In May, the Senhime (“thousand princesses”) group of erotic bathhouses in Yokohama and Kawasaki cities apologetically announced on its Web site that it would tack the consumption tax onto its admission charges, effectively raising prices by 5 percent.
The evening tabloid newspaper Nikkan Gendai (July 9) reports that customers were informed that the cost rise was due to the soaring price of heavy oil, which is used for the boilers. In a typical month, such bathhouses, which are euphemistically referred to as “soaplands,” consume about 300,000 yen worth of oil.
“Sex businesses in Tokyo are having a rough time too,” says Yukio Murakami, a journalist who covers the industry. He runs off a list of items whose costs have recently risen sharply, including sukebe isu (literally “lecher chairs,” specially configured bathing stools), massage creams, bathing implements, air mattresses and other paraphernalia used on the premises.
“Driving the girls home after closing costs more too,” Murakami adds. “On top of that, due to the economic slowdown the number of customers has tapered off, making it a double-whammy. I think the shops that charge in the popular price range of 25,000 yen have been hit the hardest.”
Other ways the shops are cutting back include elimination of female workers’ meal allowances and lower commissions for attracting shimei (repeat customers). And now, only the top-ranked girl in the shop is entitled to free treatments at the beautician.
“From the start of this year, the girls’ share of the admission fee was reduced from 60 to 50 percent,” Murakami points out. “The managers are bowing in apology and telling them, ‘If our costs go back down, we’ll return to the 60 percent arrangement.'”
It might be a good time to go, Nikkan Gendai suggests, since the girls are likely to be make you feel extra welcome. (M.S.)
Source: “Genyu koutou ni naku, soopu-jo.” Nikkan Gendai (July 9, page 9)
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