Hostessing an honorable profession, young women say

Once there was a time when women who worked as bar and night club hostesses—euphemistically referred to in the local vernacular as “Yoru no Cho” or “butterflies of the night”—carried the stigma of being “fallen” women.

Writing in the Sankei Shimbun (May 20), Akiko Shigematsu expresses her astonishment when she read social critic Atsushi Miura’s recently published book, “Nihon Yokai-ron” (The Theory of Japan’s Meltdown, President-sha, 1,500 yen). In a survey of females aged 15 to 22 on which professions they aspired to become, or would like to try working at, “hostess” was ranked 9th, outstripping civil servants and nursing.

Miura’s book referred to a survey conducted by a cultural studies institute, in which 20% of female high school students and 21% of university students expressed interest in taking up the profession (multiple replies were given). Among respondents already working at salaried jobs, the figure was 33%.

These high figures may reflect the popularity of “Jotei” (female emperor), TV Asahi’s TV drama about a hostess, with 32-year-old actress Ayaka Tachibana in the leading role, broadcast from 9 p.m. on Fridays.

As further evidence of the heightened appeal in dabbling in the water trade, Shigematsu also points out that “Ko-akuma Ageha,” a monthly magazine aimed at hostesses launched in 2006, achieved a claimed circulation of 350,000 copies. Half its readership is believed to be women who do not work in the entertainment industry, but who seek to emulate the make-up, mode of dress and hairstyles of such women.

By some estimates, 30% of professional models moonlight as cabaret hostesses.

“Those who are searching for cute girls have come up with that percentage, but it may reflect a microcosm of the present times,” remarks Hisako Nakajo, the magazine’s editor. “Women may take it up as a part-time job with potential for high earnings.”

Working at night affords a greater sense of realism and familiarity than most adults may realize, adds Nakajo, age 30, who herself has experience working in the water trade. “We run the names of the clubs in which the women we introduce in the magazine are employed.”

Many bookstores have set up special corners promoting a plethora of recent works by former hostesses. One series of 12, by an author who writes under the nom de plume of “Chocho-san” (butterfly), is said to have sold a total of over 1 million copies.

“A woman will be at a disadvantage unless she makes full use of her gifts and prerogatives,” Chocho-san tells the Sankei. “Many women tend to restrain their audacity and coquettishness; but when these are expressed naturally, romance and work both go better.

“Unlike the ‘Iron Females’ who enjoyed successes back in the 1980s, these days, more women tend to use their femininity as a weapon,” Chocho-san adds. “Women should try to become more open in applying their feminine nature—things will go better for them.”

  • 0

    rjd_jr

    I think hostessing can be a decent way to earn a living, as long as we're not talking about the kind that leads to certain encounters. You make lonely salarymen feel good about themselves, nod your head at their boring stories, and keep pouring the sake. You make good money and that's that, you can live your other lives outside of work. All in all not too shabby I think.

  • 0

    thepro

    I'd do it if I was a good looking chick

  • 0

    Ultradude

    Wife's college friend (rather scrumptious, I might add)did it during school at a Ginza club and earned oodles. Joined a publisher and quickly become one of the top salespeople nationwide. She learned excellent communication skills and can laugh at my oyaji gags and make me think I'm the only person alive...

  • 0

    capone

    mafia hitmen say the same thing about their profession

  • 0

    fingerless

    I'll never forget that guy looking all stressed out standing outside a shinjuku hostess club in his dog suit catching a quick smoke before going back in to be an obasan puppy again. Often reality doesn't turn out quite as glamorous as it's made out to be.

  • 0

    Betting

    I won't complain about hostessing either. Like many other professions it certainly has its pitfalls though, so it would take a special kind of person to do it. If I were a girl I might give it a go myself.

  • 0

    usaexpat

    Sure why not, it's good money and as long as there are no "extras" required it's pretty much like being a bar tender.

  • 0

    Soochi

    “Women should try to become more open in applying their feminine nature—things will go better for them.”

