Shimabara (嶋原) was a courtesans' district in Kyoto. It was established in 1640 for a brothel owned by Hara Saburoemon, and was closed in 1958, when prostitution was outlawed in Japan. The name Shimabara most likely refers to the large gate (Ōmon) that resembled the gate of Shimabara castle in Bizen. In the Tokugawa period, it was also called "the licensed quarter" (go-men no ocho) or simply "the quarter" to distinguish the higher-class residents within from the unlicensed women who operated throughout the cities. Today, it is mostly a tourist attraction and historical site; two teahouses remain, conserved as Cultural Assets: the Wachigaya (輪違屋), established in 1688, and the Sumiya (角屋), established in 1641.
Throughout the Edo period (1603-1868), there was widespread male and female prostitution throughout the cities of Kyoto, Edo, and Osaka. The Tokugawa shogunate attempted to control this by restricting prostitution to designated city districts. These districts were Shimabara in Kyoto (est. 1640), Shinmachi in Ōsaka (est. 1624–1644]) and Yoshiwara in Edo (est. 1617). These restrictions and controls did not derive from a moral opposition to prostitution, but out of a desire to compartmentalize certain types of activity within the cities. Kabuki and jōruri theatres, and other related entertainment establishments were similarly controlled.