Citizens in Katayamazu, Ishikawa Prefecture are taking up battle lines over the future of the city’s soapland brothels in Kaga Onsen Village, reports Shukan Post (Nov. 11).
In April of this year, local authorities busted venerable bathhouse operation Juyakushitsu for violating the Anti-Prostitution Law. The prefectural Public Safety Commission then forced it to cease operations entirely six moths later in September.
“For decades these businesses were acceptable,” says a local merchant. “But suddenly it’s not possible. This policy is being influenced by the planned onsen development.”
Next April, a new municipally managed spa resort will open. The project, estimated to cost 1.2 billion yen, is intended to be the centerpiece of the area. It is also in the vicinity of the Juyakushitsu soapland that was closed.
“With this new image for Katayamazu, the soaplands will not be tolerated,” says the same merchant. “Nearby, other soaplands exist, and there are rumors going around that they’ll be the next target.”
Sensing a crisis, in June the “Soapland Business Continuation” petition was drafted and supported by local merchants, sex club operators, and restaurants.
“Think about what a special situation exists in a spa area,” says a member of a citizens group dedicated to the prosperity of Katayamazu. “The mayor is a former professor who doesn’t know how things work. It is not just the local merchants being put at a disadvantage. Big beverage companies have historically benefited from the sales that result from the existence of the soaplands.”
However, there is opposition to the petition.
“It is said that the soaplands and onsen resorts have been mutually beneficial to one another,” says a member of a Katayamazu promotion association. “But that combination is no longer viable nowadays. Tourists are shifting from large groups to individuals, and we also need to target women.”
Source: “Ishikawa no onsenkyo de ‘soopu ha’ to ‘datsu soopu-ha’ oronso hasseichu,” Shukan Post (Nov. 11)