The licensed brothel districts of old Japan live on in spirit in the Tobita area of Osaka's Nishinari Ward. Within a square of land no more than 400 meters (a quarter mile) on a side can be found a concentration of some 160 establishments, officially "restaurants," where smiling young women sitting in the glow of red lights in the entryways call out to the men passing by. The women usher their guests up to rooms on the second floor, where they can get to know each other over beer or soft drinks and "fall in love." Sexual services are offered quite openly under this thin guise.
We may well wonder what it is about this town of many faces?seeming to hold within its boundaries every social contradiction one might imagine?that attracts so many people to its streets and lanes. The author spent 12 long years frequenting the publicity-shy district in her effort to answer that question, slowly but surely gaining the trust of its denizens and coaxing out their stories. It is an eye-opening work of reportage.