Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hosts

I have never talked about host clubs here, but YES NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT I know a thing or two about hosts. I have never been to a host club, but I've dated a former host and a working host and a few of my friends have been hosts. I actually don't know how I've known so many hosts, but I'm glad because that shit is interesting no matter how you look at it. Kabukicho is the famous place for host clubs in Tokyo. I just found this set on Flickr with photos of hosts in Kabukicho. I think they capture the atmosphere pretty well.

You can read the basics about hosts on Wikipedia or whatever. What I've gathered from talking to hosts is that it is an absolutely miserable job. They often work from 9PM to 11AM or later at the club. Many (not all) of the customers are hostesses who come in after work, which is why the host club hours are so late. New/lower-ranking hosts also spend hours on the street trying to pick up new customers. Hosts have to drink tons and tons of booze almost every night. Like, drink, puke secretly in the bathroom, come back with a grin and keep drinking levels of booze. Hosts make the most money off of the drinks girls order, so guzzling alcohol is required. I'm sure the job can be really fun sometimes, but in general it just sounds super rough.

Two of the most interesting things I've heard from hosts:

1. A new host is paired with a more experienced host during his first few weeks at the club. The mentor shows him the ropes and makes him do grunt work like fetching towels or whatever while they entertain girls. I guess the new guy gets very little money during this period. Basically any work he does entertaining pays off to his mentor, so things get bitter fast if the mentor doesn't treat him well in return.

2. One guy said that the worst part of being a host is sex. First of all, obviously, if you do it with the customer she has no reason to come back. But second, he said that when women offer tons of money (thousands of dollars) there are plenty of hosts who go for it, only to find that she doesn't want to use a condom. I find this interesting for a lot of reasons. Doesn't it sound like a weird host club urban legend? I mean how creepy. Is the implication that these women are out to get the guys with pregnancy or STDs?

When people ask what shocked me the most when I came to Japan I just think of hosts. I'll never forget walking through Osaka at night with the really young, hip woman I was homestaying with and being like, "Why are there so many pimps and why are they so fab?" She explained hosts and we spent the rest of the night going to the lobbies of host clubs and picking up pamphlets. I was so blown away by the concept. I should be way more jaded to it now but I never get sick of learning more about hosts. I'll probably go to a club eventually, although I'm not dying to.

See also:
Patrick Macias' review/summary of a magazine for hosts.
Green-Eyed Geisha's Project Host. This girl (one of my favorite Japan bloggers btw) visited several host clubs and wrote awesome recaps. This is the first.
The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief. AMAZING documentary following the owner of a successful Osaka host club.

13 comments:

Whitney Turner said...

we should have gone to one. i can't even imagine it. also, i still have a pamphlet of the hosts that you gave me when you came back a few summers ago :)

selena said...

Not to mention the expense of keeping up that hairstyle.

I'm surprised that most of their customers are hostesses. It makes sense, since they keep the same hours and work in the same area. But I wasn't under the impression that most hostesses had thousands of extra bucks to throw away on hosts, especially since they know the game so well. It seems like most hostess customers are business men who have cash to burn.

Is it hard dating that much hair? I spend so little time on mine that I might feel intimidated by such a high-maintenance coif.

The hair is hot, though. For some reason hair that would horrify me back home is totally acceptable here. Why is that?

Tokyo Moe said...

Japanese male vanity is hot! Let's go to the club together.

Beth said...

whitney - i'll keep my eyes open for a good one where you can have fun without speaking japanese, just in case. hahaha.

selena - rarely have i passed an hour with any kind of gyaruo without him gently and pointedly asking if i straighten/blowdry/set my own hair. YEAH JERK AND I LIKE IT! that is basically the least stressful thing about dating a host though.

i don't know how much hostesses have to throw around but i guess a lot of them do okay -- girls of the mizu shobai definitely make up a significant portion of customers. i guess basically they make up a significant portion of young women with money who want to party in japan, so. i had always assumed that host's customers are like wealthy girls and successful career women, but the hosts i know are always talking about the kyabajyo. the documentary i linked is actually pretty insistent about like, all or nearly all of the customers being hostesses and soapland girls. that kind of annoyed me when i watched it but i guess i can't really offer any statistics.

i think the hair is okay here because it's always part of a complete spectacular ensemble look. hair guys had their day back home with rock and roll and i kind of wouldn't mind it if they did again.

jared - ANYTIME! you should see the photo i snapped of my current host bf getting ready for work in mcdonald's. CLASSIC.

Jen B said...

I agree with selena about the hair. Will put the turbo on my Japanese conversation study, I want to go to a host club tooooooo ;_; (I don't know any cool words)

Julie said...

This will happen.

Beth said...

jen b - hosts usually have a lot of cool words to teach you so maybe you should save your turbo for the club.

julie - epic.

selena said...

(wonders what the more stressful things about dating a host are...)

