The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter


There is an interesting quote by a customer of a sex club in Japan in Pink Box by photographer Joan Sinclair. It says” Men are universally perverted, it`s  just in Japan we decided to do something about it.”

Did they ever! I had a walk around Akihabara the other Sunday. It was my first time there on a Sunday and the experience was very different to the other times I`d been there. Aki as it is affectionately known is famous as Japan`s `electric town` where any and all electronics items can be bought. But it is also the centre of Otaku culture in Japan. Otaku are those people who become obsessive about a particular hobby to the exclusion of all other things. Mostly men they are particularly enamoured of manga comics, fantasy video games and teenage girl idol groups. There is a huge industry catering to the needs of this section of the population which is worth, by some accounts, upwards of two billion Pounds. Not all of it is harmless fun however: maid cafes may serve coffee and cake to paunchy shy guys in flannel shirts at inflated prices just to inflate an ego or two but Japan`s second largest and the world`s oldest industry is also making inroads into the area.

Prostitution is technically illegal in Japan but that doesn`t seem to stop it flourishing. Because basically anything goes for the frustrated Japanese male and anything except actual intercoarse is not illegal. So want your cake served on a maid rather than by one – that`s okay or if taking a few photographs of a cartoon character`s underwear does it for you, as had been happening in the photograph above, that`s okay too Akihabara is the place you can do these things quite freely and unashamedly. Create a crowd that blocks other people on the street however and that is not allowed, which appeared to be the only reason the police were moving these “girls” on.

Under the masks were probably junior high school or high school students. Such work could be a Saturday job for her and surely such sexual exploitation shouldn`t be allowed. I saw another girl in school uniform guiding a group of extremely worrisome men around. They all had cameras, they were all hanging on her every word as she flirted with phallic objects in shops. Yet she must have only been fifteen and was very much in control and that is not healthy either.  For both parties.

Strange place, Akihabara quite unlike the rest of Japan.



8 responses

  1. Great reportage, as you’re fond of saying. Love the angle. You’ve got all the key players and it’s easy to see the story. You don’t have the skirt flipping, but maybe that’s for the best. 🙂 Did you try getting in close to get in your face shots of the girls and crowd?

    May 18, 2007 at 12:25 pm

  2. Hiya Andy. It was difficult to get closer. The crowd was pretty deep with backpacks and big cameras. Especcially when the girls were laying on the floor showing off their underware the crush was terrible, i mean all the front row men were crouching down to get the lowest (in every sence of the word) angle. I climbed up on some railings to find out what was going on and took this balancing on them. A little shaky and slightly out of focus to be honest but not bad.

    May 19, 2007 at 6:21 pm

  3. tomo

    It’s a really interesting shot that symbolzes Akihabara indeed. I have never been there on Sunday. However, I can easily guess what it is like. Frankly speaking, I want to maid cafe some day. Do you come with me? 🙂

    May 20, 2007 at 3:21 pm

  4. I had no idea it was like that!
    I wonder if that is a fairly recent thing?
    The ‘fantasy’ (porn) industry’s over use of the Lolita image is one thing, but 15 year olds doing erotic tour guiding?
    Nowt like that down here in Nagoya (to my knowledge).

    May 22, 2007 at 12:09 am

  5. Pretty strange place Nick, indeed. I may have got it all wrong, she may have been older and a model for these guys but she was definately wearing school uniform and looked about 15 and they were definately the sort of men who would like that. I don`t know too much about the scene (my wife will be happy to hear)guess I need an Otaku friend.

    May 22, 2007 at 4:46 pm

  6. I took a DVD back to GEO last night. I saw this DVD on the rack, and I thought of you (well, your post):

    bimbo shimai monogatari
    The story of two poor sisters

    Judging by the uniform, the older one is high school age (15-17 ish).
    The paddling pool scene is the front cover of the latest DVD.

    Enough said.

    May 23, 2007 at 1:20 am

  7. Terrific piece. Most insightful and fascinating.

    May 28, 2007 at 2:28 am

  8. Thanks Paul I hope to reach you calibre of journalistic abilty oneday. For example I`d love to find out more about the “scene” in Akihabara but not sure that says the right things about my character. So perhaps a passive observer is better.

    May 31, 2007 at 3:18 am

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