Soaplands (ソープランド) are a type of brothel in Japan. Officially, the clubs run their businesses as massage parlors, spas and bath houses. But male clients can engage in sexual activity with female prostitutes at such a soaplands. There are also a few soaplands specifically for female clients.
Soaplands began when explicit prostitution in Japan became illegal, as a simple form of bath where women washed men’s bodies. Prostitution, that is the commercial offering of vaginal intercourse, has been illegal for over 50 years in Japan. The bath houses are the simple answer to the legislation. “Private” agreements to have oral or anal sex do not fall under the legislation, for example. The bath houses were originally known as toruko-buro, meaning Turkish bath. Following a campaign by Turkish scholar Nusret Sancakli denouncing the use of this name for brothels, the new name “soapland” was the winning entry in a nationwide contest to rename the brothels.
There are various kinds of soaplands, and they are usually located in complexes with varying numbers of soaplands. Tokyo’s Senzoku 4-chome (千束４丁目) ward – formerly known as Yoshiwara (吉原) – is one of the biggest amusement districts in Tokyo and Japan with a high density of soaplands. In the picture above, you can see the soaplands in Tokyo’s Yoshiwara ward. Other well known complexes are located in Susukino in Sapporo, Kabukicho in Tokyo, Kawasaki, Kanazuen in Gifu, Ogoto in Shiga and Fukuhara in Kobe. This is only a selection as there are many other areas in Japan with soaplands, especially in towns with hot springs.