Let's be clear from the start here; this piece is being written by a guy, which may account for any hint of the immature or the prurient that may emerge when talking about the sex shops in Japan.
I suppose, if we really undress it (pun intended) attitudes towards sex in Japan are often the same as in many parts of the world; a little bit shy, hesitant, and giggly in public, but in private ranging from the conservative, Missionary position only, please!, through to whatever naughty fantasy adults are capable of. In fact, if you have had an insight into sex as an industry in Japan (legitimate, we trust), you'll probably be aware that the Japanese can be as filthy as the best of them, if not more.
In this post we want to give you a little insight into the Japanese sex shop or adult store experience. There are a couple of caveats to mention; in no way can this writer be considered an expert in the field, and also, taking pictures in the sex shops we visited in Tokyo is prohibited.
Why are we doing this? Well, because some people like their sex to be fun, and there comes a time (it may seem unfathomable to those couples on the 'honeymoon' period) when a bit of outside help might be needed in the bedroom. And also, because it can be hard to visit a sex shop. A Lot of people might want to, and why not? But getting through the door might take an extra boost of courage. We hope, in some way, this post can get you there. If that's what you want.
We thought about using terms like willy, bottom, boobs, and front bum to carry on with piece, but we've ditched that for more 'textbook' terms like penis and vagina, although boobs might crop up. If you don't like it, stop reading now.
The sex shops we visited in Japan, were multi-story extravaganzas, with tight staircases leading to fairly tight rooms on each floor. Expect to have that awkward moment when you have to give way to someone coming in the other direction.
Coming up with a comprehensive list of what one can purchase in Japan's sex shops would be a sisyphean task; there's a lot of 'kit' in these places.
Going with the multi-story model, you might expect the first floor of a Japanese sex shop to be the least racy. Here you can get your pornographic playing cards, sex game dice, penis lollipops, and novelty greetings cards. Honestly, a lot of this stuff you could find at a tacky beach resort in Europe.
Plenty to go at here. Expect cheap pairs of pants, thongs etc to start from 500 yen and go up to around 2,500 yen.
More substantial outfits (although not very substantial, if you know what we mean) will begin from around 1,500 yen, where you'll get some kind of seal wrapped frilly, stringy, fishnetty construction, modelled by a busty/musclely Western porn star type. These kind of things go up to about 5,000 yen. 'Costumes' that are more involved range from 10,000 yen to 20,000 yen or sometimes more. Here you're getting into replicas of stage dress warn my J-pop idols, Super Mario imitations, fully kitted out police uniforms and more. A lot of this is probably standard fare, but in one store we were somewhat disturbed to see the uniform as typically worn by kindergarten students (hard to say ‘kids’ at this point). Another store also featured clothes, attached to which were pictures of a young lady wearing the same thing, with her face pixelated out. Make of that what you will.
It may come as no surprise to hear that on the costume front, there’s far more stock for women to wear, than men. We’re not sure what this says about the industry in Japan (or anywhere for that matter), or, indeed, attitudes as a whole. That said, ladies, if you like your men to dress up, you should be able to find a little (‘little’ being the key word) something in these stores.
For the solo man
Expect shelves stacked very full of contraptions to enhance a guy's masturbation experience. We're talking rubber vaginas, mouths, breasts, and a**s’. Lots and lots of them. Some of the packaging here may disturb, as quite often it features some warped manga reimagining of the female form. And one that looks very young, too. On the other hand though, some of these things look like oversize jars of hair gel (‘extra firm hold’ means something very different in this case). You’d have to concede, the attention to detail of vaginas modelled on (and endorsed by) Japanese porn stars, is at least industrious.
Prices here range from 500 yen for something that looks like it should be in a joke shop, through to say 3,000 - 4,000 yen for something, err, better sculpted? The imitation porn star models were selling at 4,000 yen. A full set of buttocks with relevant holes in position ranged from 10,000 yen up to 27,000 yen. Simple blow up dolls and pillows, 2,000 - 3,000 yen.
In stark contrast to the grunting, huffing and puffing sweaty guys, a lot of the 'kit' aimed at women, specifically the vibrators, are presented with the sanitised sophistication of an expensive set of hair curlers. Rotors and vibrators cover everything you could get between 1,000 yen and around 25,000 yen. It's not all classy though; wobbly replica willies sold in clear plastic bags look like something you'd win at a fair for knocking cans off a shelf. Also, some of the sizes on offer made this window shopper wince.
With everything written in Japanese, these can be confusing. There are so many to choose from. Generally, prices are in the 500 - 2,000 yen range. Some of it is lube, some of it that slimy stuff you've seen in Japanese porn, some of it for masturbation, some it to use with your vibrators, and some of it could well be for sterilising bathtubs, surfaces, and pieces of rubber kit you've just defiled! I suppose you could ask a member of staff if you're brave enough, although to be fair, as with many Japanese products, there's often a smattering of English to look out for. On the novelty side (if you're able to distinguish that), you can buy lotion packaged as famous bottles of soft drinks and teas (clearly labeled 'This is not a drink.').
If price is an indicator of quality, it's S&M in Japan that comes out on top (no pun intended this time). I suppose it should really, given what might be at stake.
In one store we saw whips go up to 50,000 yen. Studded paddles, 10,000 yen. There are glass cases stocking various metal contraptions that look like they belong to a Victorian dentist. Some of the dildos were a bit off putting and had the appearance of a prop from the movie Seven.
DVDs and other sundry items
Honestly, who buys porn on DVD these days? Especially the pixelated Japanese stuff? Anyway, Japan's sex shops stock em (500 - 3,000 yen), and often have them scrolling on screens in the store.
In one store we saw penis enlargement kits (presented by some daytime - TV type doctor) for 30,000 yen.
Something that caught the attention was a set of suction cups for a bit of purchase and grip when you're attempting a shower scene. 1,500 yen.
Atmosphere and Rules
First of all, you're usually not allowed to take photos in these places. There are signs everywhere. I even saw some tourists get scolded by staff for attempting to do so. Yes, in some adult stores in Japan, staff are on patrol (although not in a heavy handed way).
You might also see women prevented from entering the 'men’s' section, although it's unlikely that this would be in place the other way round.
Of course, there are a lot of middle-aged local men in these places, but you'll also see plenty of couples, and a lot of tourists (depending on the area). In fact, if you are a little hesitant and embarrassed you can just tell yourself that you're a tourist and have come for bit of unique 'sightseeing'. Worked for me.
Goods that you purchase in these places are usually placed in an unmarked brown paper bag.
Overall, despite some of the kit on offer, the Japanese sex shop experience really shouldn't intimidate or make you feel somehow tainted. It's very open, polite, well staffed, and informative (in more ways than one). People are surely there for all kinds of reasons; for a laugh, because they're bored at home, because they want to experiment ... and anyway, who are we to judge?
If the sex shop is a 'hurdle takai' (a high hurdle) as they say over here, an easier option can be found in perennial provider of all things 'stuff', Don Quijote. These stores usually have an 'adult' section separated by some flimsy curtains where you can find a selection (albeit much more limited) of the items above. However, you'll still have to pay for them over a counter where other customers are waiting to pay for their packet of cookies or a smartphone case. In this regard, maybe it would be easier to go to a sex shop or adult store after all!
As you can perhaps tell, we’ve treated this piece with a certain amount of irreverence (as is our want on this site). It’s not meant to offend or be a cheap thrill. People like having sex, sex shops exist in Japan, if you’re at all curious, why not go and check them out? We’ll leave that with you.