Rockit has noted the general format and entry fee / discount system of Japanese Strip Theatres in his reviews of Super Strip Theatre in Shibuya and TS Music Strip Theatre in Kabukicho on this site. Nevertheless, some gaijin still find the Japanese system and rules rather puzzling.
This is a full appreciation and history of strip theatre in Japan. Read on if you want to know how Japanese strip theatres work.
Part 1 – Overview
The first thing you must accept is that what you are seeing is theatre and not striptease. There is no tease involved in Japanese strip theatre. Tease is a western concept, arising out of puritan and judeo-christian concepts of guilt and sin and based on viewing and enjoying something sinful and forbidden. Such concepts are foreign to Japan, and so is the concept of tease (in spite of the fact that strip theatres originated during the Allied occupation after WWII as entertainment for allied troops). Japanese strip theatre is art.
Art / Theatre is the reason for the “no talking” rule during strip shows. You wouldn’t talk during the ballet, would you? The rule is taken seriously – I have seen Japanese being hushed by the muscular attendant for saying only a few words to each other. The “no cameras / cellphones” rule is universal and should be obvious.
Also probably due to the rather substantial (by western standards) entry fees, Japanese do not simply drop in to a strip theatre to have a beer or two with their friends for an hour or so, as westerners do. The show is the reason for their attendance, not just a sideline addition to the main purpose of drinking and socialising. Many arrive before the first show of the day and stay till late evening.
Japanese strip theatre is therefore essentially a compromise: the strippers want to be appreciated for their artistry, dancing, beauty, grace etc; and we want to see tits and pussy. So the first part of their show is the artistry, which just happens to have long graceful poses with the legs wide open, but all under soft lighting; and we politely applaud. Afterwards they come out under full lighting and spread and show the pussy, and we applaud more enthusiastically. Win-win all round. When in Japan, do as the Japanese do.
Wherever you go in Japan, there is a strip theatre not too far away.
Each theatre generally has 6 strippers who perform 4 shows each day. Each stripper has about half an hour on stage: 16-18 minutes for the show, 10 minutes posing for photos (more later), and 3 or 4 minutes of pussy show finale.
Entry fees generally range from 3,000 yen to 6,000 yen, with various discounts: early arrival, senior (60 or 65+), discount coupon from the website etc. You should always visit the theatre’s website before attending to get any discount going. I have never been refused a discount that I asked for: if you have their website on your smartphone or have a printout from it, so they can see you have actually looked for them and not wandered in out of the weather, you will get the discount. I’ve also got the senior discount by showing the DOB in my passport and pointing to what little remains of my grey hair. After discount, you should pay no more than about $40. As Rockit noted, this is not cheap, but as you can stay all day, you do get value for money.
Japanese strip theatres are less crowded Monday to Friday when the Japanese are at work. Weekends can be crowded, so midweek is best. They all have refreshments on site (beer / soft drink etc), and allow you to return same day if you want to pop out for a bite to eat (but make sure you ask first!) The quality of the seating varies, so I always assess it in my reports.
Women are welcome in Japanese strip clubs; all advertise a discount for women. In the included below, the fully clothed lady attended with her husband, who took the attached photo and other photos of me with the strippers. On this occasion, there were three other women together in the audience (but they didn’t sit in the front row!).
Part 2 – Strippers and rankings
apanese strip theatres all run a 10 day roster: from the 1st to 10th of each month, then 11th to 20th and 21st to 30th. If you visit a theatre on the 10th and 11th of any month, you will see two different shows and at least 11 different strippers. (On the 31st of the month, they either close for maintenance or run an amateur strippers day, where local ladies may be offered the chance of entering the industry. When the 31st falls on a weekend, amateur days abound.)
Japanese strippers therefore travel the country to earn their living. They all work through agencies which arrange their engagements – much like a western entertainer accepts engagements at clubs, casinos and other venues through a booking agent.
This allows pornstars to program film-shoots into their stripping schedule (or stripping into their shooting schedule). It is tough on full-time strippers who have no time off while engaged, so need a 10 day break every now and then.
For their part, the agencies provide each theatre with a program comprising a No 1, No 2, No3, No 4 and No 5 stripper, and sometimes a No 6 – the theatres don’t simply engage six strippers and give them a ranking. Their ranking is what their agency and the theatres agree on. All theatre websites, in advising upcoming programs, provide a ranking of the strippers on the program.
Each program starts with the lowest-ranked stripper and culminates with the No 1. Then, if there is a finale, the No 1 is front and centre; Nos 2 and 3 are one step behind and to the side of her, while the remainder are one step further behind and on the outside.
A performer’s salary or fee depends upon her ranking: No 1’s earn more than the others, and so on down the rankings. No 1’s also have bigger clothing wardrobes to strip out of, so can provide several different shows from different costumes, all of which justifies their high ranking.
