Japan’s police have decided to ban the nation’s net cafes from using booths, based on their assertion that some patrons have been engaged in underage prostitution.
Japan’s National Police Agency has instructed all forces to treat Internet cafes operating booths or stalls without obtaining permission to operate under brothel control laws as being illegal.
Police claim the cafes are now a “hotbed” of underage prostitution, justifying a blanket ban on customer privacy.
The brothel control law in question requires establishments serving food and drink to patrons in private rooms under 5 square metres in size from which they cannot be seen from the outside to seek permission from police or face prosecution.
The law would originally have been intended to cover various types of club offering intimate services to customers in private booths under the pretense of being bars – although such establishments are still common to this day.
Permission can be granted, but this prevents establishments opening after midnight, a rather crucial requirement for cafes which often serve as overnight hotels for people trapped in the city after the last train, or those in need of cheap lodgings with good entertainment facilities.
The industry is concerned about the effects on its business – “If we can’t operate establishments with booths, the impact will be inestimable.”
An executive with a major chain explains that the police seem set on obliterating their business: “90% of our seating is in private booths. Booths, late night operation, and the sale of food and drinks – if we lose even one of these we will not be able to serves our customers’ needs.”
Police cite an unspecified number of incidents as grounds for ruining them: “There have been incidents of underage prostitution and indecency connected to the abuse of private booths.” Osaka police have already begun arresting net cafe operators.
Some chains have begun complying by lowering booth walls and making doors transparent, but given the strong expectations of privacy held by customers (many of whom use the booths for onanistic purposes) they are concerned about the effect on sales.
As Japanese police routinely allow supposedly illegal brothels to operate if they register with police and make regular payments (and pay no attention at all to love hotels), there is once again some doubt as to just what is really motivating this latest pointless crackdown on a generally harmless sector.