The appeal of Japan’s “soaplands” is supposed to be the sexy bathing attendants, but last week it was the baths themselves that had people coming in.

Last Thursday a powerful earthquake struck Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture, in the latest of many blows Mother Nature has delivered to the nation over the past few months. The following day, Susukino Nurses Academy (Susukino Kango Gakuin in Japanese), located in Sapporo, Hokkaido’s capital city, decided it wanted to use its facilities to help the local population.

A concern for public welfare might seem like a natural thing for Susukino Nurses Academy, except it’s not really a medical or educational facility. Susukino is Sapporo’s largest bar and nighttime entertainment district, and Susukino Nurses Academy is actually what’s called a soapland, a sort of sexy bathhouse where customers pay to have their bodies washed by attractive young women in skimpy outfits (Susukino Nurses Academy’s shtick is that their staff dresses in nurse uniforms).

▼ Rio Shirasaki, one of Susukino Nurses Academy’s staff members

Soaplands do most of their business at night, so on Friday, the day after the earthquake, Susukino Nurses Academy announced that until the late afternoon it would operating not as a soapland, but as a regular, non-sexy public bathhouse, since it has an abundance of bath facilities and some parts of Hokkaido were still without electricity or hot running water. The original plan was to operate as a public bath until four o’clock, but with many soapland customers canceling their reservations for that night, Susukino Nurses Academy decided to continue its public bath operations until midnight.

▼ Hinano Sakura, the soapland’s most-requested attendant, spread the news through her Twitter account.

Susukino Nurses Academy let it be known that men and women were both welcome to use its bathing facilities (each of which are designed for one customer at a time) at a price of 500 yen (US$4.50) for 30 minutes. Granted, it would have been more generous to offer the baths for free, but that’s still quite a discount off its regular charge of 20,000 yen for a 60-minute bath. They did, however, make a point of telling prospective bathers that the 500-yen, 30-minute baths were “self-serve” (i.e. Sakura, Shirasaki, and the rest of the staff would not be performing the business’ standard services). It also said that customers were free to charge their phones or other devices while at Susukino Nurses Academy, since the building hadn’t suffered any blackouts.

▼ One grateful customer who made use of the public bath offer later brought by a care package of eye masks and bottled tea.

As of September 10, utilities have largely been restored to homes in Sapporo, and so Susukino Nurses Academy is back to being a full-time soapland as it continues helping customers who find themselves in a hard situation.

Source: Twitter/@sakura_hinano_k via Otakomu
Top image: Pakutaso