Cheating men sentenced to cross-dressing? Were the workers more important than the customers in the Japanese sex industry?

Wherever there are men and women, regardless of time or place, the sex industry usually exists. In the old days, Japan was more open about this industry. In one area of Tokyo there was a pleasure quarter called Yoshiwara, actually approved by the government.

It was quite extensive, with basically every street corner having courtesans. During the era of the samurai, many people came from the countryside to work in Edo (present-day Tokyo), and the high ratio of male workers was probably one of the reasons for its development. Did you know that there was a “rule against cheating” in Yoshiwara?


Don’t betray the woman you know
This rule was a privilege that only the highest-ranking prostitutes and oiran (courtesans) had, but once you spent time with a woman of that rank, you were not allowed to approach any other woman in Yoshiwara.

Isn’t it incredible that there was a “no cheating” rule in Yoshiwara, where people would come to have an affair in the first place?

So, what would happen if someone cheated?


I shall put you to shame
It could be an urban legend, so whether it is true or not is unknown, but this is what apparently happened:

  • Have one’s top knot cut off.
  • Be forced to wear a woman’s kimono.

They would be exposed in public in such a state. Sounds horrible, doesn’t it?

It is unclear if it really went this far, but at the very least, they were actually banned from those premises and given a violation fee.

How much was this violation fee?

This is also not known for sure, but it’s suspected that it was a very large sum of money since it cost a lot of money to spend time with the oiran in the first place.

Rates and how to cavort with oiran

This is an interesting point in Japan, but it didn’t mean that you could just pay and get to spend time with the courtesan right away.

Let me explain the process of cavorting with one of Japan’s top-class beauties.


First of all, you selects a beautiful girl who is rumored to be beautiful. Since this was the age when there were no photos, word of mouth was the way to go. Then, you just wait and wait.

The oiran (courtesans) comes well-prepared, accompanied by assistants, to greet the patrons in a procession. This was called “Oiran-dochu” and was a famous event in Yoshiwara. Then, they are welcomed into the oiran’s room.

However, nothing happens here either. A banquet is held with sumptuous food and drinks. It would cost as much as 3 to 5 million yen (approx. $20-35,000) in today’s money!

But it ends here. You cannot touch the oiran. In addition, the oiran would sometimes refuse to accept a patron. The oiran had the right to take the lead.

Was there any other country which had such strict rules?

After repeating this process, on the third occasion of meeting, the patron would finally be allowed to get into bed with the courtesan.

The reason why it is so complicated is said to be because it mimics the ancient marriage rites of the nobility.

In other words, it would have cost 9-15 million yen to spend a night together, so isn’t it frightening to imagine how much the violation fee mentioned earlier was?



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