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Yoshikas Sauna: Seventeen years of Memories in Duluth’s Friendly West End


From 1991 to 2008, Yoshikas Sauna served the West End with its famous  “erotic” massages. Everyone in town knew prostitution was going on there, but somehow the long arm of the law seemed to ignore it.

It was finally shut down when the city decided not to grant a massage establishment license to owner Suzy Woo-Young in November 2008. (Woo-Young had operated Yoshikas without a license all those years, and decided to finally apply for one. Oops.)

Kevin Lund bought the building and had it torn down last Thursday.

Any Yoshikas memories for the record, PDD commenters? (You know, stories that won’t gross us all out.)

By the way, people always called the place “Yoshiko’s Sauna.” The News Tribune refers to it as “Yoshiko Sauna,” which is also how it appeared in the phone book. The sign (pictured above) said “Yoshikas Sauna,” so I spell it that way. It seems like there should be a possessive apostrophe, but I’m not sure who or what a Yoshika is.

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39 Comment(s)

  1. I highly recommend Googling “Yoshiko’s Sauna” and reading some of the reviews of the place on message boards. It’ll give you the details you always wondered about.

    Also I know from someone who used to work near the place that Yoshiko’s did get busted fairly frequently. I was told that they’d trot all the prostitutes out onto the street in the daylight and make them stand against the walls, and line up all the sex toys on the sidewalk to photograph as evidence.

    Barrett Chase | Nov 3, 2009 | New Comment
  2. “Happy Ending”… DUH…
    Paul have you ever considered traveling and exploring new places…

    rex | Nov 3, 2009 | New Comment
  3. If Yoshiko or Yoshika actually meant “happy ending” I would have one all over myself laughing.

    By the way, the business information Web site Cortera says Yoshiko Sauna was in the “Miscellaneous Personal Services, N.E.C. industry.”

    Paul Lundgren | Nov 3, 2009 | New Comment
  4. Barrett, you even have *time* to google “Yoshiko’s Sauna?”

    Calk | Nov 3, 2009 | New Comment
  5. How long does it take?

    I always have time for comedy.

    Barrett Chase | Nov 3, 2009 | New Comment
  6. The West End is looking up. It has a new road surface on Superior street too. It is a very nice neighborhood. I advise any of you angry Central Hillsiders to come to calm and quiet West End.

    mevdev | Nov 3, 2009 | New Comment
  7. Stories? Don’t get me started, Lundgren!

    There was the time me and some Polish sailors were on a gin bender and ended up at Yoshiko’s…but I shouldn’t say too much!

    vicarious | Nov 3, 2009 | New Comment
  8. Delivering pizza to Yoshikos was always an interesting experience. My memories are a bit vague, but I remember the crabby Asian mistress with a tenuous grasp of English & lots of strung-out girls (either dangerously skinny or absurdly ample) wearing shabby lingerie strewn about the dingy front ‘lounge’ in various states of unconsciousness. “Happy endings”? more like “sad endings,” it seemed to me.

    osbie feel | Nov 3, 2009 | New Comment
  9. I remember as a youngster we used to sit at Carrie Maki’s house and call all the massage parlors and pretend we were fathers of kids that were hockey players that had a freak puck to the groin. We would call and ask if they would massage it. We also would do a KZIO Cash Call prank and tell people they won $102.50 to come on down to the station to get it. Thank God no caller ID back then.

    But Yoshiko’s, Troy Kaspari, Andy Tessier and Sean Bucsko drove buy the place a couple of time through that side alley and a lady came out and yelled NMS813 and we were like WTF is this lady talking about? Well we stopped for pop or something and someone noticed it was the license plate number of my mom’s car. Kinda freaked us young punks out.

    Jeff | Nov 3, 2009 | New Comment
  10. Yoshikas before Suzy owned it and Yoshikos after. Her happy ending business is alive and well at the Budget Motel in Superior. The whole operation has shifted over the bridge. The floor above the office is the new “Yoshiko’s Sauna.” And the girls come from all over and live in the motel.

