Goban-cho (Kyoto City) (五番町 (京都市))

Goban-cho is the name of a town situated in Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto City. The following is a description concerning "yukaku," (a prostitution district) which once existed in the area.

The Heian-kyu Palace once stood here, but the palace site, known as 'Uchino,' was overgrown with weeds, and Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, developed and improved Uchino when he built Jurakudai (Hideyoshi's residence and office in Kyoto) near the area, as the samurai residence in the Azuchi Momoyama period, creating the origin of 'Goban-cho.'
After Hideyoshi moved his residence to Momoyama-jo Castle in Fushimi, Uchino was again overrun with weeds and turned into fields.

Goban-cho was redeveloped during the early Edo period, and as people moved in and "Gosho" (the imperial palace) expanded, they formed "Niuri-jaya" (tea houses selling boiled vegetables, fish and beans) for visitors going to Kitano Tenmangu Shrine or Mt. Atago; in later days, these shops changed their business and the area formed the geisha quarter. The geisha quarter was so prosperous that Kyoto Shoshidai (the governor of Kyoto appointed by the Tokugawa shogunate) felt that public morals were threatened and the governor issued a crack down on the quarter many times; however, in the end Kyoto Shoshidai permitted their operation under the control of Kamishichiken (one of the geisha quarters in Kyoto).

During the Meiji period, Goban-cho was permitted as an independent prostitution district along with Yonban-cho, and "Nyokoba" (Women's School); however, Nyokoba became a nominal institution, and Goban-cho was divided into two areas; an eastern area with geisha and the western area with prostitutes. The eastern area was especially well-known as an entertainment district, along with Gion Kobu and Ponto-cho.

Due to the existence of nearby Kamishichiken, many people had the impression that Goban-cho was the geisha quarter for craftsmen; consequently Goban-cho was reorganized into a town that centered on prostitution.
In addition, the town name itself gave off the impression of a low-level geisha quarter, so people related to the geisha business began to call it 'Kitashinchi,' while local people still referred it as 'Goban-cho.'

After World War Ⅱ, the town was renamed 'Nishijin Shinchi,' and prostitution continued for a while, but came to an end on March 15, 1958, when the Anti-Prostitution Law went into effect. Still, some "ochaya" (teahouses) remained, but as time went by, the town became an ordinary residential area, and at present, scarcely retains the traces of "yukaku" (brothel).

This town is famous for the novel titled "Goban-cho Yugiri-ro" written by Tsutomu MINAKAMI, whose scenes were set in the "yukaku" of Goban-cho.

[Original Japanese]