Just south of Osaka Zoo is Tobita Shinchi, Japan’s largest prostitution district.

Technically, prostitution is against the law in Japan. These establishments pose as “restaurants”.

When I give visiting friends my Alternative Osaka tour, I take them to Tobita Shinchi and the homeless area just to the West.

Compared with Red Light districts in the West, this place has a safe, tidy ambience. The one thing you absolutely can’t do is take photographs.

When Google Streetview passed along the streets of Tobita Shinchi, it just happened — conveniently enough for the Japanese authorities — to be the early hours of New Year’s day 2010. Very few of the prostitutes were on show.

Nevertheless, a doorway here and there is visible. You can see the standard Tobita Shinchi presentation format: an older lady sitting in the door, beckoning customers, and the prostitute herself, sitting on a raised platform, lit from below in pink and white, surrounded often by lucky charms (maneki neko, flowers, toys, slippers, gifts).

Tobita Shinchi isn’t a sexy experience; I’m more likely to go skydiving than take one of these girls upstairs (11,000 yen for fifteen minutes, it says).

What interests me is the presentation. Just like the Chit-Chat magazine entry, the doorways of Tobita Shinchi present a series of variations on a distinctive theme.

Walking past the doorways, you feel as if you’re flipping through a calendar, or seeing a series of tableaux vivants trundle by on carnival floats.

While the panders beckon, the girls themselves seem spectral, reacting only minimally to passersby.

The low-angled lighting adds to the strange impression. The doorways of Tobita Shinchi are holographic portals to the ukiyo, Japan’s ancient floating world.

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    —Mrs Tsk*: Just south of Osaka Zoo
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    Variations on a theme: Google Street view through Tobita Shinchi , Japan’s largest prostitution district
  7. iroirodori reblogged this from mrstsk and added:
    Two years in Osaka - this reminds me of how I always wanted to go exploring the seedier districts of the city, but never...
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