Sai Taitei’s Chinese Poetry and Red Light Districts in Ryūkyū

Sai Taitei was born in 1823 and he was from Kume Village. Later in life he succeeded his father’s post to become Ikei Pechin (an assistant estate-steward of Ikei Village belonging to Yonashiro District). It is presumed that he traveled to China five times and finally died in Beijing. The year of his death is unknown, but it is believed to have been after 1884. He was a cultured person who lived through the turbulent times from the end of the Ryukyu Kingdom to the Disposition of Ryukyu (1872-1879).

Among the Ryukyuans involved with Chinese poetry, Sai Taitei is the one with the largest confirmed poetry collection of the Ryukyu Kingdom era. His known poetrycollections were four works owned by the Okinawa Prefectural Library (the former Higashionna Kanjun Collection), but recently, five more items have been discovered. These five are collections of poems and texts written in Ryukyu itself.

Among all of Sai Taitei’s poetry, sixty-two poems deal with prostitutes and red light districts in Naha.

Red light districts in Naha

During the Ryukyu Kingdom era, there were three red-light districts in Okinawa. These are Tsuji, Nakashima, and Watanji.

Tsuji was located in the western part of Naha and bordered to Kume village. Tsuji village as a whole was a special village called a licensed red light district (yūkaku).

Nakashima is located in the southeastern part of Naha and belongs to Izumizaki village. Originally located on a sandbank, it used to be connected to Izumizaki Village by a bridge.

Watanji is a small island located in the southeastern part of Naha, facing Naha Harbor to the south, east and west. It belonged to Higashi Village, and was connected to Higashi Village by Shian Bridge.

Naha is a port town and it is thought that prostitutes have existed since ancient times. In 1672, the prostitutes were gathered and placed under the control of the Ryukyu royal government, and the red-light districts of Tsuji and Nakashima were established.

It is unknown when Watanji was established. In 1908, the Nakashima and Watanji red-light districts were abolished and integrated into the Tsuji red-light district by Okinawa prefectural ordinance. During World War II, the Tsuji red-light district also disappeared.


Takatsu Takashi: Sai Taitei no kanshi-bun to Ryūkyū no yūri (Sai Taitei’s Chinese Poetry and Red Light Districts in Ryūkyū).

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