Tokyo Pink Guide

Tokyo Pink Guide, by Steven Langhorne Clemens

Tokyo Pink Guide

by Johannes Schonherr, July 2016

Tuttle Publishing recently re-released Steven Langhorne Clemens’ Tokyo Pink Guide on Kindle. The book was first published by Yenbooks in Tokyo as a paperback in 1993.

A guide book on the Tokyo sex scene from 1993? Re-published today without any updates? Well, yes — and I actually recommend taking a peek inside.

First of all, it is a very entertaining read, covering with great humor the extensive personal research by the author, covering a great variety of commercial sex outlets right after Japan’s economic bubble burst. At that time, suddenly, some previously Japanese-only establishments felt compelled to open their services to foreigners as well — and the author was all too happy to explore as many of them as he could.

Never mind the clubs’ names, the access maps and the prices given in the book. That’s all outdated information. It’s the attitude of the intrepid explorer the author displays that makes the book a still worthwhile read.

By his own admission, the author is an American journalist based in Tokyo (at the time) who spent a lot of time drinking at the bar of the Foreign Correspondents Club Japan in Yurakucho, who is single and more than willing to spend his private yen on exploring Tokyo’s nightlife.

Kabukicho entertainment district, Shinjuku, Tokyo
Kabukicho entertainment district, Shinjuku, Tokyo

He readily admits the obvious, namely that Steven Langhorne Clemens is a pseudonym. He remarks that his pseudonym is closely related to a great American traveling storyteller whose spirit he tries to channel here. Expecting an educated readership, he doesn’t spell out the actual name of the writer inspiring his research and humor. Should I do it here? Well, SamuelLanghorne Clemens was the birth name of the author who became famous under the pseudonym Mark Twain.

Twain traveled much but was not exactly known for covering the commercial sex life of the places he visited. But he was rightly famous for his wit and deep insight.

The author under question here, Steven Langhorne Clemens, is certainly intrepid and fearless and he explores many corners of Tokyo nightlife for the benefit of his readers. He is humorous and entertaining, yes. But he certainly can’t match the brilliant acerbic wit of an original Twain.

Kabukicho entertainment district, Shinjuku, Tokyo
Kabukicho entertainment district, Shinjuku, Tokyo

(If you look for a writer who can actually match that twisted Twain wit — without even claiming it — while writing about the realities of commercial sex, try Josh Alan Friedman’s account of New York’s 42nd Street in the late 1970’s, Tales Of Times Square. It’s a classic of truly great writing on a very dirty subject matter.)

But let’s get back to the topics covered in Tokyo Pink Guide. Clemens (for a lack of alternative, let’s stay with that name) goes all out to explore the various angles of the commercial sexual nightlife of Tokyo.

Clemens describes in detail his adventures with street girls, in hostess and hooker bars (he prefers the cheaper and more foreigner-friendly Filipino and Thai versions also available in Tokyo), with Delivery Health (this term for home / hotel delivery escort services just crept up at the time of his writing) to peep and strip shows to the S/M scene. He had friends checking out the gay bars in Shinjuku 2-chome (Japan’s gay culture center), male host clubs geared towards happy-spending female customers as well as the lesbian scene.

Not all aspects of Tokyo nightlife are explored in the book, of course. Tokyo offers much more than any book can cover. It’s a good starting point though, taking care of all the basics.

So, if you have some yen burning in your pocket, speak a little Japanese (or are with a friend who does) and feel like trying a paid sexual adventure in Tokyo, the Tokyo Pink Guide is your book.

All services described in the book are all still available and thanks to the internet, they are today much easier to locate than ever before. But keep in mind that still many of Japan’s commercial sex services are not available to foreigners. Clemens talks throughout his book how difficult it can be to obtain certain services — and that is certainly still true today.

Scene at a Tokyo love hotel
Scene at a Tokyo love hotel (Actually a promo postcard of Auction 01, an Adult Video by Company Matsuo, HMJM, 2004)

The best part of the book, however, can be found in its final pages. There you find the Pink Glossary. It gives you a wealth of sexual phrases both in Japanese — English and English — Japanese translations. Even if you are a seasoned speaker of both languages, some of the phrases might still be new to you — language schools don’t teach them, after all, and they are not listed in any dictionary.

In fact, with the glossary, the Tokyo Pink Guide finally breaks out of the ghetto of paid sex. The words and phrases of the glossary can be very helpful when talking about intimate details with real-life girlfriends / boyfriends or about your plans with the adventurous partner you just met at a bar. No holds are barred here and the terms given are right on target. Be careful when you use them, though. Many of them are not meant for casual conversation.

Steven Langhorne Clemens: Tokyo Pink Guide
Tokyo: YENBOOKS, 1993
207 pages

Books on Japan