My 'date' with a male host in Tokyo
In Japan, the word “host” refers to young men working at nightclubs that cater exclusively to women. You will find them randomly speaking to strangers passing by on the street once you step out of many stations, but they are most prominent in Shinjuku.
Chances are you'll get caught off guard by their attempt to lure you as a customer if you’re a girl. Or they may be interested in recruiting you as a potential colleague if you’re a guy with suave looks. Either way, once you show any sign of willingness to converse with them, they will talk you into anything.
Behind the facade
Remember, nothing improves your conversational skills better than serving as a host, especially when the target is a girl.
Unfortunately, however, their peculiar appearances often scare the girls off, and encourage a mocking contempt for them in others. So what are they really like?
I went to one of the “host clubs” in Kabuki-cho named Luxis. Hotaru, working there, was kind enough to let me interview him about his life as a host.
First of all, some general information. As a customer, you pick your host from a list of candidates with photos. If you think they all look identical, let their unique hairstyles clue you in to their identities.
After you have chosen, your host will keep you happy the entire time with his amusing anecdotes and non-stop shots of alcohol.
Drinking to excess
The obligatory drinking on the job often turns into a source of distress for the hosts. Asked what the biggest challenge is in working as a host, Hotaru immediately points out “a large consumption of alcohol.” So if you want to pursue a long-term career in this profession, it's probably best if you're not a one-pint wonder.
But “being able to meet many people is a great gift,” he says.
Soushokukei-danshi (herbivorous boys) is an increasingly popular term in Japan to refer to guys that could be accused of lacking virility, especially when it comes to pursuing the fairer sex.
They often shy away before even trying. It is also used sarcastically to describe Japanese guys who display an excessive concern with their appearance.
Hosts are often lumped in with these soushokukei guys, as they tend to overdress.
However, hosts make a strenuous effort to survive their extremely competitive industry, each of them in a struggle to differentiate himself from the others. Hence those unconventional coiffures.
They also need the physical endurance required to do clean-up duties, and to overcome sleep deprivation that occurs almost every day due to tight schedules.
But the good news is they all really do love women.
“You have to like girls as a host,” says Hotaru. He also has a message for soushokukei boys: “They should be more confident in themselves, like us.”
How far do things go?
Some of you may wonder how far relationships go between hosts and customers. Well, it depends. But be aware that hosts "chase" you even after you have stepped out of the club. Hosts often ask you for your personal contact information, even if it’s your first visit, so they can call or text you later. But don’t be scared. This is part of their job.
As Hotaru says, “We just want to live up to our customers’ expectations." Things don’t usually turn sexual. If they do, that’s something that happens beyond hosts’ professional lives.
However, there have been cases where ladies got so obsessed with hosts’ professional gallantry that they started wanting "more." Finding it far from satisfying to stay just as mere customers, these ladies send their hosts expensive gifts, all in hopes of becoming their real girlfriends eventually. This is a rare scenario, but it does happen.
In any case, hosts’ dedication in flirting with women is solely motivated by their pure kindness to help them escape from their tedious realities and let them have some special fun. It’s like a gift in return to the large contribution these women have given to their store sales.
If you’re a female foreigner who lives in Japan and is tired of soushokukei guys, spending time with hosts will let you re-consider your perception of Japanese men being passive and shy.
My advice for those who are skeptical? Just drop by Kabuki-cho and check them out.
Luxis: 1-12-6 Kabuki-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo; open 6 p.m.-1 a.m. Tel. +81 (0) 3 3202 1140. Cost ¥2,000 for a first visit, two-hours, all-you-can-drink.
Tomohiro submitted this piece as part of CNNGo’s CityPulse section. To find out what other stories we are looking for, go to our CityPulse page.