Note: Since this week we’re talking about the sex trade, I’ve taken the precaution of giving this episode an explicit tag. However, it does not include any more language than usual; it’s just a precaution because iTunes can get pretty finicky about this stuff.
So with that in mind, let’s get down and dirty into the world of prostitution!
Listen to the episode
Selling Women: Prostitution, Markets, and the Household in Early Modern Japan.
Molding Japanese Minds
Japan Times article on the subject.
A print of a beautiful courtesan from the mid Tokugawa era (approx 1660-1680). Prostitutes became Japan’s first sex symbols, as women who lacked formal ties to a specific man.
A harimise in the old Yoshiwara. Photo is colorized from the mid Meiji era.
Probably the most harrowing image of imperial era prostitution is the harimise, the caged screen behind which prostitutes were displayed. When campaigners railed against the barbarity of the institution, images like this one (which was later colorized) were their most common touchstones.
Postwar Japan saw a big boom in prostitution as women had many other paths of economic advancement closed to them. Here, a woman solicits clients on the streets of Tokyo.
Even before the anti-prostitution law, relations with the authorities could be contentious. Here, police crack down on an unregistered brothel in 1954.
Kabukicho, Tokyo’s modern red light district (the old one, the Yoshiwara, is now part of the upscale Nihonbashi and Ginza neighborhoods). Prostitution continues semi-openly thanks to loopholes in the anti-prostitution law.