If you have been to Shinjuku or the Kabukicho area, I am sure you have noticed one of those colorful booths that reads

無料案内 (muryo annai = free guide )

Can’t remember? Well, here are some photos I took myself :

What are those "free guide"(無料案内) signs around Shinjuku/Kabukicho?

What are those “free guide”(無料案内) signs around Shinjuku/Kabukicho?

What are those "free guide"(無料案内) signs around Shinjuku/Kabukicho?

What are those “free guide”(無料案内) signs around Shinjuku/Kabukicho?

When I first came to Japan, I thought they were booths set up to help tourists navigate the area. I mean, with signs so glaring and colorful and all that, I suppose it’s just natural to think so. But why the curtains? And why don’t I see tourists coming out ?

Well, it turns out that these free guide booths are booths to help locals out with their sexual needs. Yes, you read that right. After some time, my favorite thing to do when I pass by that area was to see gaijin men enter the booth and count 1 to 10. They always get the boot in 10!!

Muryo Annai (free guides) entertain only Japanese customers, afaik. Not that I asked anyway. The reason behind this is that prostitution is technically illegal in Japan. In order to avoid confusion and problems with foreign customers who don’t speak the language or don’t understand the culture, they just ban foreigners in general. Pretty much like the way they ban folks with tats to avoid troubles with yaks! (wow, did that sound like a haiku or what?!)

I am not sure if there are muryo annai for foreigners, but they are bound to sprout up, me thinks, with the Olympics looming. So no worries, foreign men. Your time is about to come ;p