Girl Gangs

4 minute read

It starts as just an idea, a flicker of a thought about how to get even with all those guys. They’re disgusting, really, the way they just sit there and practically drool over her at the cabaret and then fork over a few hundred dollars to have sex. So why not, you know, lead them on? Make them think she was going to give it up, and then jump the guys and rob them. Kayoko, a thin 17-year-old with long, permed hair, is sitting with two girlfriends on a wooden bench when she hatches the plan. This grassy park adjacent to their former junior high is where they kill their afternoons, smoking joints or Marlboros, sniffing thinner, whatever it takes to escape their boring homes and their dull parents and a tedious night of pretending to do homework and then sneaking out to work at the cabaret.

Kayoko snuffs out her cigarette and explains that the next time a guy wants to pay to have sex with her, she and her friends are gonna rob him instead. These customers carry more than a thousand bucks in their wallets. It’ll be easy. She’ll call some guy friendslike they ever have anything better going onand they’ll do the roughing up and the threatening. Come on, she tells her friends, easiest ichi man10,000 yenyou’ll ever make.

They’re not runaways, Kayoko and her friends, they’re just a group of girls who still live at home but have formed this clique, group, O.K., call it a gang, that goes out on enjo kosai datespay datesand pools the money. They share their secrets and fears because that makes them feel safer, somehow, like they’re not alone. Kayoko, Ah and her gang live in the Western district of Osaka, a 40-minute train ride from the city center. An outsider just passing through might think their neighborhood looks quaint. There’s a brook crisscrossed by cute footpaths running the length of the street next to this park. Newly remodeled houses with perfectly manicured shrubs shaped like bonsai are just around the corner. These aren’t kids driven to the streets by abusive homes or grinding poverty. What Kayoko and her friends are rebelling against is the simple boredom, the predictability represented by those neat, little suburban houses. These girls know that if they play by the rules, pass all the right exams, marry the right guy, then all that awaits them is one of those tiny, three-bedroom homes with the little genkan and the slippers neatly lined up on the veneered floor. And what kind of dream is that? Even the head teacher of the junior high can’t hide the fact the students are wild: “There are always instances of bullying. We try our best to quell them on school grounds, but once class is out, there’s nothing we can do.” Ah nods her head, stands up from the bench and says she thinks Kayoko has had a great idea. Ah’s mom died when she was in third grade, and her older sister ran away shortly afterward. She never had a father. Now she lives with her grandmother in a 3LDKthree-bedroom, living room, dining room and kitchen dwellingon the 10th floor of a public-housing building. The yakuza controls most of the area, so kids use the kind of slang spoken by motorcycle gangs and low-life creeps.

So let’s do it, she tells Kayoko, tonight. Kayoko whips out her cell phone, makes the call, tells her friend Yo-chan about her plan. And that night, some salaryman, who’s thinking he’s going to get lucky with Kayoko, gets beat up instead, has his wallet stolen, and the next day Kayoko and her friends giggle about it on the bench.

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