In 1621, a brothel keeper wrote a petition to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the shogun and ruler of Japan. He made an argument that it would be good for everyone if a “courtesan quarter”—a red-light district—were set up in Edo (the city which later became Tokyo). The shogun agreed, and unsurprisingly, the brothel keeper was appointed the master of the new pleasure quarter.
Yoshiwara, meaning “field of reeds” because it was basically built on a drained swamp, was completed in 1626. From the moment the gates opened for business, until the district was closed by the government in 1959, Yoshiwara remained a legendary porno version of Disney World for wealthy and lusty adult gentlemen with an itch to be scratched. But for the women who worked there, it was a prison from which they couldn’t escape.
A long, flat strip was peeled from the taro’s stem—like removing an apple’s peel in one piece. The resulting ribbon was wrapped around a gentleman’s peerless part in overlapping layers and tied off. Ribbed for her pleasure, as it were. Note: the device was sometimes likened to a tapeworm in some poems for its tendency to unravel while in use. For the ladies, konnyaku cut into a string could be wrapped around the finger in similar fashion for similar purpose.