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Coronavirus outbreak: Tobita Shinchi brothels shut their doors

The brothels in the Tobita Shinchi red-light district are shown closed on April 4 (Twitter)

OSAKA (TR) – The brothels in the Tobita Shinchi red-light district in Osaka City, the largest in the Kansai area, are shutting their doors due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The Tobita Shinchi cooperative union sent a letter to all 160 members on Friday indicating that they should utilize “self-restraint” and close their doors.

“Any establishments that remain open on April 4 (Saturday) will be dismissed from the union. This is the final request,” the message said without mentioning the coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19.

On Friday night, there were few pedestrians roaming the streets of the district. Many of the establishments had posted paper signs outside their shuttered entries to inform customers that they were closed due to the outbreak.

Located in Nishinari Ward, Tobita Shinchi consists of alleys of brightly lit two-floor ryotei structures. In the first-floor doorway of each establishment sits a woman attired in revealing clothing. Next to her is an elderly female proprietor who verbally solicits clients.

The district had a policy of closing if a state of emergency is declared. However, that policy changed. “With the situation changing by the moment, a judgment was made. We are hoping for social stability,” a representative of the union was quoted by Kyodo News (Apr. 3).

Third time

The closure of the district is the third in its history. Last June, the establishments shut during the Group of 20 summit.

On February 24, 1989, the district shut down was for the funeral of Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa.

For the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit in 1995, the establishments remained open but the female proprietors were not present in the doorways, a move that was done, observers at the time said, so as to not not give “the wrong impression” to foreign visitors.