Taiyoshi Hyakuban opened in the Taisho era over a century ago in the largest red-light district in western Japan, Tobita Shinchi. Like many brothels of that era, it assumed the form of a ryōtei, a luxurious Japanese-style restaurant to avoid detection. Over time, it ceased its operations as a brothel and became a traditional Japanese eatery.
Historically, red-light districts in Japan were characterized by their otherworldly extravagance, not unlike the bathhouse depicted in the 2001 film Spirited Away.
The shrine-style exterior alone is awe-inspiring, but there’s another entrance, a replica of the famously ornate Yōmeimon gate, inside the lobby leading into a bygone era. The second-floor corridor runs in a square around a garden-style atrium, traditional arched bridges connect a variety of dining chambers with different themes and features.
For example, a few yakatabune-inspired rooms may have boat parts embedded in their walls and floors, while some rooms are designed to harken back to the age of the samurai. A few of the larger dining halls come with wooden stages, where geishas once danced and sang to guests.
The Japanese government designated Taiyoshi Hyakuban as a Tangible Cultural Property in 2000, considering its historical value. While the place is extravagant in architecture, a major factor in the restaurant’s popularity lies in its reasonable prices. The affordable menu ranges from easygoing hotpots to sukiyaki and sashimi (or otsukuri as it is called in the area).
Know Before You Go
Taiyoshi Hyakuban is a reservation-only restaurant and open every day except Monday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Note that the restroom is quite old and communal. The area may be somewhat unsafe at night so be careful when visiting.