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Huge bust of Yoshiwara soapland chain could be crossroads for brothel quarter

Yoshiwara soapland busted
Riichi Hasukawa (left) and Hiromasa Kamizono of Orange Group

The raid last week of a chain of soapland clubs in Tokyo’s top brothel quarter of Yoshiwara is causing a stir in adult-entertainment circles, reports Nikkan Gendai (Oct. 31).

To recap, officers from the peace preservation division of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police on October 27 took Sun World Holdings president Nobuo Komatsuzaki, 67, whose company presides over the Orange Group’s chain of eight soapland clubs in Taito Ward, executive Riichi Hasukawa, 51, and 37 other suspects into custody for violations related to the Anti-Prostitution Law.

All of the suspects have reportedly admitted to the allegations.

While investigating registration and licensing violations under the Law Regulating Adult Entertainment Businesses, officers entered the chain’s Asakusa Channel 11 parlor and found several women offering sexual services to male customers in private rooms.

According to police, the Orange Group chain has 635 female awahime (foam princess) staff members registered on its books and collected 10.1 billion yen since April 2010. Promotional Web sites indicate that services are priced at 15,000 yen for the first 50 minutes.

Nikkan Gendai wonders about the timing of the bust given the long-held tacit understanding between law enforcement and the brothel operators about acceptable business practices.

“Every soapland establishment is facing tough times,” says a fuzoku (or commercial sex industry) writer, who adds that operators are forming group companies to streamline costs. “However, the police are not allowing this to take place since it easy to obscure the flow of funds.”

Komatsuzaki merged his eight locations under the Orange Group in 2009 to centrally manage sales. Yet he also registered each individual operation as a separate entity, which is a violation of a revision to the adult-entertainment law from 1985, reports the Mainichi Shimbun (Oct. 29).

Another fuzoku writer, Kazuo Kamada, tells Yukan Fuji (Oct. 31) that with the prospects for typical employment for young women having been tough for the last five or six years they have been flowing into Yoshiwara. “There is a clear distinction between winners and losers among operators in their ability to attract customers,” says Kamada.

Whispers about jealousy are also circulating since the chain was so successful, boasting low fees, around 20,000 yen a visit, and young employees resembling AKB48 performers.

Could this be the be part of a clean sweep of the brothel quarter?

Tokyo civic regulations do not permit new club openings in Yoshiwara. Therefore, changes to clubs as far as the name and structural repairs must be reported to police authorities.

“For the last several years, inspections have been strict,” says one soapland operator. “Structures in disrepair cannot be ignored by owners…Earlier this year, I thought things were loosening up a bit, but now we get this slap down from the police.”

What will happen next is unclear.

“Soapland managers are now feeling jittery,” says the operator.

Source: “Yoshiwara ninki soopu ga tekihatsu sareta,” Nikkan Gendai (Oct. 31)