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However, despite the ubiquitous, garish advertisements and the many touts on the streets, the actual action takes place inside closely guarded clubs. The historic Yoshiwara, along with similar zones reserved for erotic entertainment across the country, were forced by law to close down. Thriving businesses to this day, to be sure, but by nature operating behind a veil of opaque secrecy. As so often, however, things are a bit different in Osaka. The Tobita Shichi red light district still works very much in the same way as the old Yoshiwara did.
Here, the businesses still openly display their working girls to casually strolling, potential customers. Tobita Shinji is the biggest red light district in the Kansai area of western Japan and is located about a 7 minute walk from the Dobutsuen-mae subway Station on the Midosuji subway line. The Dobutsuen-mae Station exits to the north lead towards the old Shinsekai entertainment district.
The main exit on the south side brings you onto a wide boulevard lined with very cheap hotels, the homeless district of Kamagasaki is just a 5 minute walk to the right. The arcade is quiet, many shutters are closed and the prices for the wares offered are at the lowest end. Peek into the side streets towards the left. Once rows of small buildings adorned with many little white signboards come into sight, turn left.
Pass through under the elevated Hanshin Expressway and you enter Tobita Shinchi. Entering Tobita Shinchi you penetrate a different but very vibrant world. The streets of Tobita Shinchi are lined with Taisho-era-style 2-storey buildings, one attached to the other. Each building is marked with a little white sign, lit up at night, spelling out the name of the business it houses. The ground floors of each building have wide doors revealing a large genkan entrance area.
The floors of those genkan are covered with mats, the decorations vary widely — from classical Japanese to Hello Kitty dolls. All of them are however designed to look cute. Places awaiting business have two women sitting in the genkan : a more or less young girl, dressed up in sometimes revealing clothes, sometimes as a school girl, a nurse or a manga character.