JAPAN: Green Light for Red Lights

In the palmy days before World War I, no red-light district in the world could boast the gilded wantonness of Tokyo's Yoshiwara. There, along a garden lane redolent with flower blossoms, the powdered and pomaded prostitutes of three centuries had minced along as dainty as figures on a sandalwood fan. The nightly pleasures they offered included even mock marriage ceremonies.

The ravages of time have long since swept away Yoshiwara's refinements, without sweeping away prostitution itself. In fact, since prewar days, Japan's red-light districts have increased by almost one-third. An estimated 500,000...

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