A former prostitute who spent 20 years in an Internet cafe finds a regular job and becomes independent | FRIDAY DIGITAL

A former prostitute who spent 20 years in an Internet cafe finds a regular job and becomes independent

Meg (pseudonym), a woman in her 50s who used to be a water saleswoman and was introduced in a FRIDAY Digital article last March, has returned to a "normal life" after 30 years.

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Meg walking in Kabukicho (left, photo by Vinod Vijayasankaran)

Meg (pseudonym), a woman in her 50s, who was introduced in the FRIDAY Digital of March 10 last year, has regained her “normal life” after 30 years. In August last year, she was hired directly by a hotel after putting an end to her life of spending nights at an Internet cafe and taking customers on the streets of Kabukicho, Shinjuku, even on snowy days and typhoon days. What in the world changed her?

In the past few months, I’ve said about a year’s worth of ‘thank you’s.

Last year, Meg stretched out her back and began to speak with a bit of embarrassment.

A native of the Kansai region, Meg found a full-time job at a fast food restaurant in her twenties, and had been dating a man with the intention of marriage. However, the relationship broke up when her mother asked her to move in with her at their new house. She ran away from home and immersed herself in the water business, earning her living as a deli worker.

Depressed from her illness, Meg borrowed 30,000 yen from a friend and moved to Tokyo to change her mood. She borrowed 30,000 yen from a friend and came to Tokyo to change her mood. She stood on the streets of Kabukicho, planning to return to Kansai after making up the money she had spent on travel expenses. It had been seven years since I had been to Tokyo. The number of young people entering the market had increased, and the price per visit had plummeted to one-third. Meg, who was now in her fifties, was unable to even return to Kansai because her income was further reduced.

In 2020, as the new coronavirus began to spread, he managed to make ends meet by playing “stand-up” every day, but by the time a year had passed, he had reached his limit. I had reached my limit.

What unexpectedly led me to change my life was the “New Year’s Eve Support and Covid-19 Damage Counseling Village” held at Okubo Park in Shinjuku City from New Year’s Eve of the same year to the beginning of the year 2021. I was told that I could get food just by talking a little, so I accompanied my friend there.

I was living on the edge, but I was still able to earn money for cigarettes and a little bit of spending money for fun, in addition to rent and food. At the Internet cafe, I could watch all the TV I wanted and use the shower for free. He didn’t have to worry about utilities, cleaning, or taking out the trash. I thought to myself, “I can get by without changing the rhythm of my life.

However, in January 2021, just after I visited the village for consultation, the government declared a state of emergency due to the rapid spread of Covid-19 infection. The nighttime restaurant business was hit hard, and Meg, who took customers on the street, was unable to make any money at all. She went with a friend, but ended up asking for help herself, never expecting that she would have to use public assistance.

I was in a real mess in January, but I thought welfare was only for people who were physically ill or unable to work,” said Meg, who was approved for welfare within a week of completing the application with the counselor. I was surprised. After that, it was a breeze, and she was able to get her certificate of residence and make an ID card.

Not only Meg, but all of us who live in this country have the “right to life.

All people must be guaranteed a “healthy and culturally appropriate minimum standard of living” (Article 25 of the Constitution), and the government is responsible for guaranteeing a person’s livelihood if he or she does not have enough to eat, does not have a place to live, or does not “meet minimum human needs. The Welfare Law stipulates that the government is responsible for guaranteeing the livelihood of those who do not have enough food, shelter, or other “minimum human needs”.

“I’m finally recognized as a human being.

These were the words of Meg after she received her ID card. After that, she opened a bank account to receive her welfare money. When she consulted with a lawyer about the problem of her account being frozen due to a bank transfer scam, the lawyer explained that it would take some time, but it would be possible to open an account, giving her some hope.

However, life on welfare was not easy. If you pay rent, utilities, food, and cell phone bills from the 130,000 yen a month in welfare payments, you will never be able to lead a “healthy and cultured life. I hear that many users are forced to cut down on food and utility costs. This is what motivated Meg to become independent so that she could afford to live.

She said, “Now that I have someone to talk to, someone who takes me seriously, I can think about taking my time and doing my best in response. For decades, I had been lazily living my life on a day-to-day basis, but now I have people (supporters) who are concerned about me. But now I have people (supporters) who care about me, and it’s not enough to just say, ‘We don’t have rice or food, so we want it.

