Every year, the antique dealers on Kyoto's famed Shinmonzen Street take off for a week. Together, they travel to another Asian city in the pursuit of sex.

Bangkok, once a favorite, has lost ground because of the high incidence of HIV. Such practical problems notwithstanding, this week of joy persists.

I find this fascinating. I've always considered a sexual encounter as being rather personal and not keyed to a mass effort. So, I'm different from the Japanese.

"What," I asked the last time I was on Shinmonzen, "is the current choice?"

While there were some serious differences of opinion, Seoul came out the winner. In Japan, the consensus rules.

I continued. "When you're in Seoul, do you go to a house of joy?" Here, we call them whorehouses.

"Oh no," was the shocked response. "Our approach to friendly ladies is very discrete."

Anxious for an Asian lesson, I continued. "Discrete? What do you do?"

"We go to a department store and look for a beautiful salesgirl. When we find one, we make a purchase. But it's conditional."


"Yes, conditional. She must personally deliver the purchase to our hotel room. If she agrees to do so, we know we've found a friend for the night."