P: So why does Koakuma ageha feel like something new? And why do we get so excited looking at this magazine? Hostess club culture itself is nothing new and the Japanese sex industry has been around forever…
J: The universal image of a girl who sells her sex is of someone who is aggressive. Usually, a woman is trying to protect her sex from men, not give it away. What’s really new about ageha culture is that these girls are pretending that they are innocent.
P: It’s true. When the models list their occupation in the magazine, they say things like “office lady”, “event coordinator”, even “day trader.” There are no recruitment ads for clubs like there are in Men’s Knuckle. Why is there such a need to cover up the truth here?
J: Nobody wants to tell or hear the truth in Japan. I could say, “Hey everyone! Koakuma ageha is full of nothing but slutty girls and sex workers, and they are actually ugly without all that makeup,” but its so lame to say that. It’s more fun to say, “Oh my god, they’re so gorgeous! They look like princesses!” You have to join in on the game to really enjoy Japanese culture.
P: The clothes and styling in ageha seem to borrow a lot from Gothic and Lolita fashion, and also leans heavily on the Hime (“Princess”) Gal look. The difference here I think is that Gothic and Lolita girls dress to please themselves, while the ageha girls dress for both themselves, and to please men. Think about how rarely you see a Gothloli girl in makeup, whereas the agejyo are always caked in it.
J: Gothic & Lolita culture should never have merged in the first place. Those two styles are originally total opposites. “Gothic” is dark and gloomy while “Lolita” is cute and innocent. In spite of that, people in Japan mixed them anyway. That’s really the strength of Japanese culture: you can combine whatever you want, even two things that are extremely different. And the more different the extremes are, the more interesting the resulting mash up culture is.
P: Fairy tale imagery is a huge part of Koakuma ageha. There clearly is some deep-seated childhood fantasy playing out here about being a princess, marrying a prince, and living happily ever after. And yet, when you think about the reality of what these girls do for money, it seems like such a contradiction.
J: The way Japanese society developed has made some women numb about their own value. These young girls don’t really have ethical or moral beliefs to fall back on. Instead of trying to create or find meaning in their lives, they are playing the money game, the power game.
P: When you read fashion magazines for young women in America, you’ll find a lot of content about volunteering in third world countries and helping people in need. But you look at any magazine for a similar demographic in Japan, its just bald-faced consumerism all the way.
J: It’s the world of the gaki (hungry demons from Buddhist mythology, also slang for a bratty child). This is the stage that Japanese youth culture has been at since the beginning of the seventies. The failure of counterculture and the student movement was a huge disappointment to the older generation, and they raised their children to believe that ideology cannot change anything. So in the short run, why not just try and be successful? Be a winner! Go to college, get a good job, meet a good guy, get married, and have some security.
P: If these girls are looking for security, why are they working in the mizu shobai industry? There’s no long-term future there and you’re all used up by the time you hit your thirties.
J: It’s just because its easiest way and the fastest shortcut. You don’t have to study or learn a respectable trade to enter. Most kids don’t even have the ability to predict the consequences of their actions, anyways. They can only think about the present moment. And I strongly believe this is because of parents who experienced struggle and failure and who tried to protect their children by not teaching them anything of value aside from everyday things.
P: But still, we love Koakuma ageha magazine!
J: Of course! I’m laughing at them! I’m thinking, “thank you for being so stupid and entertaining me!”