Streetwalker. Gentleman of the night. Gigolo. Hustler. Escort. They have many names, and if you’ve ever been to a crowded Japanese city at night, you’ve probably seen them. Prowling the street corners, smiling at you, complimenting you, inviting you in for a drink. They look like skeezy band members, or perhaps rejected Final Fantasy protagonists. But no matter what you call them, they have only one thing on their mind. Your money. They are the host club men of Japan and they’re here to entertain. For a price.
On the Streets
Hundreds of days ago, Nick W. wrote a post about every variety of maid cafe and host club ever, but only touched briefly on the deep and interesting world of male hosts in Japan. These host clubs are bars and nightclubs that provide male companionship and entertainment to women and men alike in exchange for money. If you’re into that sort of thing.
Just like with any regular bar, you’ll have promoters out on the street trying to entice you in with promises of discount drink specials and compliments. Only this time the promoters look like they’re trying out for the live action adaptation of your favorite anime.
Hosts have a very distinct look and they’ll be sure to grab your attention with their overly processed and styled hair combined with their extravagant outfits. Styles vary by host club, but this style by far seems to be the most prevalent (and hilarious).
What They Do
Once they’ve managed to entice you inside, the hosts begin their dance of seduction. Most host clubs will charge a cover as well as an hourly fee, and the hosts get paid based on the bar tabs they manage to get their guests to generate. Depending on the club, this tab can add up fast.
Good hosts are personable, friendly, and far from stingy with the compliments. They flirt with their guests, tell interesting and funny stories, listen and pretend to be deeply interested in whatever their patrons have to say, and make them feel like the most important person in the world. Good hosts know what it takes to make it in this world and the best of the best can make a healthy amount of money.
So basically, the customers pay the host to treat them like royalty. They drink together, talk together, and laugh together. It’s just like any other bar or nightclub, except you’re paying for all the attention you’re getting and you get to pick out who gives it to you.
The customers at host clubs range from everyday girls to wives and daughters of rich men to even other hosts and hostesses. These host clubs usually open sometime the evening and some keep running all the way through early afternoon.
It’s a Host Eat Host World Out There
Surviving as a host, however, is more vicious than you might think. While the very talented can make bank at these establishments, most hosts are not so successful and are forced to drop out of the game relatively fast. As I said before, the hosts are paid based on the tabs their customers generate which is why so many go out on the street to try and lure in customers.
The worst part is how competitive these places can be. Each month the hosts are ranked by how much money they’re bringing in and how popular they are. And then these results are displayed outside the establishment on gigantic signs for everyone to see.
This is great if you’re near the top, but if you’re having a hard time getting customers, being ranked eighth out of eight isn’t going to do you any favors. People come to get the best of the best, and if you’re the worst of the worst and everyone knows it, it’s pretty hard to claw your way back up.
Host clubs are very popular. You can find them all over Japan and there are hundreds in Tokyo alone. There are ones geared for girls who like guys, ones for guys who like guys, and even ones for girls who like guys dressed up as girls. They have it all. Just see for yourself.
This is another great video from Chris Gen. He does a great job of showing off the ladies’ red light district and gives us a good idea of what it’s like there. He even gets to talk to a few hosts and ask them a couple of questions.
Entertainment districts and host/hostess clubs have been around in Japan since the days of the geisha. Judging from how popular they still are and the great amount of variety they offer, I don’t see them going away anytime soon. Hosts are here to stay.
These lovable lugs have become so popular that they even made a documentary about them entitled The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief. You can check it out both on YouTube and Netflix Instant! Wow!
Note from Hashi: When John showed me this post to edit, I told him that he should mention The Great Happiness Space, a documentary about host clubs which talks about the darker side of the business. I failed to tell him what was in the documentary, and that the host club business isn’t always fun and games. It’s my fault that the serious issues about host clubs weren’t talked about in this post, but if you want to learn about those, The Great Happiness Space does a fantastic job of looking at them.