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Beyond “Sex Work”: Japanese Night Work and “Shakai-Keiken”

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 August 2020

University of California, Santa Cruz


This article rethinks the hegemonic “sex-work” discourses—popular sex-work discourse and radical-feminist discourse—that associate Japanese night work with prostitution and consider young women workers in this industry as victims. These discourses reinforce sex-work oppression–empowerment paradigms, which limit workers’ experiences to either oppressive/empowering, good/bad, and positive/negative. This research draws on transnational feminism and a polymorphous approach to the complex nature of sex work. In doing so, this article addresses three aspects of Japanese night work, including young Japanese women’s motivation to go into night work, their conceptualization of work they engage in, and shakai-keiken (social experience) that they gain out of doing night work. This article encourages readers to step away from dominant Western discourses and look closely at the nuanced nature of Japanese night work in its own context.

Sex Work in Asia
© Cambridge University Press and KoGuan Law School, Shanghai Jiao Tong University 2020

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Aki Kurosawa is a graduate student in sociology at University of California, Santa Cruz, and focuses her research on young women’s sexuality and gender roles in Japanese society and transnational and Women of Colour feminisms. The author thanks all advisers at UC Santa Cruz who guided her in the process of writing a master’s thesis and appreciates Professor Hiroshi Fukurai for providing the opportunities to present this search to the Asian Law and Society Association and publish it. The author also would like to thank her grandmother, who has always been a primary supporter and encouraged her to pursue a graduate degree, and she dedicates this publication to her. Correspondence to Aki Kurosawa, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA. E-mail address:


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