Comedian: Wait for Jobless Women to Become Sex Workers

Comedian: Wait for Jobless Women to Become Sex Workers

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Okamura Takashi
Japanese comedian Okamura Takashi has apologized for comments that many have derided as sexist and cruel - but some say it's not enough.

While many people across the world are banding together to fight the spread of COVID-19, not everyone’s responding well to the crisis. One of the latter people is Japanese comedian Okamura Takashi, who’s under fire for comments on his radio show that many in Japan say are not just sexist, but cruel.

“After Corona, Pretty Girls Will Become Sex Workers”

Okamura, one-half of the comedy duo Ninety Nine along with partner Yabe Hiroyuki, made the comments on his show Okamura Takashi’s All Night Japan. A big part of Okamura’s program is responding to mail from his listeners. In one segment, he took up a query from a male listener who asked what to do about sex clubs during Japan’s ongoing state of emergency. (As we’ve discussed before on UJ, various types of sex work and sex businesses are legal in Japan.)

Okamura responded in words that have since become infamous:

今は辛抱。『神様は人間が乗り越えられない試練は作らない』って言うてはりますから。ここは絶対、乗り切れるはずなんです。。。。

収束したら、なかなかのかわいい人が短期間ですけれども、お嬢(風俗嬢)やります。


Hold off. God never gives you a challenge you can’t overcome….

After Corona, pretty girls will become sex workers for a short time.

Okamura continued to expand upon his “reasoning”:

短期間でお金を稼がないと苦しいですから。3カ月の間、集中的にかわいい子がそういうところでパッと働いてパッとやめます」と予測。。。。だから、今、我慢しましょう。我慢して、風俗に行くお金を貯めておき、仕事ない人も切り詰めて切り詰めて、その3カ月のために頑張って、今、歯を食いしばって踏ん張りましょう。

Because if they don’t earn money in a short time frame they’ll be hard-pressed. So in a three-month span, you’ll see pretty girls suddenly start working hard then suddenly quit….So, be patient. Be patient, save up your money to go to sex clubs, economize if you’re not working, and set your sites on those three months. Let’s dig in and stand tall.

岡村隆史、風俗を自粛「神様は乗り越えられない試練は作らない」(SmartFLASH) – Yahoo!ニュース

4月23日放送の『ナインティナイン岡村隆史のオールナイトニッポン』(ニッポン放送)で、岡村隆史が新型コロナウイルス感染拡大で風俗通いを自粛していることを語った。  リスナーからの「コロナの影響で、今後しばらくは風俗に行けない?」とのメールに、岡村は「今は辛抱。『神様は人間が乗り越えられない試練は作らない』って言うてはりますから。ここは絶対、乗り切れるはずなんです」とコメント。 …

(JP) Link: Okamura Takashi Says Hold Off on Buying Sex: “God Doesn’t Give You a Challenge You Can’t Handle”

The bit was obviously intended (emphasis on “intended”) to be comedy. During the recording of the piece, you can hear members of the staff joining in on laughter from the sidelines.

“Systemic Sexual Exploitation”

Okamura isn’t a minor figure in Japanese entertainment. Besides his radio show, the comedian is the host of the popular NHK program Chiko-chan Scolded Me! (智子ちゃんに叱られる), a quiz-style show aimed at families starring a five-year-old character in a giant doll costume who rebukes guests when they can’t answer the show’s questions. In other words, the contrast between his day job and his night rant is pretty stark.

Okamura Takashi with Chiko-chan
Is Okamura just waiting for her to lose her job? (Picture: Official NHK Chiko-chan Web site)

Twitter commenters in Japan lit into Okamura for basically saying that men should exploit women who fall on hard times:

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BWTT on Twitter

岡村隆史の発言、社会が不況に陥っても性風俗に通える経済的余裕を確保出来る人と、確保出来なくて性風俗で働かざるを得ない人が出て、前者が後者の発生を「楽しみに待つ」という、グロテスクにすら感じる搾取の構造がそのまま言葉で言い表されてるのがスゲーよな

For ppl of means who go to sex shops to say so frankly that they’re looking forward for ppl w/o means to become sex workers to make ends meet is an impressive display of grotesque, systemic sexual exploitation.

One comment that gained a lot of attention came from Nito Yumeno, the head of the organization Colabo, which provides services and counseling for girls under 18 who can’t go home. As we’ve discussed before, such girls sometimes find themselves ensnared in “JK businesses” – illegal operations in Japan that sell sex with minors.

仁藤夢乃 Yumeno Nito on Twitter

コロナで生活に困る人が増えたおかげで風俗に綺麗な女の子が増えるから楽しみというようなことを堂々と言えてしまう異常な社会。 藤田さんにも自身の問題に向き合い続けていただいですが、この文章には賛同できます。性搾取の構造を多くの人に知り問題意識を共有したいです。 https://t.co/pYvzTLMqJH

Our disordered society, where people can boldly state things like they’re looking forward to more pretty girls joining sex shops because coronavirus has left more people in economic distress.

Another commenter said that the carnival atmosphere of the radio studio was even worse than Okamura’s comments:

emil on Twitter

岡村隆史が話している所聞いた。本人が最低なのはもちろん、時折入るスタッフの笑い声にゾッとした。女性がコロナによって不幸になる事を心の糧にコロナを乗り切ろうと嬉々として話しそれを共有する空間。地獄だ。

Listened to Okamura Takashi. And while he’s certifiably awful, the injections of laughter from his staff were disgusting. That mood of ppl gleelfully sharing stories about riding this out by reveling in women brought low by coronavirus was hell.

