doesn't mean that it will vault you into a Fortune 500 company status. I do find them entertaining and I am not trying to get into the morality of the issue, but the bottom line is that the clubs are there for men to look at women, and in some cases more may happen.

    With the invention of the internet porn, you get some of the voyeurism done rather easily, but still you don't get the human contact that some may desire, and thus the strip clubs fit in. Smart move for the clubs would be to stream on the net, and let people make plans to meet the ladies for private dances at the clubs. But it would seem that the owners just didn't keep up with the times.

  • 0

    Silvafan

    The strip clubs in the U.S. devolved in only the 10 or so years I patronized them. The "dancers" at the end of that time all had the same dance: alternate twitching the pectoral muscles; stand still while moving hips left and right in time with the music; bend over while grabbing their ankles; then jump on the pole (there always is a pole) and hold themselves up with their thighs and lean back to touch the floor. Repeat until the end of the dance. It was like watching a 1 minute video clip on a closed loop. I'm not surprised at all that the business is dying out.

    What you are saying about the US doesn't really make sense or relevant for this story.

    Point#1 What you describe in the US as dancing doesn't take place in Japan. Which is a point the article is trying to
    make. The strippers in Japan don't really dance or entertain at all. Maybe if they did the business wouldn't be so bad.

    Point #2 The business in the US isn't dying out. Therefore this "same dance" you described isn't killing the business in the US. The stripping business in the US is striving. Actually, stripping like porn is recession proof in the US.

  • 1

    Simona Stanzani

    get some proper burlesque artists, me says.

  • 1

    Simona Stanzani

    there are some very talented ones around, even in Japan.

  • 1

    combinibento

    In Japan, where you can easily just visit fuzoku to get your rocks off, you can't really expect the strip club industry to stick around long in Japan. If you had 10,000 burning a hole in your pocket and you had a choice, most men would patron the fuzoku joint. Those are not abundant in the US so that explains why strip clubs are in demand.

    Silvafan also makes a good point. The Japanese strippers that I've seen just sit there spreading their bits as if that is the main attraction. They do not put a whole lot of effort into choreography and the tease. I agree they might find a little more success if they did.

  • 1

    whiskeysour

    Strip clubs in Japan are expensive and boring !!!! America you get more bang for your buck sort of speak. hehehehe

  • 3

    Serrano

    "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"

    They still have a clock that ticks?

    "These days, on the Internet, you can easily find all kinds of extreme porn"

    I checked into this. Whoa! I mean, whoa, baby! I mean, I found some pretty disgusting stuff, along with some not-so-disgusting, and some actually pretty nice stuff, ha ha. The disgusting stuff is pretty disgusting, though. Some people need serious help.

  • 0

    Elbuda Mexicano

    Geez! No more strip clubs in Japan?? The shame! Hahaha!

  • 0

    Tom DeMicke

    Patrick Smash...you are spot on! Too damn expensive.

  • 0

    lwsydney

    Isn't it a good thing they're going down? Tell the 'lamenting managers' to re-think their lives and put their skills to good use promoting something honorable. One less sexist wart on Japan's social backside. One down, 50 jillion to go... -_-

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