Japan for the Uninvited

Japanese culture from a bemused foreign perspective

Host bars

Host barsIn Japan’s host bars, suave young studs entertain women with some cash to spend. Considered a modern phenomenon, they actually echo a practice from the Edo era, when wealthy women would sometimes arrange secretive trysts with desirable men, often kabuki actors.

In most respects, they are hostess bars with the genders swapped. Like their female counterparts, the job of a host carries a slightly seedy air, and their chores are the same – looking good, flattery, flirtation, lighting cigarettes, laughing at jokes and topping up expensive drinks. An expensive bottle of wine might start at 100,000 yen, making it easy to spend hundreds of thousands of yen (a month’s salary for some of the customers) in a single night.

Like the hostesses, hosts might occasionally sleep with customers and receive expensive gifts (including cars and apartments) in return. Generally, both host and customer are realistic about the economic nature of their relationship, and genuine romance is rare. Nevertheless, hosts are occasionally recruited to act as surrogate boyfriends when their single clients want a piece of eye-candy on their arm at weddings or other social events.

Hosts with the most

The most successful hosts aren’t necessarily the best looking. The bars’ more discerning customers seem to value a twinkle in the eye and conversational dexterity as much as biceps and Colgate smiles. Good hosts are often the most pragmatic, remembering seemingly insignificant personal details of their numerous clients, and discreetly recording them just in case. Host’s who invest enough effort and flattery into a customer are rewarded by becoming a customer’s “shimeisha”, or designated host, giving him the exclusive right to entertain (and wring money out of) her. This system prevents infighting and unnecessary competition between the hosts, preserving the harmony of the club.

Hierarchy, as in most areas of Japanese society, is paramount. The “Number 1” hosts who bring in the most drinks commissions receive massive bonuses, and some bars post the ranking of their hosts on the street outside. A good host can make more in a month than most salarymen make in a year. On the other hand, greenhorns are usually forced to do the most demeaning jobs, like scrubbing the lavatories or going out into the street to get customers into the club.

Appeal

Host bars were on the fringe of Japan’s entertainment industry for a long time, catering mostly to desperate singletons and sugar mummies. Gradual shifts in gender politics have allowed them to enter the mainstream, catering to Japan’s new generation of confident, well-paid, savvy young women. In some cases, these women are young, single, and highly desirable, but lack the time or inclination for a serious relationship. While Japan’s women wait for the male domination of their society to erode, host clubs offer an escape from the passive roles many women are still forced into. Now, the industry is worth more than £300 million a year in Tokyo alone.

Late at night, host bars may also provide welcome rest and entertainment to hostesses and other girls who have finished their shift in nearby bars and brothels. Having spent hours pampering others, they are quite happy to pay for the same treatment. In many cases, these girls are, like the hosts themselves, financially comfortable but lonely – their lifestyle making it difficult to form relationships outside the sex industry.

Dangers and Problems

It’s not all glamour. For most hosts, a meagre basic wage is supplemented by a commission of up to 50% on drinks their customers buy (“uriage”). This is a brutal popularity contest, and less successful hosts are weeded out very quickly. As the uriage includes drinks bought for them, hosts are encouraged to drink as much as possible. Many hosts entertain multiple customers in an evening, forcing them to drink a massive amount every night. Not only does this force hosts into frequent trips to throw up in the bathroom, but many hosts are also worried about developing alcohol-related health problems, and might conceal or secretly dispose of drinks rather than imbibe them. Combined with the arduous work hours – many hosts only sleep a couple of hours a day, holidays and weekends are non-existent – these conditions lead to a high rate of staff turnover at most bars.

Celebrity and Public Attention

A few hosts are national celebrities – draped across magazine features, starring on prime time TV talk shows and publishing autobiographies. A host bar was even the setting for a popular TV drama – a pretty good barometer of mainstream acceptance. The industry pinup and “King of Hosts” is Reiji, who owns two successful host bars and has written a number of self-help books for wannabe hosts and pick-up artists. He even sells his unique insights into female psychology to corporate clients who want advice about the women that work for them.

Not all of the public attention has been positive. The newly-acquired glamour of host bars has attracted some desperate types. Police claim that increased competition has encouraged hosts to target vulnerable women, especially starstruck young girls, who are forced into prostitution when faced with massive bills they cannot pay.

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30 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Dan

    I am from Canada and have thought about entering the hosting industry by moving to Japan. Can westerners get hosting jobs? I do not speak any Japanese.

  2. Jack

    I don’t think it’s as easy for for foreign men as foreign women to get hosting jobs in Japan, but you never know…

    There’s a discussion about it at http://www.japan-guide.com/forum/quereadisplay.html?0+3411

    Let me know how you get on!

  3. Amber

    Ummm I was just wondering if anyone knew what the popular T.V drama involving a host club was, out of curiositiy… btw interesting article ^^.

  4. Emma

    There is a drama series called “Jotei” but that focuses on women hosting not male

  5. Minna

    Yea, I just watched Jotei and it was so touching. :´)

  6. Rae Vynn

    Does anyone know the names of the books that Takashi Totsuka aka Reiji wrote? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  7. I am a Comedian/Musician/Actor from Canada is there still work for Canadians as a Host? I Love to make people laugh. Cheers. Rusty

  8. Before you use a Tokyo escort it’s worth knowing that they are probably a prisoner of Mafia. http://endmafia.com

  9. Ophelia

    How much would a good host cost generally?
    I’ve got my eye on a guy named “Suzuka” from Club EDEN for when I’m heading off to live in Japan.

  10. Nauri

    Its all about how much you want to spend,most women spend about 1000 to 5000 Dollar.
    The Host is not so expensive the most expensive things are the drinks they make you to buy

  11. Google along with Yahoo are heavily involved with Mafia who use captive women. http://endmafia.com
    Tak my advice & stick with Microsoft, a lot of this open source & ‘free’ stuff is a vehicle for spyware.

  12. anon

    Most, and I mean a GIANT CHUNK, of the women who frequent host bars are prostitutes/sex workers or hostesses, themselves. Their occupation drains them, and they go to the host bars to pretend they have a normal relationship with an attentive boyfriend.

    It’s sad.

  13. kef

    The truth is a large proportion of dancers & hosts are trafficked women, see here:

    http://cid-19924f24f70fe288.spaces.live.com/

  14. Adrian

    Hi i am heading to Japan in May 2009 and seeking to work as a male host is there anyone who could give me an introduction to a club or bar where I could work?

  15. Bozu

    AMBER wrote: “Ummm I was just wondering if anyone knew what the popular T.V drama involving a host club was, out of curiosity”

    The show is titled “Yaoh” or Night King and showed in Japan in 2006.

    Official Site: http://www.tbs.co.jp/yaoh/

  16. Datedipak

    Hi,
    I am working in a company in Japan near Tokyo.
    Anny one can tell me how can I enter a host bar.
    Email me at dipak.date AT yahoo.com

  17. brian

    hello,.can anyone tell me / send me a list of sites ,..or better Tele# and address for the best 5-10 “”HOST”” bars/clubs in JAPAN ..
    i need to contact them and get info for my female clients ..
    thank u
    BRIAN
    090 1265 1588 if u can call me :)

  18. Info

    For more insight into this world, see the film “The Great Happiness Space” in English & English subtitles: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0493420/. It is available at Netflix.

  19. KH

    does anyone know if these bars cater to men as well?

  20. MM

    Hi,
    actually, I have read so many manga about Host, i want to say them good job cause its not easy to deal different kind of people with their personality which is hard to please. So i want to say good luck and keep the good work to all the Host and hostess out their.hhehehhhe.
    Ba-bye have a great time.

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