Boys for Sale (Twist, NewFest)

by Roger Walker-Dack

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Sunday October 8, 2017

'Boys For Sale'
'Boys For Sale'  

One of the most surprising facts to come out of first-time filmmaker Itako's intriguing documentary "Boys for Sale," about the culture of young Japanese rent boys, is that the young men presented here are completely matter of fact about their professioo, which they have chosen as an easy way to make money. Most of the 10 "boys" the film follows -- who are as young as 18 years old -- are straight or bisexual, and when one of the newbies asks how to get an erection when having sex with a man, the answer is very simple: Money will always make you hard.

They all work in the Shinjuku 2-chrome area of Tokyo, which is home to some 800 gay businesses that cover the whole spectrum of gay life (and not just the 'urisen' bars where the boys ply their services). For $5 they will sit at your table for 30 minutes, and if customers want 'karami' (oral sex) from them, they pay the Bar about $150 for one hour, of which the boy will receive anything from $50 - $80. The real money they make is in the tips clients give them for any extra services, including unprotected anal sex.

Most of the boys are very matter of fact about the requests for particular services from their customers, who were sometimes as old as 80. One recounted quite calmly how one night he had been bound and raped. When questioned about STDs -- and AIDS in particular -- they give answers that show both a shocking ignorance or outright denial. This is reflected on a larger scale with the fact that Japan is the only developed country that is still showing an increase in the number of people who are diagnosed HIV+ each year.

One of the bar managers explains that in Japanese culture it is still generally considered inappropriate that men openly have sex with other men. He goes on to euphemistically add, "It is our work to solve that problem and comfort the souls of our customers."

A boy's working life is short, as the bars all advertise that their sex workers are all under 26 years old (they joke that one of their number was the ripe old age of 30), and it is not clear how they spend their newly gained wealth as they all live crammed together in one squalid dormitory.

However, what this excellent documentary does in a superbly un-sensationalized manner is to show the sheer hypocrisy of it all. Homophobia is still very rife, and sex is still something that the Japanese cannot talk about, yet the rich and famous (as well as the poor and not so famous) are happy to exploit these young men, who risk their lives for some easy cash.

P.S. Kudos to director Itako for the creative use of animation to show some of the very graphic scenes that the boys talk about.


Appearing at Twist: For tickets and more information:

Appearing at NewFest. For tickets and more information:


Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.