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More Portraits of Japan

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I am Miyuki.  My life is so hard.  I sell newspapers from a little stand at a Tokyo metro station.  I spend six hours every day locked up in this little stand.  Now I have some idea about solitary confinement in a prison.

No-one talks to me.  Japanese people don’t talk to strangers.  Also, they would think of me as being the lowest of the low. 

People buy lots of newspapers and manga.  But the men love most of all the magazines with photos of lightly clad school girls showing their underpants and breasts.  Funny thing is that none of them look at me, although I think that I am rather pretty.  May be it is because I am just over 40 years old.  Japanese men want young girls under 20 years old, preferably dressed up as school girls.

I am always so tired.  I start work at 6.00.  But to get there on time, I have to get up at 4.00.  I get ready and then have a one and a half hour commute.

But it’s worse than that.  I only earn 110,000 yen a month in this terrible job.  So I have to work in a supermarket in the evening too.  That helps me barely survive.

It’s not fair, you know.  I used to have an office job.  It wasn’t a great job.  I could make ends meet.  But my boss had a violent temper.  He would get so angry and lose his temper.  He would tell us to do one thing, and then the opposite thing.  He would blame us for everything.  And then he would threaten to fire us.  In Japanese we call this “powahara”, this means “power harassment”.

In Japan, people talk a lot about powahara, but nothing is ever done about this.  The boss is always right, especially if it is a man.

Then there is “sekuhara”.  This is Japanese for sexual harassment.  This is what happened to me.  The boss used to touch me and push his body up against mine.  I tried to push him away, but it was always difficult. I am strong.  As a young girl, I played sport.  But he was stronger.  It got worse and worse.  He wouldn’t stop.

One day, he said that if I didn’t have sex with him, he would fire me.  I couldn’t take it.  So I left.

My female colleagues don’t like me anymore.  They are jealous of the fact that I was brave enough to leave.  They are also upset because the boss is now picking on them.

Even though my life is difficult, I have regained my self respect.  I live alone with my cats.  Actually one died, but I still have the other one.

Living alone is kinda sad.  But I do feel free.


My name is Chichiko.  My day starts at McDonald's at 6.00.  I serve the breakfast customers from 6.00 to 8.30.  Now that we Japanese are getting poorer, McDonald's is capturing the breakfast market.  We serve a breakfast “seto” for 200 yen, about $2.50.  Also, our McDonald's shop is open 24 hours a day.  People can sleep on their coffee.

There is something about the flavor of McDonald's products.  You get used to the taste.  You want more.  It’s kinda addictive.

The atmosphere at McDonald's is kinda strange.  We pride ourselves on rapid service.  The faster, the better.  Most of my colleagues behave like robots.  And they never smile. 

That does not stop me from smiling.  I have always been a smiley person.

I am a valued staff member at McDonald's because I speak English fluently.  I can serve the foreign customers easily.  Sometimes they are tourists.  But there are also migrants.  From the Philippines, Indonesia and China.  I thought that Japan was pretty closed to migrants.  But I see more and more of them all the time.  I don’t how they get into our country, but they certainly are here.  Anyway, they all speak English better than Japanese.  And because they have little money, McDonald's is ideal for them.

I perfected my English when I was living in the US, upstate New York, actually.  I loved the US.  Friendly, open and fun.  But I had to come back to Tokyo for my family.  My father was sick.  Still is.  Modern medicine keeps these old people alive forever.  Many get depressed and some even commit suicide.  But most hang on forever and ever.  That’s why we have the world’s highest life expectancy.

My real job is in medical research.  I am not a real researcher myself.  I am a technical assistant.  I am working on a big research project exploring the causes of a special type of cancer.  I run all the tests.

It’s really interesting.  And if we get some good results, it could be very important.  I really love my job.

But the salary is peanuts.  That’s why I have to work at McDonald's.  In the Japanese research system, it’s the high level bureaucrats who get the good salaries.  They are usually parachuted down from a government job, after retirement (in Japanese we call this “amakudari”).

It doesn’t seem fair.  But this is the way it is in Japan.

Anyway, I am kinda happy.  That is my nature.  Always been like that. 


My name is Aiko.  I come from Thailand.  Aiko is my adopted Japanese name.  They have difficulty pronouncing my real name of Ausanat.

My family comes from the country, up near the border with Laos.  They are very poor.  Since I am quite pretty (some even say I am sexy), someone suggested that I go to Japan and make a fortune giving massages.

I was a bit hesitant at first.  But, why not, I said to myself.  It could not be worse than life here.  And I speak English fairly well.  I don’t know why, but I picked it up easily at school, and then watching movies on the computer in my local Internet café.

It was easy to find a job.  We have these agents coming around all the time, looking for pretty girls to send to Japan.  It’s a bit of a rip-off, but it is not as bad as some stories that I have read about forced prostitution and human trafficking.

So, I arrived in Japan a couple of years ago.  I live in a small dormitory apartment with three other Thai girls.  We have everything we need, but sometimes we fight like cats and dogs.  Thai girls are like that.  We are jealous of each other -- who is the prettiest and who has the most success with men.

I am always a favorite of the massage customers.  May be I am not the prettiest.  But I do whatever they want, and I am friendly.

But I must confess, my customers are a bit strange.  They all want quirky massages.  The Japanese are all rather strange, I think.

There is one who wants me to shave his body, especially all around his genitals.  And as I am doing this, he masturbates.  It’s a bit messy, and I have to be careful not to cut him, although he does like the pain of being cut and seeing blood. 

Then there is another one who wants me to dress up like a hairdresser.  He has all the clothes, and the hairdressing scissors and so on.  So I dress up, and then cut his hair, while he is sitting there nude masturbating himself.  And then there is another who loves masochism.  He asks me to whip him with his belt while he is sitting there nude, masturbating himself.

It is all rather strange.  But the most strange thing is that they don’t touch me.  They don’t want sex me with me.  They don’t want to see my body.

I don’t understand.  It must be all in their imagination.

I entered Japan on a so-called "entertainer visa" like most of the massage girls.  I guess that's what the Japanese call entertainment.


My name is Kana.  I am an “OL” (Japanese for office lady).  I work in Tokyo in a big company, but because I want to live in a big house, my husband and I live in the suburbs a long way from Tokyo city centre where housing prices are cheaper.

My daily commute takes me two hours each way.  But it is worth, because we have a beautiful house.  The train trip is an ordeal.  People packed in like sardines, pushing and shoving.  Although the men are terrible, the women are almost as bad.

One day in a crowded train, I suddenly felt a hand rush under my skirt and push into my panties.  I instantly felt all hot and sweaty.  I can not describe my feelings, to tell the truth.

After a moment’s hesitation, I screamed “groper, molester”.  That’s what you are supposed to yell. 

No-one in the crowd reacted.  A man quickly motioned to run away.  I grabbed his so tightly he could not get away.  I learn self defense and judo.  The more he tried to get away, the more I held tight.  I dragged him off the train at the next stop, which was only minutes away.

He broke down in tears.  He begged forgiveness.  He was probably in his forties, ten years older than me.  He looked perfectly normal, probably a successful salaryman. 

He cried and cried and cried.  He pleaded for forgiveness.  He rambled on about his important job, his family, his pressures and so on. 

I began to feel for him.  He actually seemed rather nice.  He was tall, handsome and elegantly dressed.

I invited him for a coffee.  He said that he did not know what came over him.  In the crowded train, with all those bodies crammed together, flesh against flesh, he just lost control.

I guess we can all do silly things in a moment of weakness.  We agreed to meet again tomorrow.  I didn't tell my husband.