Friday, June 17, 2011

Host and hostess clubs culture in Japan

{Advert for a hostess club in Tokyo}

I've mentioned the host culture a few times on this blog, but never fully explained it. Hostess and host clubs are a very popular form of nightlife entertainment in Asia. Hostess clubs employ women who cater to men, primarily to make small talk, pour drinks, and light cigarettes. Men pay a cover charge to enter those establishments, and they are entertained by those women for a (steep) fee. Those clubs are commonly called "snack bars", and most cities and even small towns bear districts full of snack bars.

When I first moved to Marugame, my supervisor was giving me a walking tour of my neighbourhood, and he made sure to warn me to not enter any establishment dubbed "Snack" if I was hungry, because well, they do serve snacks amongst other things, but it might be quite expensive. Snack hostesses dress up in flashy, tacky prom dresses and wear wigs and usually stand outside trying to lure clients in.

The male version of hostesses clubs are host clubs, where young men sporting crazy, elaborate hairstyles, tight trousers and pointy shoes entice young women with lighthearted talk and magic tricks. Girls frequent host clubs to get attention from those boys, who usually act like boyfriends and even follow up during the week with emails and phone calls. I have not been to a host club yet, but I really want to go soon for research purposes. I think it's important to speak a decent level of Japanese to even go to one of those clubs, because most of them cannot converse in English.

Host and hostess culture is such an odd concept for me. I have always wondered why people would need to pay extravagant charges to get people from the opposite sex to talk to you and give you attention, but somehow it makes complete sense in Japanese culture, where men are usually intimidated by women, therefore act in a weak manner.

I think it's very interesting and fascinating, and host boys are some of the most endearing, warm, hilarious beings I have ever met. If you walk near Dotonbori Bridge at night, heaps of hosts are trying to get girls to visit their clubs, and they love engaging in random conversations. Here are some pictures of typical host boys:

{Which one do you pick? I'd go for Kenji}

{Bleached and pineapple hair galore}

{My new best friends, Dotonbori Bridge, Osaka}

Also, there is a great documentary about host boys, that is actually very sad. If you can find it, I highly recommend watching it. It's called The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief.

Host boys are usually very young, maybe between 18-20 years old, and work crazy long hours and often suffer from alcohol intoxication. My friend had a host boyfriend, she said it was an interesting experience, but I don't think it ended too well.

Tokyo Girls is a 2000 documentary in which four Canadian girls share their experience working as hostesses in Japan.

Thanks to Isabel for the pictures.


Brenna said...

It's great to have a first hand account about something I was very curious about. Would love to hear about your experiences if you end up going!

Brenna said...

It's great to have a first hand account about something I was very curious about. Would love to hear about your experiences if you end up going!

Snowfish said...

My town boasts the "largest concentration of hostess bars in Japan." Truly something to be proud of, ha ha ha. I've had some really, um, enlightening conversations about hostess clubs with my adult students...

Magdalena Viktoria said...

Really interesting-- I saw a documentary on this. It was kind of hard and sad to watch at times--and the money they spent was mind-blowing.

All you need to know said...

thanks for the documentary recommendations V :)

valerie said...

finally wrote about it lol...there is one close to my house lol..can take you there next weekend id you want to lol...:)jk jk

thevoyageofv said...

Haru. Definitely Haru. Seksi.

Michi said...

Wow, I had never heard of these host and hostess clubs. It is a very interesting concept, but it also makes sense on some odd psychological and biological level. Thanks for recommending the documentaries.

Christine loves to Travel said...

I saw the documentary and it was sad to watch.

mina said...

As I was reading this I was going to comment that you should watch The Great Happiness Space. It was really sad. I can't imagine visiting one of those places, I would feel so awkward. I'm looking forward to your visit though so that I can read about your experience. C'est strange. I'm going to see if I can hunt down the other documentary you've mentioned.

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