    Menards Guy | Nov 3, 2009 | New Comment
  11. We moved to Lincoln Park from Ely where there still exists a legitimate sauna. Of course it looked sketchy, but my wife decided to call and ask a few questions anyway.

    There were no saunas at Yoshiko’s. I guess we all knew that.

    Tom | Nov 3, 2009 | New Comment
  12. Typical Duluth. What about ‘Family Sauna’? What the hell is up with THAT place?

    kokesie | Nov 3, 2009 | New Comment
  13. misty | Nov 3, 2009 | New Comment
  14. I won’t name names but a PDD reader told me about getting a Jergen’s Hand Job there one time.

    Starfire | Nov 3, 2009 | New Comment
  15. Oh…my…god…

    kokesie | Nov 3, 2009 | New Comment
  16. rub and a tug -- $29.95

    ron burgundy | Nov 3, 2009 | New Comment
  17. So who where they paying off ?

    dbrewing | Nov 4, 2009 | New Comment
  18. extra h?

    dbrewing | Nov 4, 2009 | New Comment
  19. When I was a kid in the late 70s/early 80s, an elderly couple lived across the alley from us, and they worked at a legitimate sauna somewhere in the area. I guess I’ve always assumed it was the Duluth Family Sauna, back when it actually was a family kind of place, but that’s just an assumption.

    They never called it by any proper name. They always referred to it as “the steam-bath.”

    Barrett Chase | Nov 4, 2009 | New Comment
  20. And speaking of the Duluth Family Sauna’s website, you have to wonder about the design choice to have little javascript insects crawling around on the site. Nice touch!

    Barrett Chase | Nov 4, 2009 | New Comment
  21. I wish I still went to college so I could get the STUDent discount at the Duluth Family Sauna.

    That neon sign at Yoshiko’s is awesome. Hey Starfire, if you still have any of that silk screening equipment, I’d like one in black.

    Jim M | Nov 4, 2009 | New Comment
  22. Jergens, it’s cheap and does the trick!

    GingerBliss | Nov 4, 2009 | New Comment
  23. I know at least one family that used to use the Family Sauna as their primary bathing place a couple times a week, because they didn’t have those facilities on their farm. Also, Bob Carlson went there to bathe regularly, and probably still does.

    While it has a certain Twin Peaksish look about it, I don’t think it’s as creepy as we’d like to think it is. At least during the daytime.

    hbh1 | Nov 4, 2009 | New Comment
  24. Also, the only detail I know about Yoshiko’s is that Jason Owen used to deliver condoms to them by the gross when he drove a cab.

    hbh1 | Nov 4, 2009 | New Comment
  25. 1991? My aunt lived right next door to Yoshikas around 1979 -- 1981 so I know it was in action at least that far back. She always had good stories about that place, its employees and patrons. She would even get a knock on the back door once in a while from people looking for a “massage”.

    I believe there was a barber shop on one side of her apartment and Yoshikas on the other. With my Grandma’s diner “Lundahls” on the corner. I was only 6 or 7 during that time so it isn’t very clear to me but I do know there was a massage parlor there at that time.

    Maybe it wasn’t actually Yoshikas at the time, but I am pretty sure it was.

    Cory | Nov 4, 2009 | New Comment
  26. I love Family Sauna’s web site.

    udarnik | Nov 4, 2009 | New Comment
  27. Some people use the Duluth Family Sauna for “legitimate” purposes but there is some prostitution and etc that happens there quite a bit. I just spent 6 months with an office overlooking the place and got to see all sorts of creepy purposes.

    To be fair I have gotten one of the upstairs private rooms to sauna a couple of times before but they are set up with a bed (which is creepy). And the sauna isn’t that hot for my taste, either, so I haven’t been back for several years.

    wildgoose | Nov 4, 2009 | New Comment
  28. I always thought the Duluth Sauna was legit, now seeing their website it is hard for me to keep that belief.

    “$5 footlong? No, but see what five dollars get you:”


    “HOT Weekend Sleepover Special • $32*”

    Really?! Really!?

