Usually, when you commit fraud, it’s not a good idea to brag about it on social media. It’s also probably not the smartest idea to create and sell a manual about it.
That’s only one of the many missteps that’s landed 25-year-old Watanabe Mai – a.k.a. “Sugar Baby Riri” – in a court of law this week. And the man to whom she gave all her money, a host in Tokyo’s Kabukicho nightlife district, is also facing his own legal troubles.
Riri-chan: From YouTube to courtroom
Promoting herself online as 頂き女子りりちゃん (itadaki joshi Riri-chan), or “Sugar Baby Riri”, Watanabe made a series of YouTube videos talking about her life. She also maintained a Twitter account, which is still active.
(As an aside, “Itadaki Joshi” is a phrase of Watanabe’s invention. In Japanese, sugar babying is more commonly referred to as パパ活, papa-katsu. The word ended up on U-CAN’s annual list of neologisms and buzzwords – which makes Watanabe maybe the only person to land on the list and in jail in the same year.)
Sporting blonde-ish hair and a burikko attitude, Watanabe apparently charmed her way to a decent social media following. She also boasted about how much she’d managed to earn. In a tweet responding to someone who wanted Watanabe to fulfill her dream of having kids, she replied, “I’m so glad! I’m 25 and have made hundreds of millions from sex work and fraud [Japanese: 詐欺; sagi], but I gave it all to hosts and don’t have one yen left.”
It’s probably not a good idea to admit to fraud in public. Indeed, Watanabe seemingly had a bad habit of writing down her criming. The 25-year-old also reportedly produced a manual educating other women on the best way to extract money from men, by hook or by crook.
It was this manual – The Manual That Makes You All Money by Sugar Baby Riri-chan Who Receives 10M a Month – that landed Watanabe in a Nagoya courtroom this week. Watanabe herself is accused by authorities of taking 38,461,000 yen ($257,479) from a man in Ibaraki Prefecture in his 50s. The current case, however, is a charge of aiding and abetting fraud in relation to a 21-year-old Nagoya woman who bought Watanabe’s Fraud 101 book.
In court this week, Watanabe had a much different appearance, sporting black hair and glasses. She reportedly responded drolly, answering questions like “Where do you work?” with answers like “Not wo-rking.”
How to Lie to Men: The Book
Giving money to people isn’t illegal. (Unless it’s in exchange for penetrative intercourse, which would be against Japan’s prostitution laws.) So what did Watanabe do that crossed the line from sugar baby to swindler?
Yamano Yusuke, who wrote about this case for Bunshun Online and also on his personal Note site, says he obtained a version of the manual. He says there are multiple revisions floating around and he can’t say whether this is the one that got her arrested.
In Yamano’s version, Watanabe goes into great detail about how to befriend men who it’s “Easy to take money from.” This includes “sad, lonely-looking” men, men who “have no hobbies and no apparent reason to live,” and men “with no experience in love.”
She urges readers to develop a relationship and then make up an emergency – e.g., being late on one’s rent – to get these men to give money. Yamano says the manual goes into detail about exactly how to communicate with men on LINE, such as creating a daily line of communication and then ceasing it before the “emergency” to make it more believable that something’s gone wrong.
In other words, Watanabe was clearly teaching women how to lie – and using those tips in her own work.
Millions of dollars, given away
All told, Watanabe said she made around 19.9 million yen ($133,221) from the manual itself and over 300 million yen (over $2 million) total.
However, when police arrested Watanabe Mai, she was living at a capsule hotel. All she had on her was a broken smartphone, several thousand yen (less than $100), and a business card for a host.
The business card explains where all of her money went. Watanabe acknowledged in court that she gave all of her money to Tanaka Hiroshi (田中裕志). Tanaka, 26, works in a host club in Kabukicho, where he goes by the name of Kamiya Ayumu (狼谷歩).
Host clubs in Japan are bars where sexy male hosts talk and drink with female customers. Patrons pay an hourly fee, buy drinks, and can even buy drinks for the hosts – up to and including expensive champagne.
Some women get so caught up in the host life that they spend inordinate amounts of money to become a given host’s top customer. In extreme – but, sadly, common – cases, women resort to prostitution or papakatsu to supply hosts with a steady stream of money.
That’s what happened with Watanabe who, according to Tanaka, supported him for a solid three months. How do we know this? Because Tanaka has his own YouTube channel which is still active. In one video, he even showed a picture of some of the cash that Watanabe gave him.
Ironically, the title of that video is “The 4 characteristics of women at host clubs you should be wary of.”
The lack of self-awareness is strong with this one.
The host club’s turn in court
You might be asking yourself, “Why don’t they arrest the damn host and his club?!”
Well, you’re in luck! Police arrested Tanaka and a club manager, Hashimoto Kazuki (34), last month. It turns out that both Tanaka and Hashimoto knew full well where and how Watanabe got all that money. That makes them both complicit in her crimes.
Host clubs are a booming business, with some shops bringing in over 100 million yen ($669,000) in a single month. But the lust for profits causes some to step over the line. We’ve written about multiple host clubs in Kabukicho that have served minors or used coercion to extort money from customers.
Tanaka affects a cool, nonchalant appearance in his videos. But in this case, it’s clear his emotions – specifically, his greed – got the better of him.
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