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At a glance, First Dash is just a regular Tokyo bar. Customers laugh and drink, their animated chatter competing with the monotonous beat of techno thumping through speakers hovering somewhere above dimmed, orange-tinted lights.
The customer — a portly, balding middle-aged man in a nondescript suit — shuffles over to a table followed by a slightly built teenage lad, ruffled locks partly shielding a furtive, floor-fixed stare. Usually they are masochists who want me to be, well, you know, domineering. While some want nothing more than a bit of company over dinner, others want a whole lot more, performing acts that in some cases could be argued verge on abuse, even rape.
My sister is lesbian, and so is my aunt. They disgust me. Many urisen interviewed for the film, whose more intimate on-the-job moments are cleverly represented by often-explicit animation sequences, are uneducated, occasionally homeless young men who cite financial hardships, even crippling debts, for taking on the work. It also highlights how some bar owners and managers willfully conceal crucial information about the nature of the work and potential health risks. A sign outside a gay bar in the Shinjuku Ni-chome district of Tokyo.
According to experts, the government has no plan to revise this, although it came under some scrutiny in when Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Takaya Muto was accused of engaging in sexual acts with a year-old male prostitute on a number of occasions — a case that never went to court due to a lack of legal recourse. While urisen clients are invariably homosexual, urisen themselves are mostly straight, though even those who are gay are told to pretend they are heterosexual as it provides an enticing challenge for many clients, according to Shingo, 28, a manager at First Dash who until recently worked as an urisen.
Money talk sometimes convinces some of the more reticent ones. To all of them, we are just a product. Both moved to Tokyo to find work and accommodation and were scouted off the streets as they arrived fresh off the train in the capital.