Sometimes the rankings appear strange to westerners in the audience, since often the No 6 stripper is cuter or more attractive than many of the others. But cuteness or attractiveness has nothing to do with rankings: if you get work as a stripper, it is given that you are attractive.
Factors that affect ranking include: fame, seniority, reliability, artistry, income generating ability (photo shoots), and feedback from theatres. Except for porn stars, all strippers start at No 6 and work their way up the rankings. It is therefore not surprising that a No 6 is cuter than a No 1 or No 2 as she is probably 6 to 8 years younger and fresher! A No 6 may also spend more time engaged by her local theatre before being taken up by an agency, particularly if she got the job through an amateur day.
Porn stars usually skip the lower levels of the ranking system, since they already have fame and have much higher income-earning potential for the theatre. Established pornstars may go straight to No 1 ranking, while emerging pornstars may enter at a mid-level ranking.
There has been some tension over the influx of pornstars into stripping, with the full-time strippers claiming that, in spite of their undoubted other talents, pornstars do not have the necessary artistry that strippers develop as their career progresses and that as a result, the artistic level of Japanese stripping is declining. But money talks, and pornstars bring in those customers seeking a ‘trophy’ experience.
Most strippers are intent on working their way up the rankings, however some strippers fill a “niche” market at about No 4 or No 5 and will stay there throughout their career. The obvious niche market is for big tits, though there is a smaller market for post-op transgenders. In the photos attached, the single lady was clearly the “big tits” No 4 niche stripper (the enhancement was obvious!), while in the cast photo, the performer in red was a No 5 post-op transgender.
Part 3 – Souvenirs and Photo Shoots
Westerners nearly always find the Japanese stripper photo-shoots unusual; after her show, each stripper comes to the side of the stage and poses for photographs for audience members. She has her own digital or Polaroid camera and you pay 500 yen per photo. She gives you Polaroid photos straight away, and you collect digital photos from the box office when they have been printed.
Her first photos are always in costume – those wanting nude photos know to wait. When everybody wanting a costume photo has got one, she will take her clothes off and pose for nude photos.
In some theatres, each stripper poses for photos immediately after her show, while in others they run two or three shows and then two or three simultaneous photo-shoots. I find the latter preferable since the shows move faster, and there is less sitting around waiting.
There is no pressure on the audience to take photos, and if you wish you can stay all day and not take one. But I always like to participate because if you do, the lady is more likely to give you an eye-full in her later shows, particularly if she doesn’t get many takers from other audience members.
Most Japanese take photos of Number 1 strippers and porn stars – to them, these are trophy photos. They are less likely to take photos of Number 6’s, regardless of how cute and attractive they may be. So if you are on a limited budget and simply want a souvenir of your visit, I encourage you to give your business to a Number 6 – they need it more!
The theatres and the strippers share the proceeds of the photo shoots – they are an important earner for both. The irony is that No 1 strippers get both the highest appearance fee and the most photos.
You may take a photo of the stripper, or you may ask another audience member to take one of you and her together. I always do one of each – 2 photos for 1,000 yen. I budget about 10,000 or 11,000 yen per theatre visit – 3,000 to 4,000 yen for entry, 5,000 to 6,000 yen for photos, and a beer or three.
The strippers will adopt any pose you like, and most will be as explicit as you like. They all understand “open” and “smile” – though I found accidentally that “smile” has nothing to do with facial expression: she reached straight for her pussy and stretched it!
Sometimes, depending on how far the stage juts into the audience, the best seat in the house is not necessarily at the front of the stage, but at the side, in front of the posing spot. Here you get the both the strip show and a full 10 minutes of pussy show while the Japanese take photos – and often you are the one asked to take a photo of a customer with a stripper!
Incidentally, nearly every stripper I have photographed has spoken some English, and usually they have originated the conversation. Many have asked me my name and where I am from. Some write personal greetings in English on a polaroid photo, as you will see in the photo from Kyoto. So I do not accept the widespread belief that Japanese speak no English, since I doubt that English is taught in stripper-school or is a requirement of the job!Indeed, almost all students graduating high school in Japan have several years of English language education, though the level of fluency is questionable as you will see from this link.
This leads me to believe that the common refusal to admit gaijin to Japanese sex establishments is more a male fear of losing face than anything else: male doormen or touts fear losing face if they are not fluent in English or do not understand 100% of what the foreigner says, or if the foreigner cannot understand everything they say. Japanese women have no such inhibition, and are keener to try something different or unusual. On my next trip to Japan I will test my theory on establishments with female touts and sign-board holders.
Sometimes on strip theatre programs you will see that a particular day features “Bingo”. This is similar to western bingo: you buy sheets of numbers for about 500 yen and try to get a straight line of called numbers. The prizes for bingo are usually signed photo portfolios of each stripper. The Japanese value these prizes so much that they will often immediately pay for a polaroid of themselves and the stripper holding the portfolio!