Why are Soapland Prices and Ages so Confusing?

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Sudsy

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Soaplands are widely seen as the pinnacle of P4P in Japan, and are often a must-do for many visitors.

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That said, we see many, many posts here where people are confused by the pricing structure of soaplands.

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Before understanding the pricing structure, it is important to understand how prostitution is defined, and how that enables the legal fiction that allows soaplands to operate.

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The laws criminalizing prostitution were written by the US Occupation Forces. The story is that General MacArthur's wife found out that the junior officers were availing themselves of the brothels that were, at the time, completely legal in Japan. Being a conservative Christian and a prude, she nagged her husband until he agreed to have the legal system, which the USOF was revamping, include clauses to outlaw prostitution and pornography. The Japanese lawyers working on the revisions were themselves enthusiasts of nookie, and so they complied in a way that only a lawyer can, by writing the most narrow and restrictive definition of prostitution in the world.

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Prostitution was defined under the new law as compensated vaginal intercourse that has been arranged by a middleman between two otherwise unacquainted parties (people who don't know each other). Direct transactions are generally legal, as are unpaid services.

This leads rise to the fiction that allows soaplands to operate: You are NOT paying the soapland for sex. You are paying for assisted bathing, which is completely legal. The sex happens as a separate interaction between you and the lady, who is NOT an employee, but is an independent contractor renting the room from the soapland.

That said:

There are TWO types of pricing structure:

Type 1: 入浴料 (nyuuyokuryou) = bathing fee.

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This is the fee for the use of the facilities, and is exclusive of fees for the "attendant". You can typically expect total outlay to be 2-4 times the nyuuyokuryou, and it may vary between girls, and may also be higher for foreign customers. This is the system used by the majority of soaps.

The "bathing fee" system is the most common. Japanese clientele usually pay the bathing fee at the counter, and the service fee is paid to the lady directly. This maintains a complete separation of the payment for legal services and the payment for sex, and quite deftly dodges the legal structure of prostitution.

As a foreigner, you will have the entire amount (bathing fee + service fee) collected at the counter. This is because many foreign nationals don't understand the system and take umbrage at being asked to pay twice, though to be fair, some guys simply get their mind (among other things) blown and forget to pay at the end.


Type 2: 総額料 (sougakuryou) = total fee.

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If you see this, it's the total amount, bathing fee and attendant fee inclusive, and will usually be across the board for all girls at the establishment. This system is more common in cheaper soaps. In these shops, they will often have a foreigner surcharge.

In this, the fiction is that you are not paying for sex - and there is even occasionally signage that sex is forbidden - but the lady decides that she likes you, and desperately needs a bit of dicking. Fortunately, there is a very handy bed right there in the room. How'd that get there? This skirts the legal definition of prostitution, and is reinforced by the lady placing a towel over the window in the door, because the official rules say she isn't supposed to be having sex.

These two systems allow the police to turn a blind eye to the very obvious goings on.

So, in summary, soapland pricing can be understood by learning five kanji characters and a little basic math.

入浴料 = stated price times (roughly) 3 plus any foreigner surcharges.
総額料 = stated price plus any foreigner surcharges.

Have fun, and enjoy knowing that nobody will be able to call you a filthy pervert, because you're squeaky clean when she's done!

Addendum regarding Soap Lady ages:

It's also worth noting that ages are also confusing in soaplands, as the shops, unsurprisingly, are not forthcoming about the true age of the ladies.

There's a term, "Yoshiwara Age", to describe the formula used by most of them - which is that 3 years of actual age are equal to 1 year of real age.
This system has actually been in place since the Edo era, and was officially recognized by the shogunate at the time.

The following graphic is taken from an explanation page of one of the soapland groups - Yoshiwara Age on the left, actual age on the right:

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So, if a woman who is 30 years old enters a shop, she will be billed as 23.

This leads us to the next point, which is that her "age" will not change as long as she is with that shop.

So, let's say a 45 year old woman enters a shop and is billed as 28, and she stays at the shop for 10 years - you will now have a 55 year old lady being billed as 28.

And as if that wasn't offputting enough, some cheeky shops deviate from the "official" formula, and count years in a five to one ratio:

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And some shops stop counting at 29, so you can end up with a scenario where a "29" year old woman is easily 30 years older:

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This is all part and parcel of soapland (and any other fuzoku service) standard operations, right along with panel magic (excessive airbrushing of photos) and lying about hip/waist/bust sizes.

Edited: 24/01/17 - Added explanation of age system
 

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