A new Japanese startup is promising to provide wakeup calls from realschoolgirls. It’s not cute or cool or innovative. It’s disgusting, and it represents a lowering of the bar for the country’s nascent startup scene.
JKMorning – a play on joshi kosei, the Japanese word for schoolgirl – allows users to request individual wakeup calls or schedule them at a specific time for a set range of dates. It’s essentially a hotel wakeup call, but instead of the front desk staff, it’s an underaged girl you’ve never met before. No price plans are available, but the startup says it will accept PayPal.
The creepiest part is JKMorning’s assertion that the girls are, in fact, still in high school. In an email to Tech in Asia, a startup spokesperson explains that the plan is to verify potential “morning callers” using their student ID cards. If their ID photo matches their JKMorning profile photo, they’re verified. Girls can work from anywhere, the startup says.
Pre-registration is currently open, with no launch date specified. Judging by the national obsession with schoolgirls – real or otherwise – this startup could actually be onto something. I hope otherwise.
Look, I’m not saying that every grown man in Japan has pedophilic tendencies – a nonsensical notion – but after you’ve lived here long enough, you begin to wonder how society can tolerate what appears to be a widespread obsession with young girls in school uniforms. Enough that a startup’s entire business model can be built around their voice.
AKB48, a J-pop group that’s utterly inescapable – from endless TV appearances to tie-ups with the local fast food chains and, shamefully, pachinko parlor endorsements – has six members under the age of 18 on its “A team.” The youngest is just 14.
I’ve met otaku who boast of their middle- and high-school aged “wives” – 2D and 3D characters from dating simulators like Love Plus or manga and anime franchises like K-On. There’s even the smart body pillow featuring a character described as a junior high schooler. The Japanese government doesn’t seem to mind – it even tolerates the sexualization of underage girls in anime and manga.
Hell, real kiddie porn wasn’t even criminalized until June 2014 – scumbags possessing it were even given a one-year grace period to dispose of it before the law went into effect. The maximum sentence for breaking the law is one year in jail and a US$10,000 fine. Again, that’s the maximum. Manga and anime are exempt, and I’ve been told that banning those would violate Japan’s constitutionally protected freedom of expression.
If you think Japan’s unhealthy obsession with schoolgirls doesn’t translate to abuse in the real world, you’re mistaken. A UN official was recently pressured to retract a statement claiming that 13 percent of schoolgirls in Japan engage inenjo kosai, or “compensated dating” with older men. While that figure may be inflated, the phenomenon is very real – real enough to land on the UN’s radar in the first place. Before blockbuster messaging app Line added age verification, Japanese tabloids claimed it was a hotbed for enjo kosai.
Vice recently broke news about a business in Tokyo where men could pay about US$40 to watch high-school girls folding paper cranes in their underwear. Customers had the option of choosing a girl and paying an additional fee to engage in sex acts in a separate room.
Similarly to enjo kosai, JK o-sampo is another disgraceful business the Vice story mentions, where men pay to take walks with schoolgirls. Walks that often end in a hotel room. Age of consent laws vary across Japan, but a lack of strict policing and pressure from both clients and criminal elements seem to ensure that the cycle of abuse continues.
A JKMorning spokesperson confirmed that calls will be live, with pre-recorded wakeup calls a possibility down the road. Asked how the startup would respond if its schoolgirl staff were verbally harassed – or solicited for prostitution – the startup replied, “That is the most important and serious problem that we are working on carefully.” The service itself doesn’t appear to be breaking any laws, but that doesn’t make it acceptable.
I love Japan, but I’m sick of the weird shit that a small percentage of the population uses to get their rocks off. I hope in earnest that shining a light on the disgraceful JK industry will expose it as the fringe, abhorrent thing that it is and lead to its swift demise.