Iwaki, Fukushima, Japan


During college in 1990 I spent a summer working as a scientific observer for NOAA on the Japanese driftnet vessel Kiowa Maru. We left Japan from Ishinomaki, but returned to port here, in Onahama.

The whole time at sea, the crew would make some joke in Japanese that I didn't understand and kept saying the name "soparand" while making crude gestures. They weren't mean, but my Japanese was too rudimentary to get the joke.

We were at sea for about 3 months, so once we made port, the crew went on a 3 day bender crawling all the bars within a mile of the port. Nothing too crazy, but I could only hang with them for half the night.

So while heading back to the ship to go to bed while the rest of the crew was still partying, I turned around a corner and saw a huge sign "Soap Land - Bath House". AHHHHHHH...... Soparand! Bath house (prostitution house). Even in my stupor, it all came together.

I had no desire to visit a bath house, but I still get a smile when I think about soparand =-)