After our visit to the church, we needed to cleanse ourselves from the holy and descended into the pleasure quarters of Osaka. When we were planning the trip, my two buddies had asked me if I would like to see the red light district of Osaka. Would I?! Why yes, I would! But before doing that we went to have a little something to eat. They got themselves some fried Octopus balls (Takoyaki). I was not really hungry but also tried one. They were juicy and soft and a little spicy. Delightful!
One of the Master students in our lab is apparently always talking about this shop, how the Octopus balls there are just the best ever, and so on. And sure enough, when we told him afterwards that we had had some Octopus balls in the shop that he loved so much, he held a small speech praising those balls.
After finishing our meal we strolled through the entertainment district. My buddies took me to a shop where we played a game somewhat similar to pinball. We bought white balls which you had to shoot into a machine. They would bounce around and, if they hit one of the targets, would release additional white balls. If you accumulated enough balls you could get some prize. The lever with which the balls were shot into the machine allowed adjusting the initial speed of the balls. With this you had a little bit of control where the ball would go. The game was mainly fun because I figured out how to do it and my buddies didn’t. As they ran out of balls, I collected more and more of them. In the end I won some nice sweets.
Finally, they took me to Tobita Shinchi, the red light district. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take pictures! Still, it is easy enough to find photos of Tobita Shinchi elsewhere on the internet, e.g. here or here. As we walked towards Tobita Shinchi I could not see it at first! It is actually on a lower level than the surrounding streets and you have to descend a some stairs first.
Tobita Shinchi consists of relatively narrow alleys which are lined with small two-storied houses. The houses have open fronts on the ground floor, there is a step, and inside there is a lovely lady, seated on big cushions, more or less scantily clad, doll-faced, beautiful, smiling, and an old lady, beckoning potential customers. To the side of the room there are stairs, leading up. Sometimes the young lady is missing and instead there is a pair of shoes at the step.
Officially, prostitution is not allowed in Japan, and so I am told that these shops are restaurants. I imagine that the customer goes up, expecting a grand meal for the big money he paid and spontaneously the waitress falls in love with him, she cannot help it. She only wanted to serve food to her customer but who could argue with love! She must have him on the spot! Or something to that effect.
As we walked past the houses, window shopping so to speak, I felt really awkward. In a weird way, the experience was sexy. The women were all extremely beautiful. But it also felt dehumanizing. The way the women reacted to our presence with smiles and small movements of their heads and bodies made them appear like automated puppets. Most of all, though, I felt the urge to just go over and have a lovely chat with the ladies, ask about their day, about their work, how they like their job, etc. But of course that was impossible, not least because my Japanese is barely good enough to make a reservation at a restaurant.