In 1951, Japan’s first soapland bathhouse was established in Tokyo’s Higashi Ginza area. The establishments, whose crucial difference from other erotic businesses is the offering of full sex, spread nationwide and peaked in popularity three decades later with the rise of the asset-inflated “bubble” economy.
Much like the variety of omiyage souvenirs available around the country the special techniques offered by the “foam princesses” (awa hime) differed from region to region.
“It used to be that each shop would hand down their techniques from girl to girl,” says fuzoku commentator Fumio Iwanaga. “They were traditional, and never left the shop.”
With part-timers now dominating the trade, those days are gone. But capturing this golden era was the VHS set “Special Techniques of the Nation’s Soaplands,” which hit store shelves in the mid-1990s. The videos proved to be popular. “I recalled so many fond memories,” a man in his 60s fondly relates to Shukan Post (Jan. 24).
The footage, which covers seven red-light districts, including Susukino in Sapporo, Tokyo’s Yoshiwara and Nakasu in Fukuoka, was revived first in 2011 and again the following year in DVD sets of the same name.
For an introduction to how the business works, the magazine turns to Akira Ikoma, editor of a guide to men’s entertainment called Ore no Tabi (My Journey).
“Typical soapland services start off in the tub,” says Ikoma, “and then continue onto the bath mat. The bed is saved for last.”
In Susukino, the largest red-light district in agriculture-rich Hokkaido, the body-washing is done with dairy products in lieu of lotion. In the video, soapstress Anna scrubs down the body of a customer with raw cream. In the bath, he becomes visibly stimulated within the milky-white water, which Shukan Post describes by the term miruku senbokyo (milk periscope).
“Ah, Hokkaido!” exclaims the obviously satisfied customer.
Next is a “snow washing” session, in which Anna rubs down the customer’s warm body with ice drawn from a basin. She as well administers “ice flow play” by deftly passing ice inside her mouth to his. She also inserts a few pieces into her vagina for him to remove.
More cream is added once the pair arrive on the mat. With the customer on his back, Anna climbs atop such that her face is at his lower end, a position referred to as hanadokei, or flower clock. Sapporo has a large clock tower, which is a popular tourist attraction. Thus, in Susukino the position is known as ootokei, meaning big watch. “I learned that from my older colleagues,” says Anna.
Fuzoku commentator Iwanaga says that this kind of local flavor kept customers keen. UNESCO, which last year deemed Mt. Fuji and Japan’s washoku cuisine as intangible cultural properties, is unlikely to find the footage to be as enlightening as Shukan Post, but the magazine promises plenty of foamy fun. (K.N.)
Source: “‘Zenkoku maboroshi no soopu higi’ sono mekuru meku seikai,” Shukan Post (Jan. 24, pages 154-159)