The life of a Japanese gigolo
February 23, 2005 10:10 PM   Subscribe

Shoui Hara can't stop drinking. It's part of his job. A job where charm is a necessity, good looks a qualification, and unabashed flattering is all in a night's work. Shoui Hara is a host, a male geisha working beneath the neon lights of Tokyo's Kabukicho, and in his line of work the men entertain the women in a way you might not expect. A look at the complex relationships of the sometimes very dangerous (NSFW) Japanese host clubs.
posted by dead_ (13 comments total)
What a bizarre world.

Interesting links.
posted by blacklite at 10:46 PM on February 23, 2005

I live in Tokyo (quite close to Kabukicho in fact), and an Aussie friend of mine was a hostess for several months. She complained of the same thing, that she was drinking way too much, every night. I suggested that she take small sips, pretend to be drinking but it doesn't work--the client notices if he/she is polishing the bottle off all by himself. She liked the work, though. She's very beautiful so could work in an upscale club, though a lot of foreign hostesses end up in really dire situations/sketchy clubs. The main tactic the clubs use is they'll give a job, but hold the girl's passport, effectively making her a slave. Lots of Eastern European and Russian girls are coming over for this kind of work.
posted by zardoz at 11:18 PM on February 23, 2005

Oh those wacky Japanese!
posted by donkeymon at 12:50 AM on February 24, 2005

“What I need to do is find more customers who are willing to spend a lot and to educate them to buy the most expensive wines.”

Great article.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 2:28 AM on February 24, 2005

Kabuki-cho is way dodgy. My friends and I were stupid and ignorant enough to go into one of those hostess bars, 30 minutes later and $200 we were out of there quicksnap when we realised that we had to buy the hostesses drinks that cost around $15 each. And we suspected that the shots they were given by the barman were just water too.
posted by Jase_B at 3:00 AM on February 24, 2005

The articles about male hosts seem odd though...They all talk about this "burgeoning industry", giving every impression that it's new, but host bars were already big when I came to Japan in '96, and I doubt they were new then either.
posted by Bugbread at 6:50 AM on February 24, 2005

who estimates his annual income is above US$360,000 (RM1.37mil)

Is the annual income for the women the same? If so, I think I may be in the mood for a career change.
posted by LunaticFringe at 6:58 AM on February 24, 2005

Thanks, dead_!
posted by shoepal at 7:00 AM on February 24, 2005

LunaticFringe: The annual income for hostesses really varies, but I get the impression that well paid ones get paid much more than hosts of the same level. However, there are a lot more of them, so the average across all incomes for hostesses may be lower than for hosts. Not really sure.

I do know that hostessing is one of the better paying legal jobs for unskilled females, and even some skilled females do hosting stints for the money.

Russian prostitutes, however, make much, much less.
posted by Bugbread at 7:06 AM on February 24, 2005

There were host bars when I was living there in '88. Not new. I had a number of friends who worked in hostess bars (and I briefly contemplated trying to get work in a host bar, when I saw a help-wanted ad for one). I doubt any of them came within an order of magnitude of this guy's income.

What's really weird is the transvestite hostess bars. And don't get me started on the way the writer of that article refers to hosts and hostesses as "geisha."
posted by adamrice at 7:33 AM on February 24, 2005

Something that has really been interesting to me lately is the idea of "temp hosting."

A few friends of mine in Tokyo said that every now and then they will head down to Kabukicho, find a host bar that will give them a suit and put them on the street. From what I understand, an hour or two of work can bring in $300 dollars. Though they aren't actually employed, they can just drop in and hit the streets if they want.

Unfortunately I can't find any information about this other than what I've been personally told... but it sure makes a nice part time job for some college students.

And as far as the author's use of the word geisha goes, it is slightly misplaced, though the parallels are obvious: geishas and hosts are both in the pleasure industry but don't (typically) have sex with their clients. This is something purely Japanese, I think.
posted by dead_ at 7:52 AM on February 24, 2005

From the Fifth link:

The woman began hostessing two years ago and now earns 60,000 yen to 70,000 yen in basic monthly salary

If that's true, that is only about $600.00 a month.

Still, I guess it is a lot like waitressing, the big money is in the tips.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:56 AM on February 24, 2005

This is something purely Japanese, I think.

From what I understand, China has the same deal, and I suspect a few other Asian countries too. Japan just seems to be the most prominent.

Still, I guess it is a lot like waitressing, the big money is in the tips.

Secret Life, keep in mind that many (not all) Russian hostesses are basically human chattel, and it wouldn't necessarily be surprising if the money isn't in the tips; that they just aren't getting much, period. I've heard that's how it was for Phillipina hostesses when they were big. Of course, the money could be in the tips. I just don't know enough to assume in either way.
posted by Bugbread at 8:08 AM on February 24, 2005

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