Tokyo teens

A gynecologist dispenses sex information to girls out of a burger joint.

Published March 15, 2001 8:39PM (EST)

Teenage girls in Tokyo don't often go to their school counselor for sexual advice. Nor do they visit a doctor. And they're certainly too afraid to ask their parents. So where does a young woman turn if she's worried about genital warts or pregnancy? She waits until Thursday night, then drops by a hamburger shop in the busy Roppongi District and talks to the man named Tsuneo Akaeda.

According to the Japan Times, for two years the 57-year-old gynecologist has operated a free sex counseling booth for young girls, located in the corner of a burger joint. Many of his clients don't bring money or health insurance forms, so he often charges nothing for his services. But he knows his sex. He's run a clinic in Roppongi since 1977, and has seen it all, whether it's unwanted pregnancies from one-night stands or sexually transmitted diseases. The idea of a free counseling booth came to him, he says, because so many girls showed up at his clinic for treatment of STDs. The girls refer to him as "Roppongi's doctor."

"It shocks me to work as a gynecologist in Roppongi," Akaeda said, "because I see so many young girls who have crazy sex lives without any concerns about their health."

His advice cuts to the chase, from "You do not have sexual freedom unless you can take care of your body" to "If you have a sexual urge, just masturbate." Sound suggestions, even if you don't live in Tokyo.

Akaeda's presence signals a dramatic shift in the sexual habits of Tokyo's teenagers. In a 1999 survey of students, 39 percent of females and 37.8 percent of males said they had experienced sexual intercourse, numbers that have increased nearly 20 percent in the past decade. And in a 1998 survey, one in 20 high school girls reported having been involved in prostitution.

Roppongi's doctor sees the evidence for such statistics every Thursday night. To many of these girls, he says, sex is now just a cheap form of entertainment.

"Men should shoulder more of the blame for the situation, since they have promoted a sex culture based on their desires while ignoring the delicate nature of female bodies," said Akaeda. "Teenage prostitution, girls selling their panties to old men ... For the past decade, the media have repeatedly reported such extreme cases as if they are common practice among high school girls, convincing them that it is unfashionable to be careful about sex."

Sex education in Tokyo leaves much to be desired if kids must stop at a hamburger stand to learn about sex and their bodies. But Akaeda is optimistic in his crusade. Not only does he care about the dangers sex poses to teenagers, he's also proud of his neighborhood, and doesn't want to see it disappear.

"I've lived here for more than 20 years and liked it better when it was a quieter, more mature and arty area of Tokyo," said the good doctor. "I don't want to see Roppongi deteriorate too much."

By Jack Boulware

Jack Boulware is a writer in San Francisco and author of "San Francisco Bizarro" and "Sex American Style."

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