Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Tag: Prostitution

Episode 234 – The Oldest Profession

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 here.

Sources

Stanley, Amy. Selling Women: Prostitution, Markets, and the Household in Early Modern Japan.

Garon, Sheldon. Molding Japanese Minds

A solid Japan Times article on the subject.

Images

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.

Episode 190 – Lifting the Lost, Part 8

This week: what was it like to live through the Occupation? How did people get by? And why is Kurosawa Akira objectively the greatest director ever?

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Dower, John. Embracing Defeat. 

Mansfield, Stephen. Tokyo: A Cultural and Literary History.

This fantastic exploration of nutrition in Occupation Japan.

Sakamoto, Rumi. “Pan Pan Girls: Humiliating Liberation in Postwar Japanese Literature.” Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies 7, No. 2 (2010).

Images

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Women who were willing (or just interested) in relationships with Americans could obtain access to unimaginable luxuries for most of the population, like good ol’ Hershey’s chocolate.

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Hayashi Tadahiko’s 1949 photograph “Street Children at Ueno.”

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Mori Mitsuko, whose performances I am sure Allied troops enjoyed for their technical accomplishments.

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Professor Itokawa and Yukie in No Regrets for Our Youth (1946).

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Mifune Toshiro in Drunken Angel (1948).

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Ozu Yasujiro was a pretty strange director, but has a dedicated following among fancy film types who refuse to simply admit that Kurosawa is simply better.

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One outpost of the Recreation and Amusement Association (RAA), essentially a Japanese government-run prostitution service for American service personnel.

 

Episode 10 – A Day in the Life of Edo Japan

This week, we’ll be discussing the life of your average city-dweller in Edo Japan. This is a huge topic, and a fun one as well. Among the exciting things we will be discussing today:

  • Schooling in the Edo Period (mostly just for samurai, but since it was based mostly on rote memorization you wouldn’t be missing out on much)
  • The life of merchant families (often boiled down to ‘make money and damn the rest’)
  • Entertainment of the period, from kabuki to the seedy world of prostitution (not that there was much of a distinction between the two)
  • And other forms of flagrant immorality!

I had a lot of fun writing this episode, and I hope you enjoy listening to it!

Direct link to the show is available here.

Sources

Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan

Hanley, Everyday Things in Premodern Japan.

Iwasaki, Mineko. Geisha: A Life. New York: Washington Square Press, 2003.

Takeda, Izumo; Miyoshi, Shoraku, and Senryu, Namiki. Chushingura. Trans. Donald Keene. New York: Columbia University Press, 1971.

Media (Courtesy Wikimedia Foundation unless otherwise specified)

 

This is an Edo-period depiction of Sugura street. It should give you some idea of what the merchant-dominated markets of the Edo period looked like.

This is an Edo-period depiction of Sugura street. It should give you some idea of what the merchant-dominated markets of the Edo period looked like.

This is the same Sugura street today, showing the global headquarters of the Mitsui Group (which was founded in the 1640s).

This is the same Sugura street today, showing the global headquarters of the Mitsui Group (which was founded in the 1640s).

An Edo kabuki performance in the Kabukiza theater. Note the actor moving up the hanamichi on the left side. This should give you an idea of how close kabuki actors got to their audiences.

An Edo kabuki performance in the Kabukiza theater. Note the actor moving up the hanamichi on the left side. This should give you an idea of how close kabuki actors got to their audiences.

This is an example of a puppet used in a bunraku show.

This is an example of a puppet used in a bunraku show.

This is a colorized photo of prostitutes on display to patrons in Edo period Japan. the use of the bamboo cage behind which to display them was eventually banned (though the practice of prostitution would remain legal until after World War II).

This is a colorized photo of prostitutes on display to patrons in Edo period Japan. the use of the bamboo cage behind which to display them was eventually banned (though the practice of prostitution would remain legal until after World War II).

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67-bgSFJiKc&w=420&h=315]
The above video was put together by UNESCO, and contains a description of the history of kabuki as well as recordings of modern performances.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEUQNvn8EJQ&w=420&h=315]
Also from UNESCO, this video should give you an idea of how Bunraku shows are performed. Pay special attention to the way the puppets are manipulated; it’s all very impressive!

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