Japan’s sex industry goes by the moniker mizu shobai (water trade), a term stemming from the bathhouses of Edo-period Japan (1603-1868) which were often haunts for sexual release as well as day-to-day ablutions.

Japan is no longer viewed as a nation of sexual permissiveness, but there are still many mizu shobai establishments across Tokyo and other major cities. Modern Japanese sex clubs run the gamut from Girls Bars which are flirtatious, to Soaplands and Image Clubs which feed more carnal and fetishistic desires.

Japanese sex clubs are typically exclusive affairs and are often unwelcoming to foreigners – though some Japanese language proficiency might help your case.

To find out more about Japan’s sex clubs and what you’ll find inside, check out our guide below.

1. Soaplands, AKA soapy soapy houses

Woman covered in soap bubbles in a bath

Photo: Kabardins photo/Shutterstock

A piece of 1956 legal legislature officially outlawed prostitution in Japan, but a host of liberal interpretations of the law have led to an abundance of alternative options.

Among the most popular alternatives are Soaplands, which are brothels in all but name. Soaplands present themselves as private bathhouses, where visitors can pay for a soapy massage, not unlike in a Turkish bathhouse, but with a little less physical battering involved and little more sexual pleasure.

An ordinary Soapland visit goes as follows: The client will undress for one or two hostesses, most likely garbed in provocative clothing, who then bathe said client in soapy water. An array of lotions, bubble baths, and lubricants are used, and in certain scenarios, the women will strip down and rub their bodies on the customer using their own skin as a sponge. This generally culminates in a garden-variety sex act, the type of which is determined by the client’s budget.

Soaplands/soapy soapy houses in Tokyo:

You can also check out this extensive Soapland directory.

2. Girls Bars, AKA Hostess Clubs

Girls Bars, also known as Hostess Clubs, are Japan’s most ubiquitous type of mizu shobai establishment. Typically the preserve of older Japanese men, girls bars are staffed by scantily clad waitresses who pour patrons drinks, light their cigarettes, and keep the conversation flowing, dropping the odd suggestive comment. The more the customer pays (often upwards of $100) the longer the hostess will keep them entertained.

Sex is not part of the trade at Girls Bars, though many hostesses are encouraged to go on extracurricular sojourns with regulars (if invited) in order to maintain their business — what happens on said sojourns is at the discretion of those involved.

Girls Bars/Hostess Clubs in Tokyo

3. Boys Bars

Boys Bars, or Host Clubs, are the male equivalent of Girls Bars, typically staffed by young, attractive men with perfectly coiffed anime-esque hairstyles. Conceptually, they are similar to Girls Bars, though the hosts will often circulate between tables at the ring of a bell until the customers are asked to choose which host they favor for future visits. Upon making this decision, out-of-club visits are encouraged, which often leads to sex.

There are also gay host clubs in Japan which function in the same way as their heterosexual conuterparts.

Boys Bars in Tokyo:

4. Image Clubs

Sexy Japanese woman in cosplay costume laid on bed.

Photo: DKai/Shutterstock

Image Clubs, or imekura, are another common type of Japanese sex club. Image clubs are essentially brothels, where young women in costumes are groped and penetrated with sex toys by a paying customer. Following the experience, the customer may also request to take the woman’s underwear home.

Imekura are among the most expensive sex clubs in Japan, with more elaborate experiences costing several hundred dollars. For this price, the customer and the host will usually engage in role-play scenarios, which take place in private cubicles designed like train carriages, classrooms, police stations, and more.

Image Clubs in Tokyo:

5. Pink Salons

Pink salons are fellatio bars, sometimes going by the more direct name “suck shops”. Though pink salons are officially registered as Hostess Clubs to bypass the official anti-prostitution legislature, their interior design and half-naked customers clearly indicate that there’s more than conversation on the menu.

In pink salons, male customers pay for a time slot in a cubicle — not always entirely private — in which one or several women will pleasure them to climax. Some other “touching” services may be offered to bring about the climax more quickly, though penetrative sex is forbidden. Many of the women in pink salons will receive hundreds of customers a month, and hygiene is said to be quite poor in those establishments, possibly leading to sexually transmitted diseases.

Pink Salons in Tokyo:

6. Oppai Pubs

Oppai Pubs, meaning Breast Pubs, are for Japanese sex clubs customers with a penchant for fondling and sexual harassment. Considered a type of sekukyaba, or sexy cabaret establishment, Oppai Pubs are like Hostess Clubs where some touching is permitted.

How much touching is, however, a bit of a gray area, and at the discretion of the woman and/or pub in question. With that in mind, Japanese language ability is highly recommended. Hostesses also don’t tend to linger at any given table for more than about 15 minutes, unless the customer is willing to pay extra.

Oppai pubs in Tokyo:

7. Doll Clubs

Doll Clubs are another way for club proprietors to get around the Prostitution Prevention Act, while offering sex-based services and also bypassing many of the moral conundrums that come with renting a real person for sexual intercourse.

In Doll Clubs, customers usually pay for a time slot in a private room with a doll of their choice. Customers can choose the face, hair, and clothing to align with their individual fantasies, and in some cases, interchangeable vaginas are available as per customer specifications.

Japanese love dolls are incredibly life-like, and weigh about the same as a real person; the price for a session with a doll is also equivalent to that of a living, breathing human. Customers should note that love dolls are worth thousands of dollars and any damage caused may result in an empty wallet.

Doll clubs in Tokyo:

Love Doll Directory contains an extensive list of doll clubs and rental facilities.

8. BDSM Clubs

Sexy woman posing naked in a hotel

Photo: Kalcutta/Shutterstock

Japanese sex clubs specializing in BDSM are often open to foreigners and people of varying sexual persuasions, unlike other mizu shobai establishments which are largely meant for straight, Japanese men. BDSM club sessions also vary wildly in price – upwards of $1,000 in some cases.

Most of Japan’s BDSM clubs are entirely above board, forbidding the happy-ending-type services commonplace in other Japanese sex clubs. That said, in some rare cases the customer is allowed to be the dominator with sex acts permitted. Some clubs also host BDSM and shibari, or rope bondage, shows.

BDSM clubs in Tokyo:

  • La Siora: 5-18 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
  • Sweet Devil: 2-8-3 Higashi-Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo (given location is of the love hotel used for BDSM sessions near the club’s office)
  • Blackheart (fetish shows): 6-3-16 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

9. Happening Bars

Happening Bars are Japan’s version of swingers clubs, which have more or less the look of standard bars but with separate (and sometimes private) rooms in the event that any sexual happenings may occur. Costumes, whips, props, and sex toys are usually available for customers to use in each establishment’s “play areas”.

Japanese Happening Bars are usually veiled in secrecy (at least on their exteriors), and foreigners and single men may struggle to gain entry unless they have membership at the club or attend with a regular. Couples and women are generally more welcomed and are excused from the hundred-dollar-plus entry fees.

Example of Happening Bar in Tokyo:

Bliss Out: 1-10-1 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo