Japanese 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.