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Glass Sales


Larry Flynt, the Kentucky hillbilly who made a name for himself in the late 1960s and early 1970s   as the owner of a chain of night clubs featuring go-go dancing, and went on to become a mogul of porn publishing, once said that the success of his clubs was based on the art of selling sex in a glass.   Flynt was the first to conceive and use this provocative phrase, but Japanese operators of hostess-filled cabarets mastered the art of selling sex in a glass in the late 1940s and early 1950s, during the heyday of the American occupation of Japan and the opening of Japan to American importers who poured into the country in a torrent from 1948 on.   One of the largest of these Japanese cabarets during the late 1950s was the Mikado in Tokyo . It had more than 1,000 hostesses on its staff, which, combined with Las Vegas style live entertainment, made it a mecca for resident foreign men and foreign buyers who filled the city’s hotels during that era.   The Mikado and the hundreds of other cabarets that sprang up in Japan following its surrender to U.S. forces were just the most conspicuous elements of the country’s entertainment industry…which was not only the first industry to recover after the war, but the most profitable enterprise in the country for many years.   The key to this astounding proliferation and success of cabarets, nightclubs and bars in post-war Japan was the presence of huge numbers of sex-hungry foreign men some five million young Japanese women who worked in them as hostesses, providing the Occupation forces and civilian foreigners with access to the companionship and the wiles of women who had been culturally programmed in the art of enticing and pleasing men.   The traditional word for all of Japan’s night-time entertainment trades, including the world of the geisha and hot-bath massage parlors, was mizu shobai (me-zoo show-by), or literally “the water business.”   There is no agreement on how the term mizu shobai came into use, but it is fairly obvious that the extraordinary number of natural hot springs and the ancient Japanese practice of bathing daily (without sexual discrimination) led to the early association of water and pleasure. Shinto, the native Japanese religion, advocates both scrupulous cleanliness as well as the lusty celebration of human fertility.   During Japan's last great shogunate dynasty (1603-1868) bathhouses, in which the pleasures of the flesh were as much of an attraction as the hot water, a great network of roadside inns around the country that featured hot baths and sexual release, and both geisha districts and courtesan quarters played major roles in the country—economically, socially and politically.   While organized prostitution was subject to the control of the shogunate government and the 200-plus daimyo (die-m’yoe) provincial lords in their own fiefs, it was a legitimate enterprise that was not under a cloud of moral righteousness. The Japanese did not associate sex with sin or with the love of one person for another, and thus over the ages they were spared the suffering imposed by religious leaders on Christian and Muslim people.   Perhaps the strongest criticism one might make in regard to the sexual mores of feudal Japan is that it was a man's world, with all of the customs and institutions designed to satisfy the needs and whims on men, and generally to ignore those of women. While this was unfair and deplorable, it nevertheless was responsible for many of the feminine characteristics for which Japanese women are known and admired — and, of course, was primarily responsible for the many aspects of the mizu shobai that foreign male visitors to Japan found so fascinating.    However, in present-day Japan , the women are getting their revenge. In many ways, the tables have been turned on men, and it is women who call the sexual tunes. Japanese women in general are willing, eager participants in the ongoing play between the sexes, and there is a growing trend for young girls to take the initiative in their relations with men.   The heyday of the hostess-filled cabarets ended in the 1970s but they were soon replaced by go-go dance clubs, small upscale bars that featured equally upscale hostesses, and izakaya (ee-zah-kah-yah), or pubs, by the hundreds of thousands.   In the 1980s the go-go clubs were quickly replaced by hard-rock dance clubs that catered to both men and women, and the number of geisha declined rapidly because of competition from hostess bars, but the mizu shobai survived and remains today one of the largest industries in the country.   While a great deal of the attraction of Japan ’s mizu shobai continues to be its sexual overtones, its cultural role goes well beyond this physical element.   Drinking alcoholic beverages has traditionally played a far more basic and comprehensive role in Japanese culture than in most other countries.   From the earliest times, sake (sah-kay) the native brew, was an integral part of the Shinto ritual of communicating with and pleasing the gods, and from this early use it spread throughout Japanese society as the primary vehicle in bonding with others, in sealing agreements, and in maintaining good relationships.   The strict etiquette that reigned during Japan ’s long feudal age (1192-1968) prevented people from behaving in normal ways except when in drinking situations, further increasing the role and importance of alcohol in their lives.   Still today, the Japanese tend to believe that you cannot really get to know people until you drink with them—and this factor alone continues to fuel the thriving mizu shobai. _______________________________________ Copyright © 2007 by Boyé Lafayette De Mente   For a more detailed view of Japan ’s mizu shobai, see the authors ebook, Mistress-Keeping in Japan, described on his personal website: .  

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