Embodying Japan: Cultures of Sport, Beauty, and Medicine 2017

Sex Work and Venereal Disease in Occupied Japan

When Allied soldier arrived in Japan at the end of World War 2, they were immediately introduced to the Recreational Amusement Association (RAA), a Japanese government program that provided servicemen with a supply of paid sex workers. Allied government officials were varied in their responses and attitudes toward the RAA. Some argued that sexual relations were inevitable, but most wanted to ban the RAA and all forms of sex-work, largely because they were concerned about the spread of venereal diseases like syphilis and gonorrhea. This medical crisis was, by all indications, brought on by troops having sex with Japanese sex-workers.

Allied government officials were steadfast in their belief that Japanese sex-workers, and Japanese women in general, were to blame for the spread of venereal diseases. In response, they established rules that segregated Japanese civilians and American soldiers. They also encouraged police to subject many Japanese women to raids, involuntary detention, and inhumane medical exams. Years later, scholars definitively concluded that the spread of venereal disease in Occupied Japan was not, in fact, caused by Japanese women or even sex workers in particular but, rather, was largely brought by the Allied soldiers themselves. In reality, Allied soldiers unknowingly picked up these diseases in earlier years and, therefore, were the true source of the disastrous spread of VD in Occupied Japan.

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