Fleeting moments of pleasure, a lifetime of neglect: that pretty much sums up the Queen Chateau soapland, a now-abandoned “brothel with baths” in Mito, Japan.
The Queen of Clean
(image via: Michael John Grist)
The abandoned Queen Chateau in Mito, two-hours northeast of Tokyo, epitomizes the often gauche and over-the-top architecture commonly displayed by Japan’s legions of Love Hotels and Soaplands. The latter, for those unfamiliar with the term, are thinly-disguised brothels where male clients are “bathed” and ahem, catered to by female attendants. Feeling hung out to dry in Japan? You must be at a soapland!
Formerly known as toruko-buro (literally “Turkish Bath”), the popular descriptor for these establishments was changed to the more innocuous “Soapland” in 1984 following a successful campaign by offended Turkish scholar Nusret Sancakli. It was decided that a nationwide contest would be held to determine what new term should be used for such establishments and Soapland was the winner. Only in Japan, amiright? In any case, the semantic switch occurred right around the time of the Queen Chateau’s grand opening in April of 1984.
Let’s Get Carded
The Queen Chateau soapland is situated on a hill in Mito’s otherwise-thriving red light district, a location that accentuates its multistory castle-inspired layout. If “Dracula” was remade by Vivid Video, this would be the Count’s bachelor pad. A tile mosaic of a playing card Queen – probably the Queen of Hearts though no suit is indicated – extends three-quarters of the way up the front facade. Impressive from afar, up close the many missing tiles reveal the extent of the building’s decay since it was abandoned.
A ground-level view from intrepid Haikyo (modern ruins) explorer Michael John Grist is a surreal scene that simply screams “neglect”. Rampant weed overgrowth and an accumulation of detritus & debris shroud the blocked main entrance, forcing any curious urban explorers and/or local homeless types (one of whom is rumored to have died inside) to gain egress via the back entrance formerly used by the hired help.
Welcome to the Pleasure Doom
(images via: Totoro Times)
As is SOP with most semi-shady erotic operations of this nature, the actual service providers received few considerations from the shadowy operators. In the case of the Queen Chateau soapland, the “staff” of 10 had only a windowless, communal basement room to retreat to when not on duty. The room’s furniture consisted of 6 bunk-beds and just outside are the ruins of a small dining room and a tiny bathroom.
(image via: Totoro Times)
A narrow concrete corridor leads from the staff area to the first floor lobby, where the main focal point is a disturbingly defaced mural of three charming bath companions. Can you say “sleazy”? I knew you could! A semicircular front desk did double duty as the building’s communications hub while off to one side, a sweeping stairway with an ornate wrought iron bannister beckoned clients to the nirvana awaiting them on the upper floors.
Please Don’t Stair
Nowadays a different sort of reward is promised to those contemplating higher pursuits: the Japanese graffiti at the foot of the stairs reads “If you go upstairs you will die.” Since philosophically speaking (and to paraphrase a quote from the film Heavy Metal) “I die, you die, we all die” eventually, ignoring the warning and making the fateful climb won’t really change things in the long run. Luckily for you and I, brave urban explorers Michael John Grist, Jordy Meow and the jolly gang from 28 Days Later among others have photo-documented their experiences on our behalf.
(image via: Totoro Times)
The road to Hell might be paved with good intentions but this stairway to heaven – sorry, Page & Plant – is carpeted with vermilion and gold shag… that last word is in no way coincidental.