I received several answers. Actually, I felt that I probably knew the answer when I asked the question. I wanted to receive confirmation that the answer I felt to be true was correct.
A Namaita style show is a type of sex show which was once commonly to be found all over Japan. In such a show, the dancers would dance and then would invite members of the audience to come on stage and have sexual intercourse with them. When I was in Japan for one year in 1984, I saw several such shows in Shinjuku and Yoyogi. I heard that there were lots more in Funabashi, Yokohama and especially in Osaka.
I am told that they were still there in 1986. However, when I went back to Japan briefly in 1989, I found that they had been declared illegal and apparently did not exist any more.
Of those who responded to my inquiry, all of the Japanese people knew the correct answer and got it right. On the other hand, every foreigner, no matter how long they had lived in Japan, gave an incorrect answer, even though they considered themselves to be fluent in the Japanese language. One foreigner said that it is a "tear-jerker type show (a sad ending or perhaps a sad theme)". Another said flatly that there is no such word in Japanese.
Here is one answer I received from a Japanese person:
"It is a style of strip tease shows. 'Nama' means 'raw' originally, but in this case 'live' may be suitable. 'Ita' may be 'mana-ita' whose original meaning is 'chopping board in cooking,' but I think it represents the stage board.
"I heard that in a 'nama-ita show' brave volunteers from the audience will go up the stage and make love with the dancers in the public. If there is no volunteer, actors will play their role. Of course, this type show is illegal and sometimes police checks frequently."
One reader pointed out that these shows are described in a book by Nicholas Bornoff entitled "Pink Samurai", pages 316-319. The author spells the word "manaita" instead of "namaita", but his description is so accurate and so exactly like the shows I saw that I imagine that we may have gone to the same show.
I disagree with him on a few points. He describes the women doing this as unattractive. I found them to be well above average and in some cases quite beautiful. The women doing this seemed to average around the age of 21. Some seemed younger. (How much younger, I do not wish to say.) There seemed to be no shortage of women applying for this job.
The thing I found surprising was that it was apparent that the women who were doing this were not being paid very much. At the TS Music in Shinjuku, Kabuki-cho, the capacity of the place when full was only about 200, and it was never completely full. At that time, it cost 1500 yen to get in and the exchange rate then was 250 yen to the dollar. So, if the house was full, the total gate was only $1200.
There were eight shows in a rotation. Each show last 15 minutes, so an entire rotation lasted two hours. They opened at 4:00 PM and closed at midnight, so a woman could expect to do her act for example at 4:00 PM, 6:00 PM, 8:00 PM and 10:00 PM, getting off work for the night at 10:15 PM, for a total of 6 hours 15 minutes per night.
If the woman doing this was exceptionally young and beautiful, she could do her act on stage by herself and men would compete with each other playing jon-ken-pon (scissors-paper-stone) with the winner of the competition getting to have sex with the girl. If the woman was less beautiful, two or three would get on stage at the same time and have to invite or even to cajole the men to come up and have sex with them. Foreign women, including the occasional American girl, no matter how beautiful, had a difficult time getting any man to come on stage to have sex with them. The customers only wanted their own Japanese girls.
Only about half of the acts involved audience sex participation. There were also comics, magic tricks and other kinds of acts.
In each 15 minute act on stage, each woman would have sex normally with two men. If the men were quick enough, she would look at her watch and, if there was time, take on a third.
Assuming that the total take of the house was 300,000 yen or $1200 per night at the exchange rate at that time, the house grossed 37,500 yen or $150 for each act. However, there were not only the performers who needed to be paid. There were cashiers, doormen, bouncers, the boys who set up the props and changed the futons on stage, plus the Yakuza guys who oversaw the entire operation. There was also rent to be paid in an enormously high rent area like Shinjuku.
Consequently, I feel that the performers received a maximum of 12,500 yen or $50 for each night of work, and probably considerably less than that. For this $50, a woman would have sex with 8 men, or $6.25 for each act of sexual intercourse.
From this, I concluded that the women who did this did not do it for the money. A prostitute in Shinjuku, even an ugly, old, horrible looking prostitute, could easily charge 20,000 to 30,000 yen for just 15 minutes of sex. These girls who were doing this on stage were not prostitutes. I am sure that if someone had approached them off stage they would not have been interested.
They were doing this for the thrill and excitement of performing on stage in front of an audience and of having live sex on stage.
I have posted an account of a typical namaita style show. The address is in:
Hard Times in Tokyo, Japan.