Press "Enter" to skip to content

Cops’ crackdown threatens to prick soapland bubble

A Yoshiwara denizen says, "Some operators tell me that they're really scared that they might be next"
A Yoshiwara denizen says, “Some operators tell me that they’re really scared that they might be next”

About 20 years ago, coffee shops began springing up in Tokyo’s Yoshiwara district. Some 40 such establishments, known as joho kissa (information coffee shops) are in operation at present. Included in the 500-yen price of a beverage, the shops provide a plethora of information on the sex services supplied by the neighborhood’s soaplands.

In other words, these are primarily pimping parlors that openly operate in the guise of coffee shops.

On June 6, reports Nikkan Gendai, police raided one such shop, called the Kakuebi Haiso Center, and arrested its 53-year-old proprietor on the grounds that he was providing services outside the scope permitted by the Tokyo metropolitan ordinance that oversees such businesses.

This particular coffee shop steered johns to a pair of affiliated soaplands, Kakuebi Honten and Miuraya.

The same day, police also raided two soaplands and arrested the owner, a woman in her 70s, and eight other people, on suspicion of violating the provision of the anti-prostitution law that bans brothels.

“I was shocked,” says a Yoshiwara denizen. “A soapland is a place where you go to have sex with a masseuse. If the police were to enforce the law to the letter, they could slap the cuffs on every single soapland manager in the entire Yoshiwara area — because operating brothels is precisely what they do.

“Some operators tell me that they’re really scared that they might be next.”

Police raids on soaplands are, in fact, infrequent occurrences. And the Kakuebi, the target of the recent bust, was a long established shop well known — and you’ll really have to forgive me for this one — for keeping its nose clean with the authorities.

“Actually, the cops had already issued several warnings to Kakuebi over the pimping activities of the coffee shop,” says the aforementioned source. “Instead of complying, the boss of the soapland defied them, arguing, ‘Hey, come on — the coffee shops have been operating for a long time.’

“So rather than stop with the arrest of the coffee shop operator, the cops, who felt provoked, decided to go after the soapland too.

“But the other places ought to be okay, since they haven’t done anything to upset the police,” he says reassuringly.

Still, Nikkan Gendai fails to find this reassuring. Once police start nabbing people for engaging in something “without permission,” it concludes, they are basically saying they can do whatever they want. And that’s an ominous sign that more tough times may be looming for the already hard-hit sex biz. (K.S.)

Source: “Yoshiwara soopu-gai zenmetsu!?,” Nikkan Gendai (June 10, page 7)