The Tokyo Reporter

No kitties admitted to Yoshiwara’s cat houses

Nikkan Gendai Oct. 22
Ancient Shinto beliefs proscribe women from entering the straw dohyo sumo ring. But what about entering a whorehouse?

But why would a respectable woman want to go to a whorehouse in the first place?

Because she’s a feisty female fuzoku writer, Nikkan Gendai (Oct. 22) reports, in the latest installment of a series titled “Fuzokukai no Yami” (The Dark Side of the Sex Business).

The sex industry is always open to new ideas and suggestions. For instance, once the manager of a shop asked a reporter, “Have you got any ideas we could try out?”

“Well,” the writer pondered, “how about offering ‘erection insurance'”?

Huh? Or maybe we should ask, WTF?

The writer suggested the shop guarantee not just service with a smile, but that the customer would always get a woody. That is to say, should the masseuse fail to raise the angle of the dangle to the prerequisite degree, the customer would receive a 30 percent refund off the price of entry.

Now a deal like that was almost certain to attract mobs of middle-aged and elderly males whose fancies have turned flaccid — and come to think of it, it did.

This is one reason perhaps why, when times were good, the reporters who covered the pricier soaplands (erotic bathhouses) in Yoshiwara for tabloid publications were typically treated like kings. Not only were they respectfully addressed as “sensei,” but they were served a deluxe Japanese-style snack during their visit, and upon departure were seen off at the door with a chorus of bows and thanks from the manager and staff.

But once it seems a female reporter, perhaps to do a story from the just-us-girls perspective, made an effort to enter a Yoshiwara soapland and was treated with rudeness bordering on hostility. To wit, the employee told her,”Kono ama, nanishi ni kita? Kaere!” (You hack. What did you come here for? Begone!)

It seems that since feudal times, the Yoshiwara accorded protection to the spirits of unfortunate prostitutes who had died on the job. These spirits supposedly became intensely jealous when an ordinary woman entered the brothel quarter. And her admission would also put a hex on the shop. The more beautiful the woman, the more jealous the spirits would become, or so goes the legend.

So to mollify the spirits’ sensibilities, the employee manning the door of this particular shop grabbed a handful of salt — used for ritual purification — and began flinging it at the female reporter to drive her away.

It’s a strange old Yoshiwara custom that hardly anyone knows about. You read it here, folks. (K.S.)

Source: “Josei raitaa ni shio wo maku Yoshiwara soopugai,” Nikkan Gendai (Oct. 22, page 22)

Note: Brief extracts from Japanese vernacular media in the public domain that appear here were translated and summarized under the principle of “fair use.” Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy of the translations. However, we are not responsible for the veracity of their contents. The activities of individuals described herein should not be construed as “typical” behavior of Japanese people nor reflect the intention to portray the country in a negative manner. Our sole aim is to provide examples of various types of reading matter enjoyed by Japanese.

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