In what’s becoming a disturbing trend, another men’s con cafe found itself on the wrong end of the law for extorting money from minor girls.
“Pay up or I’ll go to your parents’ house”
The new incident centers on a business named META, a men’s concept cafe. Concept cafes, or “con cafes”, are bars centered on a specific theme. Men’s con cafes typically center on men who work the underground idol scene. The stores make money by charging fees for everything from entrance and Polaroids with members to expensive bottles of champagne that can run into the thousands of dollars.
Con cafes can be fun for responsible adults. They’re definitely no place for minors, though. Sadly, that didn’t top the staff at META – including the manager, Oishi Ryota (大石涼太), 25, and employee Sakaguchi Reiya (坂口怜也), also 25 – from serving and exploiting a 15-year-old girl.
Police say that Oishi and Sakaguchi kept serving the 15yo during January and February while clearly knowing she was underage. The girl originally met Sakaguchi through social media. He persuaded her to come to the bar, where Oishi and Sakaguchi cajoled her into racking up a 600,000 yen (USD $4,489) tab.
Oishi subsequently hounded the young girl for the money, telling her, “If you don’t pay, I’ll go to your parents’ place.” The girl resorted to sugar daddying (パパ活; papakatsu) to pay off her tab.
The incident came to light when police discovered what she was doing and took her under protective custody. They raided META on April 30th and arrested the perps soon after. Police also charged Sakaguchi for committing sexual acts against the minor child.
Both suspects deny any wrongdoing. Oishi denies knowing the girl’s age; Sakaguchi denies he ever invited her to the cafe.
It’s unclear what situation the girl was living in at the time – i.e., whether she was in Tokyo for school or was perhaps a runaway using social media to find a place to stay.
Men’s concept cafe cases on the rise
We reported just last month on another men’s con cafe case in which police arrested the owner and an employee for serving two girls whom they knew were minors. A 17-year-old customer spent 330,000 yen, including 300,000 yen on a bottle of champagne – despite not being old enough to drink.
Police say cases involving men’s con cafes have risen sharply in the past two years. According to NHK, there were around 18 reported cases involving such cafes two years ago. Last year, that number shot up to 55. This year, it’s already at 33 – and the year’s not even half done.
Fun – and danger – in the red light district
The business model of concept cafes isn’t new: host clubs (staffed by men) and cabaret clubs (staffed by women) have operated on a similar financial model for a while.
However, media reports have put a spotlight on these businesses – particularly men’s concept cafes and host clubs – in recent years, highlighting how dangerous and exploitative they can be.
Host clubs encourage hosts to ply as much money as they can from customers, and to encourage customers to rack up huge bills. But if a customer can’t pay that bill, the host has to pay it.
This turns some hosts into ruthless loan sharks – and forces some to cross a legal line. In a high-profile case just last month, police charged a host with threatening to force one of his customers to work in a sex brothel if she couldn’t pay off her tab.
It’s not uncommon for some women to engage in sex work to pay off such large tabs. Last year, the Tokyo Taxation Bureau fired a woman for engaging in part-time sex work to pay off her host club habit.
What to read next
「60万円のツケ払えないなら､実家に行くよ」女子高生を食い物に 歌舞伎町のメンコンカフェ摘発 シャンパン1本60万円“衝撃”商法 警視庁. FNN Prime Online
「メンズコンセプトカフェ」 深夜に少女を接客か 店長ら逮捕. NHK News