Holy Hostesses! A Publisher in the Shadows
For a news hound like the Captain, how his story gets printed on paper is not his worry. His biggest concern when it comes to the printed page usually is to how to get the carriage to return after he's dumped a can of beer on his IBM electric.
But this week he's talking publishing. Grab a seat and get ready to start flipping through some of Japan's dirtier reads.
Hiroharu Kimura dresses in black: sport jacket, shoes, socks, slacks, and gold-rimmed sunglasses. Aside from his blue dress shirt, his attire follows the vampire bat trademark used for his sex-trade publication Manzoku, meaning satisfaction.
"Bats cannot see," says the chairman of Creators Company Connection, reclining in the sofa of his office in Tokyo's Okubo district, "but they have a special sense."
Indeed, Kimura operates his business - printing magazines that cater to Japan's sexual services and hostessing industries - by feel.
Ask him how many publications he has and the 51-year-old will begin ticking them off on his fingers before losing track and giving up. Inquire what the advertising rate is for a single page and he will proudly admit that he has no idea.
But with annual group sales averaging 21 billion yen over the past five years (for comparison, Japan's largest animation company, Toei Animation, returned an equivalent amount for the fiscal year ending in March of this year), Kimura's empire is a serious player in a massive industry - one in which this real-life Batman wishes to further spread his wings.
Manzoku, both the newsprint biweekly and glossy monthly versions, cover all of Japan in five regional blocks: Hokkaido, Kanto, Tokkai, Kansai, and Kyushu. Advertisers are only fuzoku, or sex service establishments.
Flipping through the Kanto monthly, which sells for 300 yen and could rival the New York Times Sunday edition for heft with its 600-page bulk, reveals ads showing working girls, from such legendary areas as Tokyo's Yoshiwara brothel quarter, in nearly every come-hither pose imaginable.
No fetish is spared: grinning cosplay girls in nurse and maid costumes, obese ladies with clearly reported breast sizes, and blindfolded school girls in bondage represent but a few. Web pages and phone numbers make contact a snap.
Deri heru (delivery health) operations offer one-shot services administered by a lady's hand, mouth or through the brisk rubbing of her thighs for roughly 8,000 yen. Soaplands (bath houses) have fees that run much higher. But since prostitution via vaginal intercourse is technically illegal in Japan (though any other orifice is fair game), exactly what a customer might receive beyond a soapy bath is not printed.
Selecting which parlor is most suitable is eased by such add-ons as manga cartoons featuring storylines that run through a sample encounter (complete with the hand over of the cash upon completion), maps giving directions around major train stations, and cut-out discount coupons.
"This magazine," Kimura says of his massive monthly, whose target customer is men looking to do a little research or unwind in their homes, "is not convenient to carry because it is so very heavy."
The more flimsy, foldable weekly, however, is more suitable for guys on the go. Though its ads are very similar to its monthly brother, the weekly attempts to include more timely content.
With the World Cup in progress, the June 22 issue is filled with ads showing gals decked out in the national blue tops and white bottoms (well, to be more accurate, lace panties), with one such lady, shirt raised and seated in a makeshift train car, having her 88-centimeter cups fondled from behind as a soccer ball rests on her left knee.
Kimura's most lucrative publication is Yukai (250 yen), generally a woman's magazine that recruits female workers into fuzoku and advertises for host clubs (places in which men entertain women in a club atmosphere).
"The material of the trade is girls," he says of the reason for the success of his monthly pub. "The clubs cannot do business without material. So they must first recruit the material. So this advertising is something like an initial stage."
The magazine goes full circle. In addition to showing ladies spreading multiple 10,000 yen notes in their hands - ostensibly evidence of the handsome salaries girls can expect to receive after working in the business - it also includes dozens of ads featuring young hosts in stringy, scarecrow-like haircuts, thin ties, and dark suits on which to spend it.
Using magazines to recruit was boosted considerably by the government's crackdown on girl-hunting by scouts around train stations two years ago. "All fuzoku businesses are now coming to magazines," Kimura claims.
But such publishing does have its problems. Organizations opposing Creators' creations have banded together to convince 7-11 to remove the Manzoku series from its chain of convenience stores.
Creators, though, is not purely a publisher in sleaze. Poke Para, short for pocket paradise, is a free monthly that is every salaryman's portable guide to the world of mizushobai (an industry of much tamer operations staffed with hostesses who pour drinks, light cigarettes, and engage in small talk). Among the company's other interests are Internet operations, a real estate service geared toward providing accommodations to working ladies, and two love hotels.
Kimura stresses that organization is very important to Creators, which was started in 1991 after Kimura left a similar company to branch out on his own. Today it includes over 500 employees and more than 10 groups assembled in a multi-faceted manner similar to the criminal organization model. "But we are not the mafia!" he laughs.
After seeing sales increase rapidly between 1994 and 2000, things have flattened out over the past six years. Kimura, though, has plans to take a bigger chunk out of Japan's sex industry, whose annual worth is estimated to be between 4 and 10 trillion yen.
Later this year in Sapporo, he will launch the Manzoku Cab Corp, a sight-seeing service that will focus on one- or two-hour trips to, perhaps surprisingly, non-sex-related tourist areas. Kimura says that the deregulation of the taxi industry four years ago opened up the market for start-ups.
"I want to promote the name 'Manzoku,'" he explains. "I want to expand the name all over Japan. The taxi company is just one way. It will be something like a publicity vehicle for my brand name."
Another experiment will take place in Sendai. Waters will be a magazine that for the first time will include a mix of contents, such as recruiting, bar information, host clubs, and kaba-kura (cabaret clubs).
A complementary publication to Poke Para is newcomer P.Q (Queen of the Beauty), whose target audience is the girls of mizushobai. With an emphasis on make-up tips, features on topics like aroma therapy, shopping guides, and hot fashion profiles - in addition to the obligatory recruitment ads for clubs - P.Q seems to be saying: behind their upturned hair and shimmering evening dresses, hostesses are people, too.
Creators as well hopes to expand internationally. Through the Internet and branch offices in Bangkok and Macau, it hopes to become the number one guide for Japanese tourists seeking pleasure overseas.
But no matter what it does next, Kimura says that Creators will always operate within the shadows, just like the bat logo might imply.
"We move at night," he says.
Note: Images 2-6 courtesy of Creators Company Connection.