Osaka brothel district stays closed for a day out of respect for deceased PM Abe


To cover various aspects of the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's state funeral on Sept 27, Weekly Playboy (Oct 24) dispatched reporters to several locations. Part 1 of its coverage involved joining a march protesting the holding of a state funeral. In Part 2, a reporter joined the 4-kilometer-long line of ordinary citizens, an estimated 23,000, who queued up between Hanzomon subway station and the Nihon Budokan to make floral offerings. And Part 4 introduced the 50-minute film about Tetsuya Yamagami -- Abe's accused killer -- that was shown at the Loft9 Shibuya theater on the day of the funeral.

The most curious perhaps, was Part 3, which covered Tobita Shinchi, a historic area in Osaka's Nishinari Ward that is home to some 160 brothels. Tobita's cooperative union had earlier announced that all 160 houses in Tobita would be suspending operations on Sept 27.

"Upon viewing the media, some of our members reacted by saying, 'We ought to show respect for the departed,'" one of the district's directors told Playboy's reporter. "Actually it's something of a tradition for union members to close their shops on the occasion of a state funeral and the like. That was also the case on January 7, 1989, the day Emperor Showa passed away.

"Actually all our members are obliged to abide by this rule, to close on occasions of national mourning," he continued. "When new shops open and apply to join the union, they agree to adhere to this condition.

"Former Prime Minister Abe was a politician, not an emperor, but when the government decides to hold a state funeral, we follow precedent -- so there was no debate on the move," he explained.

Tobita's union was formed 100 years ago, and its current head director is the 13th to hold the title.

Weekly Playboy assigned a reporter to visit Tobita on Sept 26, the day before the state funeral. As shown in an accompanying photo, some 180 street lamps illuminating the alleyways flew Hinomaru flags, and its buildings were draped in black bunting, a scene that evoked the sensation of time travel to an earlier era.

In a somewhat excited voice, an office worker in his 20s who said he was on his second visit to the district told the reporter, "Compared with the previous time, the mood here today is completely different. I find this atmosphere to be really moving."

On Sept 27, when all the shops were closed, a salaryman appearing to be in his 30s dropped in on the area out of curiosity.

"I'm here on an overnight visit to Osaka from Tokyo," he said. "I was planning to go around town and do some sightseeing, and had planned to visit Tobita tomorrow for some fun. But when I heard that the area would completely shut down for the day, I made a beeline to come here. I'm glad I thought of it. Unfortunately I can't play around today," he chuckled.

Although its shops were completely shuttered, the district still attracted curiosity seekers who might not have otherwise paid a visit. These included a pair of women who appeared to be in their 20s and a male-female couple.

The reporter also encountered a trio of men, and asked them, "Did you know the shops would all be closed today?"

"Yes, we knew," came the reply.

"What's your reason for coming here then?"

"Well, we were curious to see what Tobita looks like during the daytime. And I had an ulterior motive to see if at least one place might have stayed open for business. But above all, I wanted to soak up the emotions from the great experience I had last night," one said, appearing slightly embarrassed.

His companion explained, "What he means is, he lost his virginity here last night."

"It was something I'll remember as long as I live," the other man confessed. "I sort of feel like I owe Mr. Abe an apology."

"If you call that remark inappropriate, you're probably right," the writer concludes, adding, "Amidst all this talk of 'disagreements' over the state funeral, I somehow felt cheered up to hear that kind of stupid remark."

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The most curious perhaps, was Part 3, which covered Tobita Shinchi, a historic area in Osaka's Nishinari Ward that is home to some 160 brothels.

Ironically, Abenomics and later the Suga pandemic response and Kishida"s New Capitalism has forced more desperate young Japanese women into the "water trade".

To the glee of many Japanese salarymen.

-3 ( +15 / -18 )


Completely agree.

Women are at the bottom of the corporate Japan / work food-chain in Japan. Most of them have shakey hiring statuses (part-time, arubaito, haken, etc) and, from what I saw at the office over 18 years in Japan, are doing mostly the tasks that their male co-worker / manager don't want to do. They are essentially a "convenience" and hired as such.

Over Abe's decade did I see an ever-increasing number of them getting the chopper. When COVID hit it was game over for a lot of them over a very short time (i.e. tons of e-mails informing the team that XX-san or YY-san was leaving as in "contract not-renewed" started to circulate to the team).

As for non-office and more manual jobs, hospitality and restauration industries were hit the most, I would therefore expect that they first started to lay off again: arubaito, part-time and haken first, which are first and foremost...women).

It doesn't take you to be Sherlock Holmes to guess where do you then go, when you are: female, young and desperate...

-10 ( +13 / -23 )

There should bring back more places like Tobita-Shinchi.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Fun quote at the end.

shows who upholds these places as well. No surprise that government bros have some sway here because well… they were the usual dudes too at some point and probably still visit

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Dagon and blue-

Agree with both of you

-15 ( +5 / -20 )

Interesting how most Japanese cities have a "brothel district." Even my mid-sized Kumamoto has one. But they're really safe: my kids had to beeline through ours on their way to juku. In fact, it was probably safer than any other area: if they were ever hassled by anyone (which they weren't), the touts would undoubtedly have stepped in.

6 ( +6 / -0 )


This is the future of Japan that LDP elites and Abe envisioned. They originally hoped for a successful financial haven like the UK. However, they are going to get the worse version of Thailand which has been de-industrialized completely to live on a services-based economy, while financial companies will be entirely owned by foreigners without giving any tax revenue to Japan.

Thailand is starting to crackdown on prostitution in recent years and expand its industrialization/smart agriculture. Japan is the opposite.

-9 ( +3 / -12 )

@Septim Dynasty

Prostitution is less of a problem when it's controlled rather than outlawed.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Osaka brothel district closing for a day out of respect for former Prime Mimister Abe's funeral? What about a night?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

So that's who Abe's supporters were. Moonies and the Yakuza,

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Wow, even the oldest profession can display a sense of honor.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

So that's who Abe's supporters were. Moonies and the Yakuza,

Both of which are largely Korean. It is ironic to see Japanese ultranationalists living off Korean paychecks.

Prostitution is less of a problem when it's controlled rather than outlawed.

That's not the problem. Japan won't enjoy any tax revenue being generated from even "controlled prostitution."

The expected economic rewards won't be great at all. Just look at Hokkaido, the Chinese brought the whole place and started creating their own Chinatowns. Hokkaido locals won't enjoy any benefits as they don't get hired or any profit among Chinese getting taxed.

This is the future of Japan that LDP elites have been creating since the 1990s.

-8 ( +5 / -13 )

"We follow precedence"... Surely precedent?

Moderator: Yes, you are correct.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

So we get screwed on use of taxpayer funds even after his death but these poor lads can't BECAUSE of his death.

Man, talk about getting it coming and going.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )


The LDP is scraping the bottle of the barrel to salvage Abe's legacy to save their own necks.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

I feel overjoyed that I am able to support women that could be my daughters and from them receive politeness, respect and kindness-win-win!

-9 ( +0 / -9 )

What did they do in Shinjuku's Kabuki-cho? Were the brothels closed down?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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