The Bank of Japan is probing the country's sex workers as it tries to get a grip on the state of the nation's service industries.
The central bank launched a survey of brothels in the Susukino district in Hokkaido as it tries to calibrate demand for services in the outwardly straitlaced but often strangely kinky country, Bloomberg news reports.
By tracking the number of knocking and other sex-related shops, the bank hopes to get a handle on domestic demand in the country, which has seen its export dominated economy take a big hit during the current recession.
And what does the report - “Susukino, Recent Trends and Changes to a Pleasure District" - tell us?
While the number of restaurants in the area has plunged 14 per cent in the past 20 years, the number of brothels has shot up from 63 to 264.
Under Japanese law, licensed shops operating in designated zones can openly offer services including oral sex, though intercourse is prohibited.
Japan has often shown a comparatively liberal attitude to the sex trade, with major cities traditionally having licentious zones where sex workers could ply their trade openly.
However, there's always room for progress, and according to Bloomberg, the Bank of Japan concluded that while the industry is clearly on the up and up, planners should consider how to make their red lights more appealing to a broader swathe of society - including women.
A tourist industry official put his finger on the issue, telling Bloomberg, “It must be because people want those services. Where there’s demand, you get supply.”
And with that grasp of macroeconomics, the country's bankers have the seeds of recovery in the palm of their hand. ®