Tobita Shinchi is the largest red-light district in Osaka as well as the whole of Western Japan. In the center of the area lies a century-old architectural gem that has now begun a restoration process.
Taiyoshi Hyakuban used to serve as a brothel but has no longer been a brothel for a long time. It is now an eatery; however, it is considered a symbol for the area, which is still linked to the sex industry.
The wooden two-story structure is an exceptional architectural masterpiece dating back to the Taisho period from 1912 to 1926. Taiyoshi Hyakuban has quite different themed rooms like a dozen of Western-themed rooms. There are also well-painted sliding doors and ceilings that show exceptional Japanese designs.
The murals of festival scenes, goddesses who play traditional instruments, and Dutch merchants dressed in traditional outfits decorate the suites surrounding a garden. High “yin and yang” rocks depict women and men.
In the evening, lanterns in red strung across the exterior of the second floor add an old-fashioned look while gently shining a light on the wood siding in red. However, daylight shows the urgent need for restoration, such as cracks in a wooden plaque on the front door as well as faded paint. The structure is designated to be a “registered tangible cultural property” to acknowledge its historical significance; however, it hasn’t brought in any funds from the government to safeguard it.
While the owner had long wanted to revamp the building due to the downturn in the pandemic, the funds were in a state of desperation.
A group of real estate agents in the local area and town planners decided to create an online crowdfunding campaign to collect 15 million Japanese yen to keep the building from collapsing.
“We were concerned the restoration might not even be possible if we waited and let the building continue to deteriorate for another ten years,” said Keisuke Yotsui, who is a member of the group.
Taiyoshi Hyakuban reflects the history of the red-light district of Tobita-Shinchi, which was home to hundreds of brothels about 100 years ago.
Many brothels went through thorough reconstruction after prostitution became illegal in Japan in 1957. However, the law is now heavily implemented, and there are plenty of loopholes. Thus, the industry hasn’t declined much.
Although Taiyoshi Hyakuban has been operating as a restaurant for many decades, the general public is still hesitant about donating the cause to restore something associated with sex in the past.
Still, the campaign for restoration has successfully collected 19 million yen, and the restoration process has begun.