Brothels in the Yoshiwara red light district in Tokyo at the tail end of the 19th century. The architecture at the time was heavily influenced by Western ideas, although Yoshiwara still had a unique Japanese feel to it.
When Yoshiwara was first created in 1617, it was located near Nihonbashi. In the second half of the 17th century, it was moved out of the city to a spot nearby Asakusa and renamed Shin Yoshiwara (New Yoshiwara), but the shin was soon dropped.
Over the years, Yoshiwara repeatedly burned down. Each time it rose from the ashes, albeit with a totally new look. The total number of fires that ravaged the quarters in its new location is almost too large to grasp. Between January 10, 1677, when the first fire took place, and March 15, 1896, shortly before this photograph was taken, no less than 34 fires were counted.
Quite a few of them burned down most or all of Yoshiwara.
There is no pattern. One fire broke out in a bath-house, another in a tobacco store, another again in a buddhist temple and so on. Not only did the fires create much damage, but over the years many lives were lost.1
As it is unclear at which brothel this photo was shot, the Current Map shows the location of the former entrance gate, the Omon (大門), located in current-day Senzoku 4-chome, Taito-ku (台東区千束4丁目).
1 De Becker, J. E. (1899). The Nightless City or the History of the Yoshiwara Yukwaku. Max Nössler & Co: 249-254.
Reference for Citations
Duits, Kjeld (). Tokyo 1890s: Yoshiwara Brothels, OLD PHOTOS of JAPAN. Retrieved on May 27, 2022 (GMT) from https://www.oldphotosjapan.com/photos/275/yoshiwara-brothels
I have a small favor to ask
Old Photos of Japan aims to be your personal museum for Japan's visual heritage to increase our understanding of Japanese culture and society.
Finding, acquiring, scanning, restoring, researching and conserving these vintage images, and making the imagery and research freely available online, takes serious time, money and effort.
I do this without charging for access, selling user data, or running ads.
Your support helps to make this possible, and ensures that this important visual heritage of Japan will not be lost and forgotten.
If you can, please consider supporting Old Photos of Japan with a regular amount each month. Or become a volunteer.