“Hey, is it true that you don’t have street names in Japan?”
“What do you do when you’re supposed to meet someone somewhere?”
“How do you tell people where to go?”
“What happens if you get lost?”
Sure, the major streets in Tokyo have names, but residential addresses in the suburbs only have numbered locations…
So how do people in Japan do without street names?
Looking at the street names as you walk around Italy provides endless opportunities to learn about the local history and how things came about. There’s so much information that you could probably go sightseeing on that alone.
I had fun looking up the origin of some of the interesting street names I found in Milan, as it turned out to reveal some fascinating history.
If you walk through the Brera district, you’ll see a street with two opposite names: Via Fiori Chiari (Street of Bright Flowers) and Via Fiori Oscuri (Street of Dark Flowers). It is interesting that these two streets not only have opposite names, but opposite histories. It becomes clear when you arrive at the intersection separating the two and look left and right. It’s a crossroads that feels fated—like you’re making a life choice about which way to go. The story goes that Via Fiori Chiari once had a dorm for a girls’ school, while Via Fiori Oscuri had a brothel. I knew someone who lived on Via Fiori Oscuri (not at a brothel, obviously), and as I recall I saw no traces of a brothel.
However, someone I know who lives in a district outside of Brera bought a condo in a building that was once a high-end brothel, and I remember that there were quite a few things about it that pointed to its history.
It was just one of many buildings along a major street, but if you looked closely you could see that although the entrance still faced the main road, there were a bunch of trees planted in front of it. It was also built a bit further back from the road than its neighbors.
There’s a huge space when you walk in, and I remember the floors being tiled with expensive marble.
The most interesting part about it was the way the interior was set up. When my acquaintance invited me into their home, I was still overcome by the expensive marble flooring, but noticed that there was a long hallway running against the windows facing the main road with several small rooms along it. In other words, a woman could stand in each window and beckon passersby along the road. Of course, my acquaintance is not a prostitute and the place was not being used as a red-light district. Each room had been converted into a typical living space with a kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom.
Going back to the two streets in Brera, though it’s probably true that Via Fiori Chiari was once home to a girls’ dorm, the fact is that there was a brothel on that street as well—and as I recall, it still remains intact. I hear the last prostitute to work there was a woman named Wanda—I found a picture of her face online and it even has the price on it!
Having two streets—one named Via Fiori Chiari with a girls’ dorm on it and one named Via Fiori Oscuri with a brothel on it—separated by an intersection could be just the kind of uniquely romanticized history by the Italians.