Beth said...

selena - like, EVERYTHING? never knowing if they're for real or not. the masterpiece host scheme is to make you think you're a personal interest and have nothing to do with work, until you like him and are comfortable with him and are easier to hustle in any number of ways. more than any of the other sketchy/weird things i do, my japanese friends HATE it when i hang out with hosts. they always say:

1. you're going to end up at the club thinking it's your idea.
2. you're gonna find out he desperately needs money and help him out thinking it's your idea.
3. he's going to tell you not to come to the club so that you feel assured that you're special and buy him gifts thinking it's your idea (also see 2.)

every girl thinks they're too smart to fall for it, or too charming herself to lose the upper hand, or too emotionally removed to care. i don't even date guys for real, ever, but when i am with hosts i actually find myself getting kind of wound up.

hosts say things like "the worst part of being a host is that no one thinks i have real feelings. even if i'm in love, she'll never believe it when i tell her." that's a pretty sad story, right? and true. and they play it up.

i am seeing a really sleazy one right now (because he nanpa'd me and i will walk off with anyone if they are amusing). it's supposed to be a big comedy but i can't deny that i find myself getting kind of wigged out. even though if don't like a guy i still want to know what's going on, and with hosts you just kind of can't, but you keep trying to figure it out and it makes you crazy. you can just assume he's lying and roll with it for kicks, but there is always the nagging possibility that he's not lying, and the irresistible compulsion to figure it out is what gets people hooked. i would LOVE to meet a girl who is totally immune to that, because i thought i was an icebox but hosts are some magical shit.

(for example, i want to buy them things. for no reason. even if they don't hint at it. i have these powerful urges to buy them things. i don't buy anything for anyone. i hate gifts. but i just seriously want to buy them things. maybe because i love tacky gyaruo accoutrements so much, or maybe because hosts are some magical shit.)

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Beth you're having such an interesting experience, please write more! I would love to talk about the sex aspect of the business to a host, preferably one I am not paying to feed me lines.

I've also heard that a large portion of clientele is from hostess bars and fuzoku clubs, I guess if the work is so exhausting and shitty it could make you want to pay someone to do the same for you. What gets me though, is hearing about hostesses who fall for hosts when paying for their attention - you would think being in the business would make you immune to that. You must go once, if not just to see them in action and on the clock!

selena said...

Thanks for the novel! I am laughing and giving you mad props for walking off with a nampa-otoko. Hope the sex is hot.

Watch that gift-money thing - but it sounds like you're fully aware of the dangers! I think they must have magic powers like that, it's one of the main skills they have to hone, right?

I'm currently waging a much less dramatic battle, against domesticity and domestic wooing. I keep hearing and seeing that lots of girls do super housewifey crap to be nice to their man, such as cleaning the dude's place for him and cooking him stuff, in order to show their like (and their wife potential). This turns me off so much, that even though I like baking and home stuff TO AN EXTENT, I am fighting the image so much that I want to do none of it just to make a point! I feel like such a feminism throwback.

Beth said...

GEG -- I always feel like I should have more to share but then I'm not sure what to write...

I talked a little bit about sex and the girls at the club today. They really usually say the same thing. He said he slept with a couple of customers when he was just starting out but that it's a really stupid thing to do. He's the only one I've talked to who's ever done it (supposedly) and they all insist that only bad hosts do that because it won't make any money or get you anywhere. You can even get fired if you get caught.

It's amazing but most of them do seem genuinely frozen to real thoughts of romance or sex with their clients. This is just starting to become really apparent to me. I think everyone figures that since they're still men/human they're still vulnerable to sex and feelings, and of course not all hosts are alike. But they do all say that if a host wants to make money, he has to keep money on the mind. If he can't, he just won't make it.

They can meet girls to satisfy their personal needs outside of work, but it is not easy to land good patron in the club; so, when a girl likes him there, he has to do his best to keep her there. I can say from personal experience that when someone's paying for your company and you need the money, losses and gains are the terms you think in first no matter how much fun you're having.

It is amazing that girls fall for it even when they know the game, but it just shows how crazy and creepy the game can be. To enjoy a host club you have to suspend your disbelief, like so many other forms of entertainment. And once you do that you're making yourself a tiny bit vulnerable. If you have your feet solidly on the ground, I think that's part of the thrill, wouldn't you say? But I don't think any lonely person stands a chance.

Beth said...

selena - i can imagine that being confusing! the doting housewife image is so repulsive psychologically, but at the same time it seems common sense and fine enough to consider pleasing someone you like by doing nice things you don't mind doing. i always thought if i ever ended up in a domestic arrangement that would be kind of a tough one for me. i hope i'd just be myself and do as much as i felt like, so he'd get nice dinners and a clean house for a few weeks and then he'd come home to find me sulking in the corner surrounded by piles of clothes, notebooks and junk food wrappers like "THE TIDE'S OUT, DEAL WITH IT"