In Japan, it is easy to find entertainment of any kind: there are regular clubs, bars, host and hostess clubs and so many more. There are many options to choose from, and there is something to cater to everyone’s taste. Large Japanese metropoles offer countless luxury, entertainment and fun to everyone. In this article I’d like to take a close look at host and hostess clubs.
Whereas in most countries these establishments can sometimes be seen as the portal to prostitution, in Japan these clubs are very popular and are generally a mainstream form of entertainment among both women and men. What happens inside these clubs? And why are they so popular?
There are two types of hostess clubs in Japan. One is the regular hostess club, and the other is ‘kyabakura’. The word ‘kyabakura’ comes form the combination of “cabaret” and “club”, and so the club itself is supposed to look something like a cabaret.
The girls who work at these premises are paid to sit with men, light their cigarettes, pour their drinks, talk with them and most importantly, be a good and entertaining company to them. Of course men have to pay for the company of a hostess. Normally the hostess just talks to a customer, and sometimes she might be requested to sing karaoke with him. The main purpose is to make a customer feel as relaxed as possible, and make him enjoy himself. The most important thing for the hostesses us to make sure the customer does not get bored.
Most of the customers are men with above-average income and full-time corporate jobs. These office workers normally go to hostess bars after very a long day and evening at work, in order to relax a little bit. Sometimes the customers are company owners, and other people with a little extra to spend on their entertainment. Hostesses are usually attractive young ladies, who are talkative and bright. Some hostess bars have non-Japanese girls who so this job as a part time. And some clubs exclusively only hire non-Japanese, as their customer base mainly consists of Japanese men who are interested in talking to foreign women.
Needless to say, no matter how difficult it is for a non-Japanese to understand this culture, no sex is involved in this type of entertainment
Host club are the equivalent of hostess clubs, but this time catering to female customers who go there to pay for the pleasure of having a friendly male company. Host clubs are usually located in bigger cities like Tokyo and Osaka. The district of Kabukicho in Tokyo is one of the main locations of Host Clubs. Male hosts usually are very handsome, have interesting personalities and are talkative.
Just like hostesses, hosts simply sit with their customers, pour their drinks and talk to them, and perhaps some flirting takes place during the night as well. A part of their job is definitely to be attractive, and to be able to get as many (regular) customers as possible.
These men really need to be able to drink a lot and perform all night for their customers’ entertainment. Although it may not sound like it to the outsiders, this is not an easy job at all. Hosts have to be witty, charming, and good at entertaining people. Every host club has a ranking system where each host is ranked by the income he was able to generate from selling drinks during the last month. The best hosts are usually the ones that earn the most. One of the hardest parts of this job is that these men have to drink every night into the wee hours no matter if they feel like it or not, and this is definitely harsh on their body and affects their daily life (to the point of having no life outside work).
I think that host and hostess clubs are so popular in Japan because many Japanese tend to work long hours, and they need some form of relaxation or at least someone to talk to who will not judge them, so they go to these places. Because of such long working hours many people don’t have time to find a life partner, so when they go home they feel lonely. A host or hostess can make you feel less lonely by not only keeping you company, but also listening to your every word with big interest, and will be generous on compliments.
Some companies’ managers will take their clients to a hostess bar to loosen up a bit, and make sure they are treated well, so the deal is easier to close.
Host clubs are surprisingly often visited by women who are hostesses themselves, or by women in the sex industry. They go to these places to drink with a host and talk about their problems. Hosts are trying to heal these women, offering them company and somebody who listens.
Another group of customers are those women whose husbands work crazy hours at their companies. They start feeling lonely after a while of being home alone evening after evening, and go to a host club to feel special and to get the attention they feel is lacking in their marriage.
Because hosts and hostesses are professionals and keep your secrets safe, it is a good alternative to therapists. One more thing to bear in mind is that hosts and hostesses have nothing to do with prostitution: although in rare cases some of them might be open to taking the ‘relationship’ a bit further for some extra yens, this is not the rule.
These clubs are usually not cheap to visit, and not everyone can afford going there regularly. Visiting a hostess bar can cost up to a few hundred dollars per night, but it is also not unheard of when some men spend up to $30,000 a night (if they want to drink expensive champagnes and share it with a group of hostesses).
For this reason the base salary of the workers in this industry is quite decent, starting at around $2,000 dollars a month and up. Hosts can earn much more than that, depending on how many customers they have and how much those customers spend. One bottle of champagne in a host club can go as high as 3 million yen ($30,000) for premium brands. Some hosts and hostesses even regularly get expensive gifts from their customers.
In conclusion, this job (like any other job) has both good and bad sides. The money is usually very good, and if you are an extravert you might enjoy doing this work for some time. The drawback is the toll it takes on your body, and also the harshness of their world, as sales is everything and if you don’t perform well, you’re out. You have to be able to deal with any kind of pressure well. For some people this job may be a “dream come true”, but for many others it would be quite a nightmare to work in the industry.
It is said that the modern hostess and host clubs have evolved from another deep cultural aspect known as “geisha”. It may be unheard of to pay people for pure conversations and company in the other countries, but to many Japanese it is a natural and sometimes even necessary type of leisure.