January 14, 2022

Japanese restaurant in Yukaku’s former red light district struggles to preserve its history

The historic building was once a brothel, now its ornate interiors are in danger of disappearing.

From the early 1600s to the early 1900s, the legal red light districts known as the yukaku flourishes in Japan. Prostitutes and brothels operated legally in these areas, with many establishments displaying their workers to the public through wooden slats.

▼ An example of an “exhibition” in the Yoshiwara district of Tokyo, one of the largest in the country yukaku, at the turn of the 20th century.

Image: Wikipedia

During the American occupation after World War II, the American headquarters issued an order to abolish legalized prostitution in Japan, and in 1946, brothels in the yukaku areas were forced to rename themselves “cafes” or “ryotei”. “” Stylish restaurants “) instead.

Although prostitution secretly continued, once the anti-prostitution law was enforced in 1958, the yukaku ceased to exist as it once was, leading to many ornate buildings falling into disrepair. However, in Osaka, where Tobita Shinchi or Tobita Yukaku, the largest yukaku in western Japan once stood, at least one former brothel remains, which now functions as a restaurant.

▼ Taiyoshi Hyakuban was originally built as a 21-room brothel in 1918.

Taiyoshi Hyakuban was converted into a restaurant in 1970 and designated as a registered national tangible cultural property in 2000. The building still retains the original brothel features, including themed rooms and paintings, but is in urgent need of repair. repairs, which led a group of locals to train the Micro Patrimoine project and start a crowdfunding campaign to help the owner preserve this part of Japanese history.

Now that the building is over 100 years old, the foundations, exteriors and interiors have all deteriorated significantly, and while the second-generation owner had hoped to restore it, the decline in clientele due to the coronavirus pandemic has left them behind. in a dead end. because they are now unable to cover catering costs.

▼ The restoration of valuable works of art is only one of the necessary repairs.

With few buildings like this in Japan, locals are keen to preserve its architectural and cultural history, which stems from the Taisho period (1912-1926), a time when Japanese culture was starting to blend with foreign trends.

There are so many wonderful decorations in the two-story wooden building, which contains larger rooms on the ground floor and 13 small tearoom-style rooms on the second floor, each decorated differently.

Repair work can be expensive, which is one of the reasons why so many of these old buildings in old yukaku neighborhoods were sold and demolished.

The Micro Heritage project aims to protect nationally registered tangible cultural property in the Osaka area, and before setting up the crowdfunding campaign, they tried to generate interest in the restaurant with a VR video. special that allows you to browse building.

The VR video reveals the awe-inspiring beauty of the building and its dismal condition, chipped murals, warped beams and all.

Although there is a tendency to romanticize yukaku, the project coordinators want to remind everyone that there is a dark side to this era of history and the treatment of women during this time. Preserving the building’s history is not about romanticizing its dark history, but about enabling people to educate themselves and learn more about the city’s urban culture in tangible ways.

The crowdfunding campaign aims to raise 15 million yen (US $ 136,786) by August 10, and has currently raised 3.3 million yen, or 22% of the target, with 33 days remaining on the project. Reward levels start at 3,000 yen and go up to 1 million yen for meal tickets, tours and photo books.

The campaign is run on an all-or-nothing basis, which means funds will be refunded and repairs will be blocked if the intended goal is not met, so if you are a fan of Japanese architecture, you will want to act now and keep your fingers and toes crossed in the hopes that the project is successful.

Because after losing the Nakagin Capsule Tower, a Kyoto public bathhouse, the oldest ryokan in an onsen resort, and a restaurant founded in the Edo period, it would be heartbreaking to have to say goodbye to others. historic Japanese establishments.

Restaurant information
Taiyoshi Hyakuban /
Address: Osaka-fu, Osaka-shi, Nishinari-ku Sanno 3-5-25
大阪 府 大阪 市 西 成 区 山 王 3-5-25
Hours: 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. (Closed Mondays)
Website

Related: Readyfor / Micro Heritage, Taiyoshi Hyakuban (Tobita Hyakuban), Taiyoshi Hyakuban VR Project
Images: Readyfor / Micro Heritage unless otherwise stated

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