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Rukongai is divided into 320 districts (80 in North Rukongai, 80 in West Rukongai, etc.), each numbered in descending order on how far they are from the center; this results in the higher-numbered (and farther) districts decaying into slums. Thus, while District 1 is peaceful and lawful, much like the antiseptic lifestyle of early-Edo Era Kyoto, District 80 is a hardscrabble, violent, crime-infested area that more depicts Heian era Kyoto. The duties of the Gotei 13 Divisions include defending allocated districts of Rukongai. However, which Division is responsible for which district has not been stated. The living standards in Rukongai decline sharply beyond the fiftieth district, with an increase in people wearing rags and no footwear. According to statistics from the last 550 years, no Rukongai resident wears sandals beyond District 59.

Rukongai is full of families that are not related by blood. People die at different times and places, and it is rare for a person to find their real family in the vast Rukongai. When a soul arrives in Soul Society, they are given a ticket according to the time they died and are sent off in different directions. Even if two people were to die together, if they do not receive tickets at the same time, they will not know where the other is.

Several hundred years ago, Kōga Kuchiki suffered a mental breakdown after being framed and facing potential death penalty. After killing Shinigami pursuing him for a while, he eventually went to Rukongai to kill innocent civilians within, as revenge against Soul Society for shunning him, and to send them a message of hopelessness.

101 years ago, many souls in Rukongai mysteriously vanished due to the experiments of Sōsuke Aizen. These occurrences continued for about a month before the Shinigami sent Kensei Muguruma and a team from the 9th Division to investigate. The Visored were Hollowfied in a forest in the west of the 6th ward of the Fugai District on the same night that the 9th Division team arrived to begin their investigation. Tessai Tsukabishi used forbidden Kidō to teleport the Visored back to the lab of Kisuke Urahara in Seireitei in a bid to save them.

When the balance of souls between the Human World and Soul Society is endangered, the Shinigami can request permission to kill citizens in Rukongai in order to restore the balance of souls between the two worlds. When the Wandenreich destroy a large amount of Hollows, 12th Division Captain Mayuri Kurotsuchi orders members of his Division to kill 28,000 Rukongai residents without first attaining permission to restore the balance of souls.