"You know, long before we married, Haruka surprised me by saying that she would be able to overlook her husband visiting a soapland . . ."
"Soaplands are a uniquely Japanese kind of brothel. Customers pay to take a bath with a woman who washes the man, massages him, and then depending on the customer’s needs and budget, either has sex with, or performs some kind of act on the man resulting in the man’s 'pipes' also getting 'cleaned'. Or so they say; I have never been to one myself."
"Those enigmatic Japanese."
 Prostitution is illegal in Japan. Technically, that is. The definition of prostitution, however, is limited to coitus, meaning that pretty much everything else that one can image is allowed. Also, there is no stipulated penalty for those who are prostitutes or those who use them, so, if a prostitute does have coitus with a John, the act is considered to have been done privately between two consenting adults. (How convenient!) Although the laws regulating “businesses affecting public morals” (風俗法, fūzokuhō) have been amended over the years, prostitution is still going strong in Japan.
Case in point: a few months ago, I was approached by a pimp on a street corner in Nakasū, Fukuoka’s “adult-oriented” entertainment area. He asked me if I was interested in going to a “soapland”.
In my two decades in this country, it was the very first time that any of these black-suited panderers had ever approached me. It left me with the impression that either Japan has come a long way in accepting foreigners or the economy still hasn’t recovered completely, “Abenomics” notwithstanding. A buck is a buck, no matter which schmuck the girl fucks.
I had a minute or two before the traffic signal changed, so I asked the pimp how much a visit to his soapland cost. (No harm in asking, right?) He answered that there was a flat fee of fifteen thousand yen (about $160).
“So cheap!” Surely there must be some catch, I thought, and asked him if that was just the price you paid to get into the joint, the so-called nyūyoku-ryō (入浴料).
“No. It’s fifteen thousand for sex.”
“Get outta here!”
I then asked if there was an extra charge, known as a shimei-ryō (指名), for choosing the girl, and he said, “No, you may have sex with any girl you like.”
While I didn’t take him up on his offer, I could see why many Japanese men do. When the light changed, I crossed the street and walked away, the modest price of a convenient “affair of the body” niggling at the back of my mind.