• Shona McCarthy

The Yadoya Hiraiwa : You Don't Have To Put On The Red Light

Updated: Mar 16

Update 28/9/2020: Today I was contacted by the new managers of the hotel, who informed me that it will be maintained as accommodation, though it is currently closed due to Covid-19. It is set to open again once it becomes save and reasonable to do so. I am very glad to receive this news!

While on my last trip in Japan, of all the places I visited, the Yadoya Hiraiwa was probably my favourite. But it wasn't without any reservations. I happened to come across Yadoya HIraiwa accidentally, when I was going through and planning my trip. It showed up as heavily discounted and looked ultra-traditional. The only drawback was that to get the cheapest price, I had to get locked in and not be able to pull out if I changed my mind. This flies contrary to most places you can book on and AirBNB. But the price was so low and the hotel so beautiful I couldn't resist. So I booked. In fact, I was so entranced and excited by the beauty of the architecture that I decided to go and look up its history. This was when I became a little nervous. Upon reading their website I learned that the building had once been a yukaku or brothel.

In attempting to find what their lowest rates are, it seems to me that Yadoya Hiraiwa and their website have been taken down. It may be that because of Covid-19, they have been unable to stay open. I hope this temporary and they will open again, because they are truly beautiful. But in case it is gone forever, I've tried to save all the photos I can of the place from their official website,, Agoda, TripExpert, HotelsCombined, Priceline and Tripadvisor.

When I first walked up to Yadoya Hiraiwa, I felt strange knowing that I was following paths men around 100 years ago would have taken to visit prostitutes. The practice of prostitution was a very sad thing, where women who couldn't be cared for by their families would be sold to brothels like the one I was going to. So, I was a little worried. But when I got there, I found it was warm, beautiful, traditional and wonderfully maintained.

The bathrooms and toilets were shared in the place. But very rarely did I find this to be a problem. There were multiple bathrooms throughout the building, and it wasn't hard to use one while everyone else was either sleeping our out for the day. There was even a tiny coin laundry where you could wash and dry your clothing. So even though the windows on the outside still showed the tell-tale wooden bars that would usually allow men to see beautiful women on display, inside I was very safe and it was a very nice ryokan. However, things did get a little naughty at one point. Please don't read on if you are uncomfortable with sexuality. One night, while I was asleep, I was awoken by what sounded like a woman throwing up in the room across the hall from me. I got up to go to the bathroom, but as I walked down the hall, I realised that I was actually hearing the sounds of a couple having relations. I skittered past quickly, embarrassed as I realised they were nearing the end of their deed and knowing they could probably hear my footsteps. I was in the bathroom for a while and I don't think they knew it was me. But I felt a little awkward around them. I suppose my advice to future visitors would be that if you do go to Yadoya Hiraiwa with a partner, you might do well to try to be quiet. I forgot to mention that I was sick and dehydrated when I arrived at the hotel. So the green tea bag and hot water they left in my room for me went to great use. I think I recovered a little faster thanks to all the water I got to drink there. If I can ever return to Yadoya Hiraiwa I would love to. I'd love to bring some gifts or omiyage for the staff. One of the male staff was very cute, and all of them were very nice to me.

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