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Rumors continue over bust of Yoshiwara soapland chain

Weekly Playboy Nov. 26
Weekly Playboy Nov. 26

The raid in October of a chain of soapland clubs in Tokyo’s top brothel quarter of Yoshiwara is generating plenty of speculation in adult-entertainment circles, reports Weekly Playboy (Nov. 26).

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 coital sexual services to male customers in private rooms.

“If a female employee at a particular shop knowingly engages in prostitution, then there is a violation of the law,” says a public relations representative of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police in citing the reason for the bust.

Weekly Playboy wonders, however, about the timing given the long-held tacit understanding between law enforcement and the brothel operators about acceptable business practices.

“From the perspective of the police, full intercourse is a matter of consent between the soapland employee and the customer,” says lawyer Ichiro Onishi of Sakamoto Law Offices. “Should things happen to escalate into a fully sexual encounter when the two are in the bath of a private room is not considered a violation of the law. That understanding is why this has continued for so long.

“However, in this case,” Onishi continues, “the police are calling them out for offering sexual services in violation of the law in a 180-degree turn. In short, it is a strange state of affairs.”

What’s going on in Yoshiwara?

“There are presently 140 soapland clubs in Yoshiwara,” says the manager of coffee shop in the area. “There are three general types: high-end joints charge 80,000 yen a pop; then there are those for the general public whose fees are between 30,000 yen and 40,000 yen; and then you’ve got the bargain shops, which only require 20,000 yen. The Orange chain was charging 12,000 yen for the first 50 minutes, albeit with limited fringe services. Yet this still caused a drop in prices across Yoshiwara.”

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.

“People lined up in front of their eight shops,” continues the manager. “This wasn’t amusing to the mid-level shops. With their customers being snatched away, their businesses sagged.”

But to say that Orange was targeted out of some conspiracy to thwart their success would probably be premature as other low-end shops have entered the Yoshiwara market to meet demand. Clubs in the area at present appear to be continuing operations with a “somebody else’s problem” attitude.

In an effort to find a more plausible reason for why Orange was singled out, Weekly Playboy surveys four shops. The results comprised: Orange’s “off the menu options,” which supposedly included the ability to take the working girls off the premises for sex in parks and stairwells; a last gasp effort at a crackdown on sleaze from former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, who retired two days before the raid; widespread drug use by the foam princesses; and tax evasion.

The last guess may be the most worthwhile. Each shop collected roughly one billion yen in revenue annually. 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.

As to the girls of Orange — many of whom earned a paltry 7,000 or 8,000 yen per session, as compared to between 50,000 and 60,000 for an employee at a high-end club — what will become of them?

“Their level, as far as looks and ability, is rather low,” says an employee at a top shop. “So, we wouldn’t hire them. At Orange, it was bare bones. Their skills on the tatami, are zero, and they do not allow their faces to be shown in advertisements.

“A few of the highly ranked girls will find jobs (in Yoshiwara),” the source continues, “but the majority will migrate to deri heru (out-call sex) clubs and massage parlors. The industry will receive a good washing.”

Source: “Keisatsu no soopu kari honto no nerai ga wakatta!” Weekly Playboy (Nov. 26, pages 50-52)