Two large earthquakes that struck Kumamoto Prefecture, located in the island of Kyushu, earlier this month resulted in 48 deaths, 263 serious injuries and 1,527 demolished residences, according to the latest government figures.
While the government worked to re-establish transportation networks and health services, evening tabloid Tokyo Sports felt obliged to update its mostly male readership on the status of the soapland bathhouses in Kumamoto City’s Chuo district, an area considered on par with Tokyo’s Yoshiwara, Nakasu (in Fukuoka) and Kobe’s Fukuhara.
On the evening of April 15, the day after the first quake (a magnitude-6.5 tremor), the paper dispatched a reporter to the district to learn whether the approximately 40 bathhouse operators in the district were managing to stay open.
“That day, there weren’t a lot of customers,” remembered one staff member. “Then, after the earthquake, you saw frightened girls heading outside onto the streets.”
In order for a soapland to operate, there are two key concerns: the functionality of its of boiler and the structural integrity of the building. A casual assessment of the area by the reporter revealed approximately one out of three businesses to be open.
“Our boiler is fine,” said a representative of a bathhouse that is not named. “But with the continued shaking (due to the aftershocks) customers feel uneasy. So we are closed.”
As far as the structure, building codes necessitate that floor plans not be changed. Thus, damaged areas are repaired, and operation can continue. “We just redo the walls with the same wallpaper,” shrugged the aforementioned representative.
For Blue Chateau, which operates on a membership system, it remained open on the day of the first quake. “We didn’t want to disappoint out regulars,” the manager is quoted. “We just ran a bare bones operation.”
At Chateau Roman, whose rates begin at 10,000 yen for the first 30 minutes, management allowed girls from prefectures outside of Kumamoto to stay at the premises instead of going to an evacuation shelter.
Two days after the first earthquake, an even stronger temblor (magnitude-7.3) struck the same area. A representative of Chateu Roman told Tokyo Sports that operations had been suspended. However, the establishment hopes to re-open in the near future. For Blue Chateau, management said that it would be taking April 18 off but resuming operations the following day.
“I like to please the people who came to play,” said 35-year-old Yuyuki of Chateau Roman. “I am happy if I can provide a sense of healing comfort. Bathhouses in Kumamoto will strive to be the best.” (K.N.)
Source: “Kumamoto-ryu fuzoku wa do natte iru no ka,” Tokyo Sports (April 22)