Child Poverty SOS / Family abandonment prompts girl’s descent into enjo kosai
The Yomiuri Shimbun
“Don’t come back home anymore.” The mother’s shoulders shook as she said these words to her 17-year-old daughter. It was a rainy evening in the summer of 2011.
“I don’t want to see you beaten up by your father anymore,” the mother went on. She forced her daughter to take five ¥10,000 notes in her hands, and then collapsed into tears.
The daughter looked at her mother coldly. She pulled her hands free and ran into the rain without an umbrella.
She gave the money to a high school classmate and asked if she could stay with her. A month later, having gradually begun to wear out her welcome with the friend’s family, she moved to the house of another classmate who invited her to stay.
The four family members at this classmate’s house were always together in the living room. They ate together and laughed together as they watched TV. When the classmate talked about what had happened at school, her parents listened with warmth.
“So this is a real family,” the girl thought. She suddenly felt that her earlier life had been empty, but at the same time began to feel stifled at such a warm home and left the friend’s house.
She was taken into protective custody by police while wandering the streets in Tokyo.
She used to live with her parents and a sister who was two years older at a house in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Since she was small, her father was constantly violent with her, even for minor reasons like holding chopsticks the wrong way.
When she cooked curry with her mother, the father said they had prepared it incorrectly and threw it away.
Her father began to repeatedly change jobs when she was in the upper grades of primary school. Her mother often said the family was out of money.
Her parents didn’t buy her anything she wanted. All the clothes she had were handed down from her sister. Only her sister was spared her father’s violence, and received pocket money.
“Why is it only me?” she wondered
The girl started to spend most of her time in her room. When she entered high school and started working part-time to make money to buy the things she wanted, her parents stopped giving her money for her commute and to buy lunch. She had no choice but to buy boxed meals at convenience stores with the money she earned and ate alone in her room.
During the autumn of her first year of high school, she used her cellphone to post a message on the online bulletin board of a dating site for the first time.
Shortly after she posted the message, which read “Is there anyone I can meet now?” she received countless e-mails. She wrote back to a man who said he would pay ¥30,000.
“I don’t care what happens,” she thought.
Feeling abandoned, the girl began to repeatedly engage in enjo kosai, or compensated dating, and stopped attending high school. She stayed until the predawn hours at Internet cafes or family-style restaurants in Shibuya or Ikebukuro, both in central Tokyo.
She sometimes returned home but quarreled with her father and was beaten. Then her mother told her not to come home anymore.
There is a nonprofit organization in Tokyo that is known as a shelter for young women. The girl began to work at the organization after the police took her into protective custody.
The head of the organization has been giving her advice since her second year of high school. Though it was often midnight or before dawn, the woman carefully listened to the girl. The woman kept caring for her even when she felt abandoned and rejected the support, saying, “Just leave me alone.”
The girl said: “There were times when I wanted to die, because I just couldn’t forgive myself for becoming sullied. However, I was finally able to take care of myself because adults I can trust have offered constant support.”
The organization receives calls for help almost every day from girls who, due to poverty, have started compensated dating or are involved in the “JK business.” JK stands for joshi kosei, or high school girls. Others have run away from home due to domestic violence and say they want to die.
The girl feels that these others are like her past self.
On the phone, she tells them strongly: “I promise you’ll be able to meet someone you can trust as long as you live. Don’t give up.”Speech