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It could be a scene from most neighborhoods in urban Japan but it happened to be mine in Hashimoto, Kanagawa Prefecture. Speaking in broken Japanese, the women zeroed in on salarymen who looked unsteady on their feet as a stocky man wearing shades and too much gold jewelry hovered in the background, giving orders.
Some walk the tightrope between the flirting that is a job requirement and the prostitution that lurks on the fringes of their profession, while also avoiding obstacles that include unscrupulous employers, violence and police harassment, and somehow manage to save or send money home.
Set in a secluded part of Chiba, the facility provides refuge for about a dozen women from the Philippines, Thailand and other Asian countries who often arrive battered and bruised from whatever life in Japan has thrown at them. The smiles, short skirts and bronzed skin on display at Hashimoto Station have been replaced here with baggy, shapeless clothes, dull complexions and wary expressions. Sari not her real name had arrived a few weeks previously with her two children, fathered by a Japanese man.
I just wanted to get away but he beat me so I came here. Women escaping from bad experiences into bad marriages are not uncommon, says Misao Hanazaki, who set up Friendship Asia House in to accompany her orphanage next door. The sex industry likes foreign workers for the same reason every other industry likes them: Filipinos, Thais and increasingly Chinese and South American women can be found doing everything from pouring drinks in karaoke and hostess bars to offering cut-price sex massages.
The boundaries between many of these services intersect and the pressure to please the customer is intense. A survey by U. But the government points to the arrest and trial of former travel agent Koichi Hagiwara as evidence that it is cracking down on illegal practices in the industry.