Tokyo assembly passes bill restricting phone, date clubs

The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly on June 6 passed an ordinance to restrict so-called telephone clubs, which introduce customers to dates via the telephone, in an effort to stem the practice of teenage prostitution euphemistically called “enjo kosai,” or compensated dates.

The ordinance, to go into effect Aug. 13, will oblige all telephone clubs to register themselves with local police if they are to continue their businesses. Under the ordinance, most telephone clubs that provide clients with private rooms to place their calls will be evicted from their current locations, according to the metropolitan government.

The ordinance prohibits such clubs from being located in certain law-designated housing districts and in areas within 200 meters of public facilities, such as schools, library and hospitals. In Shibuya Ward, all such clubs are located in areas to be prohibited under the bill. In Shinjuku Ward, 73.7 percent will be forced to move as will 59.6 percent in Ikebukuro, according to the metropolitan police.

Of the 190 telephone clubs that offer private rooms in Tokyo, 123 are now located in areas to be restricted by the ordinance. After a two-year moratorium, they will be obliged to move or face fines or imprisonment.

However, telephone club facilities that house only the equipment necessary to connect customers’ phone lines will not be affected by this area of the bill. In total, there are 450 telephone clubs in Tokyo, 260 of which are of the machine-only type, police said.

Some observers, however, criticize the ordinance, arguing that it will only force the practice of teenage prostitution underground, noting that many girls are now equipped with cellar phones and/or pagers with which they can directly contact clients. With the enactment of the ordinance in Tokyo, Nagano Prefecture is now the only prefecture without a similar ordinance restricting telephone clubs. Tokyo’s ordinance will also apply to so-called date clubs, agents of compensated dates. Tokyo is the first prefecture to restrict date clubs by ordinance.