Sex Workers Respond

Sex workers in Japan also had a few things to say about Okamura’s comments. Sex worker and popular YouTuber Imaga Haru replied in a tweet that garnered 15K likes:

今賀はる on Twitter

岡村隆史の発言に対していろんな意見が溢れてて、特にリプでついてるコメントにはいやいやいやいやwwwってのも多くあるけど、「経済的に困窮した人」を救うのは風俗の役割ではなく本来社会福祉の役割なんですけどね(*´-`)

Lots of views re: Okamura Takashi’s words popping up. Tons of replies that make me go ‘nononono’. But as for saving ‘people in economic distress’ – that’s not the job of sex work, it’s primarily the job of a social welfare system.

Kaname Yukiko, head of the sex workers advocacy group SWASH, argues that Okamura’s comments have done even larger damage by stirring up societal prejudice against sex workers:

要友紀子☂️SWASH on Twitter

いま経済産業省が風俗業を持続化給付金対象にするか瀬戸際の喫緊のときに、岡村発言の炎上によって、「風俗なんか他の労働と同じとか言えないよね」という国民的世論が形成されていってますけど、そうこうしてるうちに、経産省は昨日の段階では「国民の理解を得られない」という理由で難色を示している

At a critical and pressing time like this, when the Economic Ministry is deciding whether sex businesses can receive economic assistance, Okamura’s comments going viral has created a national opinion of, “Well, we can’t say sex work is like other kinds of labor, can we”. Given this development, the Economic Ministry has said “People won’t understand” and has indicated its disapproval of such assistance.

Amina Dujean, a former idol in Japan who is also a sex worker and sex worker’s rights advocate, noted that there’s a larger topic that people both inside and outside of Japan are ignoring: that Okamura’s comments show there are few decent economic opportunities for young women in Japan’s large cities.

amina 💕 on Twitter

I wish this entire Okamura debacle would spark less conversation on the sex industry itself and more about the fact that there’s hardly any jobs, if any, in Japan that a young woman can make sustainable income with outside of mizushoubai and fuuzoku.

An Apology – and a Backlash

The firestorm continued all week. One activist, Yamamoto Kazuna, circulated a petition demanding that NHK censor or fire Okamura from his gig on Chiko-chan; it’s amassed over 11,000 signatures to date.

Japan Broadcasting, which airs Okamura’s radio program, apologized within a day of his statement. Faced with losing his career over his comments, Okamura took to his radio program the other day and issued an apology as well. “I made an extremely rude comment towards the many people who are living in harsh economic conditions and painful situations.” Okamura also received a public tongue-lashing from his Ninety-Nine partner, Yabe Hiroyuki, who called his comments “pathetic”. “This is all on you,” he told his partner. “Of course people are gonna look at this as chauvinistic.”

Sadly, just as Twitter user Katsube Genki predicted would happen, a small army of devotees soon rose up in Okamura’s defense. Writing on Huffington Post JP, Yamamoto Kazuna notes that her petition has been subject to a backlash from supporters saying that it “goes too far.” Indeed, earlier this week, the hashtag #岡村頑張れ (Hang In There, Okamura) began trending on JP Twitter.

岡村隆史さんの発言に対する「署名はやりすぎだ」。その声に対して、22歳の私が持つ危機感

4月27日月曜日の夜、(日本時間4月28日お昼頃)自分が代表を務める「一般社団法人Voice Up Japan」の学生メンバーからメッセージが届いた。 …

(JP) Twitter: The Sense of Impending Crisis I Feel as a 22 Year Old When People Say Petitioning Over Okamura Takashi’s Statement “Goes Too Far”

For her part, Yamamoto says she started the petition because she’s tired of such incidents being resolved merely by words:

今まで署名人や政治家の「問題発言・差別発言」は炎上して、「不快な思いをさせて申し訳ありません」と定型文のような謝罪文で済まされてしまってきた。

そして謝罪をした次の日には、また誰かの似た発言が「炎上」して…の繰り返し。

それは社会が定型文のような「謝罪」で満足をしており、そういった発言にどんどん寛容になってきているからではないのか?

All of these statements from famous people and politicians that have blown up have been dispatched with an apology letter containing bromides like “I apologize to anyone who was offended.”

Then the day after, someone else says something that blows up…rinse and repeat.

That’s because these statements are now tolerated because society’s satisfied with such rote apologies.

Feminist activist and #KuToo founder Ishikawa Yumi made a broader point about the petition, saying it’s not really about Okamura at all:

石川優実@#KuToo署名中👞👠 on Twitter

あ、署名は別に岡村さんのためではありません。 岡村さんの影響力を利用したいだけです。彼を救うためじゃない。NHKでしっかりと女性差別やセックスワーカー差別に取り組んでもらうためです。 もちろん結果彼も学んでくれたら嬉しいけどそんな期待してない。

The Okamura Takashi petition isn’t about him. It’s about using his influence. It’s not about saving him. It’s about getting NHK to take prejudice against women and sex workers seriously. Of course it’d be great if he also learns from it but I’m not getting my hopes up.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no sign that NHK – or anyone else – will take any harsher action than demanding that Okamura say he’s sorry. For now, at least, this appears to be yet another example of prejudice towards women in Japan that will be forgotten come the next news cycle. Kudos to all of the activists like Yamamoto who are working to ensure that doesn’t happen.

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Jay Allen

Jay manages the technical writing practice for ercule, an SEO, content strategy and analytics firm. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT).

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