Street scouts take risks to rake in big money
On Sept 7, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police announced the arrest of three men on charges of violating the city’s ordinance against public nuisances. Charges are to be filed against a total of eight employees of a self-described worker dispatch firm named “Talent Bank.”
One of the three arrested was the company’s president, Mamoru Yoshioka, 34. Yoshioka’s “company” did not send part-time workers to offices, stores and factories, but oversaw the activities of street scouts (called “sukautoman” in Japanese), who accost young women on street corners and arrange for them to work in drinking establishments or sex shops. The shops pay monthly finder’s fees for as long as the women remained employed therein.
According to police, Yoshioka was charged with having approached two female students on an Ikebukuro street in August 2011, and recruited them to work at a sex shop. Both were aged 16 at the time.
Weekly Playboy (Sept 30) reports that Talent Bank, which secured the services of some 67 scouts, including females, cleared over 10 million yen a month, and was believed to have raked in over 300 million yen since the company’s founding in 2011.
Street scouting used to be very much a solitary profession, but more recently, the magazine has learned, they have become organized into groups. The main source of inside information about this is the pseudonymous Mr A, who heads his own group of some 20 scouts.
“It’s no longer rare now for scouts to organize,” he says. “They pay a ‘kanban-ryo (‘sign fee’) to whatever group they tie up with, to be able to use the company name. At first, the fee is a flat 30% of their sales. The more they get ahead, the lower the percentage.
“There are two reasons why things work better this way,” he explains. “The first is that tying up with a company lets them secure a piece of territory on which to operate. In some drinking areas people fight over territory, and this lets the group assign spots where their scouts can work without any hassle. That’s why it’s hard to do scouting work on the street without a tie-up with a group.”
And what’s the other reason?
“To be able to use the organization’s network,” he says. “If it’s a group that’s worked out contracts with lots of sex shops, they’ll be able to introduce the girls to places that are hiring more quickly.”
But irrespective of how much the scouts pay a sign fee up front, crackdowns by the police have been getting tougher, and there’s always a risk of being arrested.
“For sure, the cops have been getting stricter about recruitment on the street,” A says. “And the girls don’t know anything about who we are, so more of them are avoiding us. The job’s getting tougher, year after year.
“These days, the more skilled a scout is, the less time he’ll spend on the street. He’ll come on to a girl at a club and take her to a social party where he can expand his network. Or to look at it the other way, many of the guys you see out working the streets are there because they don’t have good personal contacts.”
Miku, a young gal who works in a cabaret club, tells Playboy’s reporter, “I came to Tokyo from the countryside. Because a lot of street scouts are shady-looking, when I was back home, a senior from my school advised me before I arrived here that she knew some ‘good scouts in Tokyo,’ and she gave me an introduction to one.”
Miku still receives mails from the scout on her cell phone. She shows Weekly Playboy one message he’d sent her, and the reporter is surprised by its courteous tone. The message also provides info to her about plastic surgery clinics and specialists who assist people in debt reduction.
It’s important to make them trust you,” A explains. “Our organization has got this kind of knowhow.”
“Most scouts are students,” says A. “It’s because they’ve got more time for these things you see. A lot of them attend famous schools, and when business is good, they can earn several million yen a month.
“If it comes to that point, they usually stop attending classes,” he chuckles.
There’s a lot of money for those who master the tricks of the trade. The question is, though, is it worth the risk of getting busted?