Tokyo Panty Trade Faces Regulation

The Sleaze Series > Scouts > Panties > Publisher > Upskirt

Going the extra mile for his readers is nothing new for the Captain. In seeking the truth for his readers, he has braved any number of dangerous elements and poked his nose where it didn't belong. This week is hardly an exception. Join him as he takes a peek at Tokyo's used-panty business, a market threatened by government regulation.

Upon cracking the shop's door, one is greeted by a small color picture of a woman's rear end, thrusting backward from a hunched-over position to fill nearly the entire frame. It is amid a variety of general information flyers taped haphazardly to the inside of the door. With her face and torso hidden, the woman's only visible garment, her lace underwear, foretells what lies inside.

Back in the far corner from the entry sit dozens of small packages carefully wrapped in plastic and shelved like compact discs. A photo album-sized snapshot of an open-skirted and grinning (and sometimes topless) young girl graces each front. Bunched behind is her unwashed panties, ostensibly one and the same showcased in the picture.

"This is not a crime," maintains the manager, sitting at the counter in orange long sleeves and jeans, of his trade in soiled women's underwear.

A tad racy, maybe, but indeed it is not a crime. The manager, who will be referred to as Mr. A in the remainder of this article, says that the establishment - tucked within a tightly packed area of sex parlors and love hotels in the Dogenzaka section of Tokyo's Shibuya district - is properly licensed in the buying and selling of used goods.

But Tokyo's infamous trade in previously worn female undergarments, which has satisfied the Lolita-like longings of many middle-aged men for years, will soon be subject to a new wrinkle: regulation. The Tokyo Municipal Government is cracking down on the sales, revising a previous measure that will outlaw the purchases of briefs from minors.

Mr. A's industry is termed burusera, an amalgamation of "bloomer" and "sailor," with the latter being a reference to the ubiquitous sailor-style uniforms worn by high school girls. His average customer is the Japanese salaryman.

The exchange is simple. In a manner similar to a used bookstore or car lot, the girls enter with their pinks or whites in hand. Mr. A then checks to ensure that the merchandise will meet customer satisfaction by confirming that they have been extensively used. It takes a trained eye - and sometimes, nose - he assures. "You can tell if it is brand new," he says during a short cigarette break near the shop's stairwell. "So you know if they [the girls] are lying." And yes, when necessary, certain cases might require a few sniffs, he admits with a laugh.

After the girl signs a few paper formalities, a few thousand yen in shopping money is hers. For him, he has an item that can be resold for prices in the neighborhood of 5,000 yen.

Negotiation does not exist. "Prices are fixed. If they [the girls] aren't happy, they can go somewhere else."

It is not just underwear; his shop feeds fetishes of nearly unending variety. Strolling the aisles reveals racks of nearly every item in a typical middle- or high-school girl's repertoire. Slip-on flat shoes with attached pictures go for 5,000 yen. Used gym shorts fetch 4,000 yen and the much sought-after sailor uniforms, including scarf and tag bearing the school's name, over twenty times that. Stewardess, nurse, and office lady uniforms are also available for even larger sums.

Washed undies and bras are seen as less desirable. Their display, piled into heaps on half-moon-shaped wooden shelves, and price (two for 1,000 yen) are both much less eye-catching.

The regulation of the market for used women's wear is included in an amendment to a larger municipal ordinance aimed at making Tokyo safer for young people. As of June 1, fines for illegal panty sellers will be up to 500,000 yen, while buyers will be forced to pay upwards of 300,000 yen. The girls, because of their age, will not be subject to punishment.

The measure will also apply curfews upon kids' entering of entertainment establishments (like karaoke boxes), outlaw their purchases of obscene manga comics. and prohibit their employment in the sex trade (along with punishing the scouts who notoriously recruit girls in front of train stations). Incidents like last year's abduction of four teenage girls, who were later found handcuffed in an apartment of a 29-year old man who had just committed suicide by inhaling charcoal briquette fumes, from Shibuya highlighted the need for such action.

Mr. A is not especially worried about the future of his business. The legislation prohibits dealing with minors. Though goods provided by younger girls are seen as much more desirable, he feels that he has plenty of vendors over the age of 18 coming to his shop to meet demand. (For verification, he does indeed check identification cards.)

In a sign of the times, it is becoming common knowledge that the panty-peddling practice is increasingly cutting out middlemen, like Mr. A and his bricks-and-mortar operation. The new trend is for girls to arrange to meet customers in person via the Internet or a mobile phone. This face-to-face meeting also provides the customer the option of coaxing the girl to let him watch the alluring removal process.

Mr. A says that interest in these salacious skivvies, which dates back about ten years, has been fading in recent years. Given this, and that such Tokyo train hubs as Shibuya and Shinjuku are the core locations of this, as he describes, "niche market," he feels a bloomer black market across city lines will likely not materialize.

Mr. B, an employee at a similar Shibuya shop, unmarked from the street and under ownership of a company that produces porno videos, agrees with these sentiments. "It is already underground," he says. "Transactions are taking place in game centers, karaoke boxes, and behind the curtains of print club machines."

Whether this provision then will actually achieve its goal of creating a safer environment for the youth of Tokyo is indeed a bit dubious.

"I'm sort of torn," Mr. A says of the new law. "I doubt it will have a significant impact on my business; but it might. If I put myself in the shoes of a girl's father, though, I understand."

Note: Jonathan Golub contributed to this report from the Tokyo Bureau.

The Sleaze Series > Scouts > Panties > Publisher > Upskirt

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