This article is reproduced from the discontinued, but much loved Mainichi Waiwai column by Ryann Connell. Read more about this at the bottom of this article.
Upper echelons of Japanese society are packed with graduates from Waseda University in Tokyo. So it should hardly come as a surprise that an alum from the classy college is being hailed as the Messiah of the country’s flagging brothels – even though she’s a woman in a man’s world, according to Shukan Shincho (3/4).
Despite a huge, literally in-your-face sex industry (think of bukkake), Japan’s soaplands are the only establishments where carnality means copulation, but the industry has gone flaccid amid fierce competition from other types of services.
Changes to the law regulating adult entertainment five years ago virtually legalized escort services and hit the soapland business hard.
“Soaplands started to go out of fashion in the ’80s with the AIDS panic and the emergence of adult videos, but the revisions to the law virtually doomed them. Escort services (called “delivery health,” or deriheru in Japanese), are banned from providing intercourse, but the reality is that anything goes upon negotiation with the woman. This has got the soapland business reeling,” a reporter for an afternoon tabloid daily tells Shukan Shincho.
Tokyo’s Yoshiwara district — the pleasure quarters during the feudal era and soapland “capital” since Japan outlawed prostitution in 1957 — was once home to 250 soaplands, but now can only boast of somewhere from 150 to 160.
“Over the past 10 years there hasn’t been too big a change in the number of stores, but there aren’t many customers around,” an employee of one of the establishments says.
Enter Tomoko Yokoyama. She’s a 26-year-old Waseda University graduate who’s recently been appointed as the new Editor-in-Chief of “Soapland Magazine,” the last remaining monthly rag in a once busy sector dedicated to the saucy suds business, but with fortunes flagging in much the same way as the industry it covers.
“We’ve come up with a new look starting from our March edition. Sales are good, currently topping 10,000 copies with an aim of hitting 15,000,” she tells Shukan Shincho.
Yokoyama was a fine arts student whose thesis focused on Nobel laureate Kenzaburo Oe. On her graduation, she joined an agency that handled information on the adult entertainment world, but “really wanted to do editorial work, so changed to my current company and was assigned to ‘Soapland Magazine,’” she says. “I wasn’t worried about the posting at all, but the turnover among staff is phenomenal. Within a year-and-a-half of joining the company, I was, at 25, the oldest person left, so they made me the boss.”
Immediately after her appointment, Yokoyama set about learning the techniques of the soapland workers she writes about. She spent 10 hours being trained by two soapland workers.
“We started with playing around on a gym mat, moved onto washing a guy’s genitals, then they taught me the scrubbing brush (a technique that involves the worker using her pubic hair in place of a scrubbing brush to wash her client). At first, I got the girls to give me the scrubbing brush and it was wonderful. I thought guys were lucky that they could get this sort of treatment,” Yokoyama says. “But, when I tried to perform the scrubbing brush myself, it was extremely difficult. You slip around all over the place, and I ended up copping a mouthful of the lubrication I’d been using. I offered to give my boyfriend a work over, but he wasn’t interested.”
Going through the training has resulted in soapland workers opening up to Yokoyama, whose first issue has not left too many guessing about the type of editorial policy she plans to pursue.
“Sometimes, seeing somebody buying our magazine at a bookstore,” Shukan Shincho quotes Yokoyama’s editorial in “Soapland Magazine,” “makes me want to grab them from behind, give them a big squeeze and a quick blow job.”
(The Mainichi Waiwai column ran online from April 19, 2001 – June 21, 2008. It was a much loved form of entertainment amongst foreigner in and outside of Japan. To any reader it was obviously not serious news, but it was a set of articles that portrayed quite well how the Japanese tabloids actually write about their own country. In 2008, a small number of Japanese people bought it to the attention of rival news groups that Mainichi was running an anti-Japan column on its website. With the bad publicity, Mainichi was forced to shut the page down, and take punitive measures against the journalists that were working on it, claiming that it was receiving opinions that were critical of the column, such as “its contents are too vulgar” and “the stories could cause Japanese people to be misunderstood abroad”. A perfect example of how Japanese consider what they write in their own script to be an acceptable secret code, that the rest of the world cant understand. When that same tabloid rubbish gets inconveniently translated to English to make light of some aspects of the Japanese people, it gets canned. Stippy.com finds this unacceptable, and will reproduce as much of the Waiwai content as possible in order to bring it once again to our computer screens for a good laugh. Of course we claim no credit for this content, and attribute it to it’s writers who were former Mainichi employees. Waiwai in its true and glorious form has been discontinued, but it’s legacy will live on at stippy.com for all to enjoy.)