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Not only is the sex business impressive in its size, it is also impressive in its variety. There are also S-and-M clubs, S-and-M museums, she-male revues, and street corner prostitutes dressed in bunny suits. The competition is stiff to give customers what they want and attract regular, repeat customers. Some "pink" establishments are open 24 hours. Some offer alibis to wives, mothers and girlfriends. Others take reservations, address specific requests and have websites that list which girls are on duty and when.
Most of the businesses are geared towards Japanese customers only. Foreigners are generally not welcome due to fears about AIDS and other concerns. Japan has had anti-prostitution laws on the books since Even so most of the sex business operate legally by calling themselves restaurants or baths. Those that operate illegally are left alone by police, who feel they provide a service for men who otherwise might cause trouble. Few workers or customers are arrested.
In , only women were charged with prostitution. Prostitutes are known as "women who sell spring. In cities like Kawasaki you can find red light districts with foreign Asian women displayed in Amsterdam-style windows. One Japanese psychiatrist told the Japan Times, "Patronizing a 'pink business' is a very convenient way for the more affluent Japanese to engage in pleasure. Males tend to go to such places first just for fun; second for momentary satisfaction without bother or responsibility; and third, for confirmation of their masculinity.
Yet the quality of the girls keeps getting better, and the services they dispense get bolder all the time. According to a survey, younger prostitutes remained in the trade for three to four years; another small survey of sex workers in the Senzoku-Yoshiwara area in showed the average age was 26 and careers lasting about sixteen months. Daruma, the name of a Zen master who mediated until his legs fell off, was a slang expression for a courtesan. Ukiyo-e prints from the 18th century show prostitutes interacting with Buddhist figures.
In the 19th century prostitutes often dressed like geishas, and were displayed behind bars like animals. Love it was said was more common with prostitutes than with wives. In the old days many prostitutes were sold into the profession by their parents. Many went through an initiation rite and worked as virtual slaves until the debts were paid back. Lucky ones found a client who fancied them and put up the money to win their early release.