In 1621, a brothel owner wrote a petition to the Japanese shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. He made an argument that if a “red light district” was established in Edo (the city that later became Tokyo), it would be beneficial to everyone. The shogunate agreed, and not surprisingly, the owner of the brothel was appointed as the owner of the new recreation area.
Yoshiwara means “reed field” because it was basically built on a drained swamp and was completed in 1626. From the opening of the gate until the area was closed by the government in 1959, Yoshiwara was still the legendary pornographic version of Disney World (Disney World) suitable for rich and energetic adult gentlemen, not itchy. But for women working there, this is a prison they cannot escape.
Downright salty stuff can be found in the erotic novels, songs, and poetry of Japan. As might be expected from a culture that places emphasis on beauty, lovely metaphors abound for lady parts (the forty-eight folds), gentleman’s parts (pine mushroom), and various sexual acts (washing burdock in the sea, the moment of clouds and rain). A patron of Yoshiwara could hire an entertainer – like a male version of a geisha – to play music, sing bawdy songs, and tell humorous or dirty jokes and stories to get him in the mood while he waited for the courtesan to arrive. Or he could purchase an erotic novel to share with his mistress to titillate her.
Note: high class courtesans weren’t hired; they had to be wooed via gifts and romantic gestures. An uncreative gentleman might purchase beautifully written love letters to impress her.