Hostess High Jinks

Being reduced to paying for someone to talk to you is considered suicidally depressing in the West, but in Japan it’s a national past-time. Inebriated salarymen with low self-esteem regularly flock to “hostess bars” to enjoy the company of scantily-clad young ladies, who pour their drinks, light their smokes and laugh at their jokes. You can spot these ladies on the streets of Tokyo, trying to charm men into their clubs with their sparkling personalities.

Female customers are getting into it too, with “host bars” increasing in popularity, and girls spending pots of money to spend time with ingratiating men with bleached-blonde hair and open-necked shirts, who resemble George Michael, circa 1983. Being a host sounds like a dream-job, but it’s not quite the cushy gig you might think. Apparently, the clientelle of host clubs largely consists of malevolent off-duty hostesses, who derive sadistic pleasure from treating hosts like shit, as a way to let off steam after work. Ha ha!

All of this would hold little interest for me were it not for the knowledge that these establishments tend to refuse admittance to gaijin, for fear that foreign customers would be disappointed to discover their hosts and hostesses can’t speak English. After learning this, my curiosity was aroused. I suddenly wanted to hit a hostess bar but, as anticipated, I was repeatedly turned away by inscrutable, stony-faced bouncers.

So, when a friend and I were strolling into town one night, we were surprised when two young hostesses dressed in revealing, customized military uniforms approached us and invited us to enter their club, the oddly named “Army’s Bar.”
“What the hell, let’s do it. Might be a funny experience,” we decided, and followed the girls into the basement bar. They waited until we were seated before telling us the deal- 1000 yen for every fifteen minutes, but drinks were free. That’s $10 for a few minutes of mere conversation, so it was was with trepidation that we signed up.
We resolved to take advantage of the cheap booze, and hastily ordered a round of tequila shots.

My friend and I each had a hostess to entertain us. Mine had a phony smile and cold, bored eyes, and asked me a sequence of predictable questions, such as “where are you from?” “what do you do for a living?” and “how long have you been in Japan?” ie: all the questions I get asked on a daily basis and am sick of hearing. I really didn’t want to pay for that, so I steered the conversation in a different direction, asking the girl if she enjoyed this line of work and how she felt about the regular customers. She seemed taken-aback but amused by this line of questioning, evidently not a common topic in Army’s Bar.
I pity the poor fellows who are so hopelessly insecure and starved of attention that they have to resort to this.
I noticed my friend looking over impatiently, having even less fun than me. There was only one thing for it: “Barman! More tequila! And keep ’em coming!”

We stumbled out of the club moments before our fifteen minutes ran out, with my curiosity sated and seven or eight tequila shots down the hatch.

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12 Responses to Hostess High Jinks

  1. […] Being reduced to paying for someone to talk to you is considered suicidally depressing in the West, but in Japan it’s a national past-time. […]

  2. nagaijin says:

    That’s hilarious. Yes, it really is like that, isn’t it. I do have some sympathy for the hostesses, though, being an English teacher and all. In these parts, it’s a not-unrelated line of work.
    Cheers!

  3. roaf says:

    Ha! Yeah, I teach English too, and I was thinking the exact same thing.

  4. simaldeff says:

    I don’t teach english and I was thinking of making a living as an hostonce I go to Japan. Anyway 15min = 7€ = 9$ = 1000yen …. mhhhhh sounds like mini highspeed nomihodai to me.
    Need to get mashed ? go to hostesses bar “Army Bar”. taking note to self.

  5. roaf says:

    I think there are a million bars with the same deal. But most people stay for three or four hours and spend a fortune. 15 minutes was like speed-dating!

  6. simaldeff says:

    1 hour is like 4000 en … which is 28-30€ 35$ right?
    if you drink fast it could be worth it. LOL

  7. nick says:

    it was that hard to get in????? When i went to a hostess bar i was 16 and a foreigner with limited japanese!! I was with 2 japanese guys and they paid for me, free rum also. I remember the girl filling my glass up and asking me when to say stop…. i didnt. The conversation we were having there was about cherry boys and big nipples, amoung other stuff, seems somewhat more interesting than how yours started

  8. Coklores says:

    Haha,this happened to me yesterday evening too 🙂 I was together with kind of customers. One of them told me: “since you lost your luggage (don’t ask, ask Britisch Airways…), I wan’t to make you feel good tonight”. First we went to a Belgian Bar (I’m Belgian, you know), untill everybody was drunk. Then, we went to eat *…* (don’t remember the name, it was all kinds of fried meat on a stick, apparently a speciality in Osaka), and then i suddenly ended up in such a bar. Actually I kind of liked it, I have to say 🙂 I was there with three older Japanese men and myself (26 yo) and some very nice looking Japanese girls. I have to say: the girl who was sitting with me was very nice, smart, funny,… and all a men could wish for. Of course, i was the only of us four who could know that: the others where having dirty conversations, i was the only one just having a normal conversation. The girls were continuously filling our glasses with very cheap whiskey… I have to say it was a very fun experience, but was glad i was out of there after two hours. It seemed to me that my companion (the Japanese guys) were thinking this was real, while i was the only one just realising these girls where professinals in what they do :-p But anyway, besides that: “Blenda” was a nice and goodlooking girl i had nice conversations with. Too bad it was all fake…

  9. roaf says:

    Yeah, it’s all very fake in these places, and a lot of people don’t realize it. Thanks for the story!

  10. paul halman says:

    ever think that THAT is the way they want it? the boss at my last job use to say “at the cabaret women know their place. they pour your drink when you`re thirsty and they laugh at your jokes. that`s the way women should be”. and various other nonesensical things. at first i thought he was joking, but after working with him for 8 months and hearing his weekly stories, he is sadly for real.
    we think it`s a laugh for a night. allot of japanese men consider it their dream life. tits, beer and a smile, women have little else to offer.

  11. roaf says:

    Yeah, sadly, a lot of the older Japanese men seem to have that view. And then they wonder why “their women” run off with Westerners.

  12. pindar says:

    you now play the xbox hostess game! for real! it’s called dream club, i like the blue haired hostess Reika
    http://japansugoi.com/wordpress/dream-club-japanese-hostess-bar-xbox-game-coming-this-summer/

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