She found a job opening at the front desk of a lodging facility as a cleaner and wrote her resume for the first time in 30 years. I thought, “I can do cleaning,” but at the interview, I was offered a job as a front desk clerk.

The job entailed receiving the charges from the guests, entering them into the computer, and then handing over the keys. I had never worked at a front desk before, and I felt uneasy at the same time. Although her previous job (in the water business) was still in a sense a customer business, she thought that she might have had a sense of “just doing it right” in retrospect. In mid-August of last year, she got her first regular daytime job since working as a temporary factory worker when she was 25.

He is a hotel staff member who deals with customers about Goto Travel. With the Covid-19 disaster, the hotel’s workload has increased dramatically (photo: image, Kyodo News)

It was somewhat unsettling to find myself on the receiving end of a place that had been offered to me for work, but once I got used to it, this job was much easier on my body.

Having a regular daytime job for the first time in a long time has made me realize something. I realized that having a regular income would lead to credibility. The income in the water business fluctuates between zero and tens of thousands of yen every day. When the weather was bad and there was no money to be made, I sometimes borrowed money from friends to pay for the Internet cafe. However, he could not guarantee when he would be able to get his money back.

People used to say to me, ‘I’m not your ATM,'” she laughed, “but I realized how much people trust me to have a regular income. They lend me money because I get paid at the end of the month, so I have a schedule for repayment. Having a day job makes a difference in the way people look at you,” he said with a bite.

Because of the lack of a steady income, he hesitated to see a doctor even when he was sick with a cold or fever, standing on the street half the night for work. I had to look for over-the-counter medicines such as fever reducers, and going to the hospital was not an option.

After decades of earning money with my own body, I couldn’t go to the hospital even if I had a pain here or there. At this point, I started going to the hospital to get everything checked out, but my body is a wreck because I’ve been overworking it to survive. I realized that hospitals are very important.

This is the first time in 30 years that I have had my own room.

It was the first time in 30 years that I had my own room. Living in an Internet café, I could get out of the rain and wind, but it was not my room. It’s tough in terms of living, but I’m most relieved to have my own castle and to be able to sleep on my own futon.

Photo: Unfiltered

Meg herself is proud of her work and has never been ashamed of it. However, when she was asked what she did, she couldn’t say that she was a stand-up comedian, so she faked it by saying that she dated men. When people around me heard about it, they said, “You’re a prostitute after all. Now that I can proudly say that I work at the front desk of a hotel, I don’t have to be afraid of the police and can work without worry.

Why didn’t she think to consult with the government or private organizations when she was living on a day-to-day basis and unable to earn enough money for food every day? Meg says.

I was just trying to survive, so I didn’t think about it.

That’s all.

It just so happened that as the number of people in need increased due to the spread of the new coronavirus, counseling sessions began to be held in various places, including the park where Meg and her friends hang out. Meg and her friends happened to hold a consultation session at the park where they hang out. She said that if she didn’t see it around her, she wouldn’t dare to visit it as it was just a news story.

He said, “Even if such a thing happened before, I was out of the loop. If I hadn’t gone to the consultation meeting at the end of the year, I wouldn’t have gone. If I hadn’t gone to the consultation meeting at the end of the year, I would probably still be ‘standing still.

Meg says that she values “people” the most now.

I realized how important people are. I realized that people are important. The people I met through these consultations led me in the right direction. I got to where I am today because I went there as a chaperone, but I was able to get to a normal life because I met those people there.

Before, advice from a third party would not have entered her mind, but the women she met at the consultation meeting took the time to listen to her and changed her mind about not only applying for public assistance and ID cards, but also about opening a bank account.

Meg is now looking for a job that pays more per hour than the front desk job at the hotel in order to improve her career.

  • Interviewed and written by Chie Matsumoto

    Journalist. Mainly covers issues related to social justice, such as human rights and labor. Co-author of "White Paper on Mass Media and Sexual Harassment" (Bungeishunju), "Understanding Black Companies in Manga" (Godo Shuppan), etc., and co-translator of "Striking China" (Sairyusha). In January 2021, he published a joint translation of "The Power of Change to Move the World: A Message from the Co-Chairman of Black Lives Matter" (Akashi Shoten).

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