Why is there both a 'bathing fee' and a 'service fee' at Japanese soaplands?
Allow me to explain why soaplands generally have two different service charges customers must pay. Recently, many soaplands have posted prices only for the actual play portion and list the actual 'bathing' portion as a separate entry.
The portion of the price not related to play is essentially the cut that the establishment itself receives whereas the more lascivious play portion is for the soapland queen. This is a very valid example of the honme/tatamae concept of Japanese culture existing even within its adult industry.
We asked a veteran owner of one such soapland within Tokyo about this system:
“We have the two price structure system in place as a means of plausible deniability from the perspective of the shop owner. We charge for the room and its offerings, but whatever happens between the soapland queen and her customer is their business. If we did not separate the charges, this may make for an embarrassing situation with our customer and also can lead to other murkier issues as well.”
To some extent, Japanese soaplands are legally classified less as a brothel and more as a very specialized sauna and bathhouse. This is why a bathing fee must be charged to the customer. However, can a customer simply not opt to pay the bathing fee if he does not plan on taking a bath?
The short answer is no...usually. Once upon a time it was all but required, but now with the economic recession in full swing, there are soaplands that seem to be waiving bathing fees in hopes of snagging repeat visits.
On the other hand, some soaplands will only advertise the bathing fee and keep the erotic services fees mum until a customer actual visits. A semi-accurate way to estimate the full cost is to take the bathing fee and double it—if not more.
(Translator's note: The really short answer as to why there are two sets of fees? More money. Charging two sets of fees is a great way to make this happy and you probably will not find too many customers at Japanese soaplands who would object. It is also more than safe to assume that all the money paid to a soapland queen for 'play' is not totally all for her. There certainly are kickbacks to the establishment itself.)
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