Crowd at the entrance of Metropolis' Yoshiwara nightclub, exiting at the instigation of the evil Maria, after a night of debauchery.
The Yoshiwara of Thea von Harbou's novel Metropolis was a nightclub run by September, a man of unidentified Asian extraction. It was here that Georgy was tempted and fell under the spell of the drug Maohee. As a result he failed to meet up with Freder and Josephat and help them in their quest to locate Maria. For this he eventually died, taking a knife to the heart that was meant for Freder during a scuffle with a group of workers.
Yoshiwara of Fritz Lang's film was the embodiment of von Harbou's text,
with input from the design team working on the film. The result was a
series of sets aiming to convey the atmosphere of a modern Berlin
nightclub, with ornate oriental features and an entrance suggestive of
the pleasure to be had inside. Unfortunately, views of Fritz Lang's
Yoshiwara were largely excised from prints of the film following the
initial Berlin screening, and have only been seen recently as a result
of the 2008 discovery of a near complete, though damaged print of
Lang's original director's cut. Some views also survive in still
photographs, suggesting the extent of the location's use in filming. In
one such photograph, an exterior shot of Yoshiwara is seen, with crowds
running down the stairs. In another photograph, we see Georgy walking
forlornly down the stairs early in the morning, after a night of
partying. In a third image from the Pollock Collection at the National
Film and Sound Archive, Canberra, Australia, there is a discussion with
a character who may represent September, the owner of Yoshiward. Film
of some of these scenes is now available, though any of Georgy in
Yoshiwara does not survive., though the 2008 footage does include a
montage of activities within the club. As a result, it seems likely
that Lang did not include footage of Georgy and September in the club
in his final cut.
Georgy walking dejectedly down the stairs of Yoshiwara, early morning, with a cleaner to the left of him sweeping the stairs.
Yoshiwara was also the scene of much activity and 'depravity' by the evil Maria - the transformed robot. It was here that she drove men crazy with lust. Once again, many of the original scenes involving her and the crowd in Yoshiwara were censored out of post-Berlin versions of the film, and have only recently been seen in the South American print.
The original Yoshiwara was the red-light district of Tokyo, Japan. It was formally created in 1617 by Ieyasu, first of the Tokugawa shoguns. Following earthquakes and fires, it moved in 1657 to near the Asakusa temple and survived in that location until 1959. Within its walls were legalised brothels, bath-houses, entertainment venues and premises where geisha would perform their rituals. For some 250 years Japan was closed to the outside world, however after 1853 the Americans opened the country up to trade and visitation. Sailors naturally gravitated towards the Yoshiwara precinct, and stories of its delights began to appear in the foreign press. From that time pornographic woodblock prints known as shunga also began to circulate in Europe, and the Metropolis design team would have been aware of this. Lang and Harbou were also collectors of Asiatic art, including Japanese woodblocks.
Fritz Lang claimed that at one point he visited Japan. This most likely occurred between 1911-3 when he travelled the world, visiting North Africa, Turkey, Asia Minor, and Bali. At the time he worked as a travel artist, painting postcards, travel scenes, and advertisements. As a result of these experiences, he developed a passion for oriental folk and culture, and some of this was reflected in his films, with the Yoshiwara facade possibly one of his touches. The character of September and the experiences caused by the drug Maohee were likely also based on events in Lang's own life during these travels, and the subsequent drug-filled nightclubs of Berlin following the end of World War I in 1918.
De Becker, J.E., The Nightless, City, or the History of the Yoshiwara Yukawku. By an English Student of Sociology, Z.P. Maruya & Co., Yokohama, 1899, 8vo, 442p; ibid., 2nd revised edition, Max Nossler & Co., Shanghai, Yokohama, Bremen; Probsthain & Co., London, 1905, 386p; ibid., 3rd revised edition, 1905, 387p; ibid., Max Nossler & Co., Shanghai, Yokohama, Bremen; Probsthain & Co., London, 4th revised edition, 1905, 386p; Yoshiwara – The Nightless City, Charles Carrington, Paris, 1907, 340p. Privately printed for the Erotic Society of Japan, Iyemetsu Ltd., Tokyo; Yoshiwara – The Nightless City, Frederick Publications, New York, 1960, 372p; Nightless, City, or the History of the Yoshiwara Yukawku, Tuttle, Rutland, 5th revised edition, 1971.
----, The Sexual Life of Japan, being an exhaustive study of The Nightless, City, or the History of the Yoshiwara Yukawku, n.p., c.1900, 386p.; ibid., American Anthropological Society, 3rd edition, n.d., 8vo, 386p.
Longstreet, Stephen & Ethel, Yoshiwara: City of the Senses, David McKay, 1970, 225p. Historical study of the noted Tokyo brothel district, illustrated by masters of the Japanese print.
----, Yoshiwara: the pleasure quarters of old Tokyo, Yenbooks, Tokyo, 1988, 225p.
Matsumoto, Tadashige, The Yoshiwara – Two Japanese Love Stories, Walker, London, 1920s, 308p. Covers the exploits of Denkichi and O-Sen, and those of O-Tami and Hichisaburo.
Preuschen, Hermione von, Yoshiwara. Von Freudenhaus des Lebens [The Joy-house of Life], Janke, Berlin, 1920, 195p.
Seigle, Cecillia Segawa, Yoshiwara: The Glittering World of the Japanese Courtesan, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1993.
Tresmin–Trémolières, Dr. (Dr. Bruno Sklarek and Dr. Iwan Bloch), Yoshiwara. Die Liebesstadt der Japaner, Sexualpsychologische Bibliothek Erster Serie, Louis Marcus, Berlin, 1910, 292p. Documents the entertainment and prostitution practices of Japan.
Yoshiwara (Geisha-liedjes), Broch, Brussel & Manteau, 1942, 62p.
Last updated: 16 November 2018.