    Then I look at the bottom of their specials page:
    “ S U D O C U M S O C I I ”

    What?!? Really? Is that a latin circle-jerk?

    mevdev | Nov 4, 2009 | New Comment
  29. Just read through the Guestbook at the bottom of the Duluth Sauna page. That clears up any misconceptions of what its purpose is.

    Chad | Nov 4, 2009 | New Comment
  30. Also, here’s a pretty funny review of the Duluth Family Sauna. (Prolly NSFW)

    Barrett Chase | Nov 5, 2009 | New Comment
  31. The Duluth Family Sauna web site just looks like a huge prank -- do you think the owners even know about this site?
    “We have condoms available at no cost”

    If it is a prank, it’s pretty elaborate -- even the website domain name is registered with the address and phone number of the place.

    I stand……. confused.

    St.G | Nov 5, 2009 | New Comment
  32. Heh, what do I know. I know nothing.

    St.G | Nov 5, 2009 | New Comment
  33. I used to work in an office overlooking the Duluth Family Sauna. I never saw anyone go in or out. But then I worked in my office during the day.

    Calk | Nov 5, 2009 | New Comment
  34. My wife and I used the upstairs rooms regularly for a few years. There was never any problems, but of course we could tell creepiness was likely near by.

    We since installed a sauna in our back-yard because we had to pay $16 a visit. That was lot to pay when we didn’t even use the bed with rubber sheets.

    The sauna was clean and hot and pretty great.

    I recommend it.

    Tom | Nov 5, 2009 | New Comment
  35. Skinhead Scott and I walked in the front entrance once in ’98. We were promptly asked to “get out!”

    The Diddler | Nov 6, 2009 | New Comment
  36. I bike through that area all the time. The creepiest thing I’ve seen was a young girl (5-6 years) on a bike by herself riding through an adjoining alley with lurkers nearby. Now, I’m not one to judge, but I was within a proverbial inch to tell her to get the fuck home.

    huitz | Nov 8, 2009 | New Comment
  37. Does anyone remember the Red Lace Parlor in Superior and wasn’t there another massage parlor at 19th or 20th W. Superior St. at one time?

    Jim | Nov 17, 2010 | New Comment
  38. So do they still operate out of the Budget Motel in Superior today?

    shannoc | Dec 1, 2012 | New Comment
  39. The Yoshikas Sauna Revisited post got me to thinking that I should occasionally go back and look at some of the reviews of Yoshikas and post excerpts from some of them, trying to focus on the entertaining and educational while avoiding the hardcore smutty. It’s a fine line.

    Here is an excerpt from “Review #15466″ from Sept. 1, 2006, submitted by “Done With Dinkytown.” At the end, DWD speculates about the economic benefits of erotic massage parlors.

    Visited Yoshiko in Duluth, saw Lacy and turned down Isabella, my word. … Driving instructions. So, yeah, it’s located at 18 N. 21st Avenue West and in the phone book so you can call ahead. …

    Yoshiko is a short blue building, with the number “18″ on the side, near a scuba diving place. It also has a red neon sign that says Yoshiko’s Sauna.

    Whole neighborhood is shitty and looks dangerous. …

    I walked into the sauna and ahhhh … fresh, soapy, clean girl smell. The sauna smell! You know what I mean, guys.

    I was told Yoko wasn’t there, yet, and I was sorry to hear that, but Lacy was fine. Got everything I wanted, but I want to keep that between me and Lacy.

    60 at the door and now the mandatory minimum mentioned was 140, if you can believe it.

    I should mention I actually got off a small pleasure boat, rented a car, drove around with some guys. I spent a lot of money in Duluth, and not just on whores. The only reason we got off the boat in Duluth instead of going straight to Canada was because of what we read about Yoshiko’s right here. Duluth powers that be are smart to let at least one place like this exist, for the greater economic good. Why can’t Minneapolis/St. Paul have something good like this?

    Paul Lundgren | Feb 28, 2014 | New Comment

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