On the opening day of Shin-Yoshiwara — Edo’s new pleasure quarters — Matsunaga Seiichiro, a 26-year-old swordsman stands on the Asakusa Nihon Embankment and looks across at the city. He then descends into streets filled with music, danger, alcohol and prostitutes, and thus begins his journey to manhood and power. Ostensibly, he is a naif from the country, one with deadly weapons, but he has a secret known only to a select few — he is the son of ex-emperor Go-Mizuni-in and his sword is none other than Oni-kiri — the Demon Cutter.

Within the hour on the streets, he is attacked by boisterous samurai and meets Gensai, an old man, who introduces him to the women of the quarter and becomes his guide to this peculiarly Japanese heaven and hell.

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