    I wonder if such sage advice for woman-kind continues into their 30s when the late nights, booze and fags have taken their toll and the punters suddenly seem more interested in the younger competition. I guess thats when they sit down to write a best-seller about how honourable their industry is.

    Hostessing is a great way to earn some dosh for lasses in their twenties and more power to them, but leave off with the self delusional claptrap about female empowerment. The drunk punter telling the bad jokes and buying the booze ain't there for your "audacity and coquettishness" no matter how hard you kid yourself. Now pour me another Johnnie Walker, light my fag and hitch that skirt up a smidgen higher there's a good girl and I'll make sure you get a good tip at the end of the night.

  • 0

    Sarge

    "Many bookstores have set up special corners promoting a plethora of recent works by former hostesses."

    Hostesses-turned-authors! And a plethora of their recent works! Just like there's a plethora of bars and clubs!

  • 0

    KitsuneYoukai

    Soochi...looks like your right up there with the men hater women I know at work but in this case it's the women hater role. Your words are very vulgar and strongly written to say the least. I agree that the writer over glammorized her experience and many of the other writers probably did to or is that perhaps they had good experiences of which is probabaly not he norm.

    I saw an AZN special last year on Tokyo Girls and it was about western women who come to Japan during their break form college to earn money hostessing. The places they worked at were geared towards men wanting the company of women who speak english. They did say that men do get drunk and try to entice them to sleep with them but they said you have to learn how to tell them kindly that you are not a prostitute. The one thing I didn't like was that some of these places require you to give follow up calls to these customers to get them to come back. So there are other things you are required to do non of which sound like my cup of tea job.

  • 0

    Neo_Rio

    It's honorable only because there are men dumb enough to pay to spend time with a woman - as if the man's time has no value in and of itself. Then again we're talking about salary men who have been trained to devalue their work and time to in order to make corporate profits - so the shoe fits.

  • 0

    dany505

    what ever a profession is a profession it's better than eating food out of the trash, but bar girls are a dime a dozen.

  • 0

    romulus3

    a client took me out to a hostess club in Osaka. The atmosphere was great. So relaxing. A different world to the rest of Japan. Its like people left the stress off at the door so I agree that it does serve a good purpose. They just pour your drink and talk with you, make you laugh and relax. It was a great evening however I do see a danger where some men may become addicted to it and an unscrupulous girl or management team could milk the guy dry. However, It would appear, at least in that club, that such idiot men are the exception rather than the rule.

  • 0

    Sarge

    "there are men dumb enough to pay to spend time with a woman"

    Hey, there are women who are dumb enough to pay to spend time with men - well, OK, toy boys!

  • 0

    tkoind2

    I have mixed feelings about hostesses. I've met women in Japan who hostess to raise money for school or living abroad and who keep very grounded about what they are doing. They move on to better things later having made extra money and with little damage to who they are. This works for them and seems fine.

    On the other hand I've met women who became spoiled beyond the ability to have normal relationships with men. A combination of excessive expectations from anyone they date about gifts, being "paid for" and generally disfunctional behavior. They end up holding higher value for material love (money, glamorous lifestyle) over emotional attributes (love, stability and partnership) in their relationships with men. For a couple aquaintances this seems to have left them lonely and disillusioned and unable to find happiness once they leave the profession. Not very positive.

    The fact that I've never been to a hostess bar and yet know several from normal music, art and work social circles is an indication of just how common a job hostessing has become. Seems a bit sad that women would rate this so high when there are so many smart women with so much potential to do much more with their careers.

  • 0

    Nessie

    A profession is only as honorable as its professionals.

  • 0

    Soochi

    Soochi...looks like your right up there with the men hater women I know at work but in this case it's the women hater role.

    OK, I'll bite.

    Explain to me the misogyny in criticising Chocho-san's foolish notion that elevates the role of a hostess - lighting fags, pouring booze and massaging inflated egos for cash - to some kind of aspirational profession worthy of society's respect and for schoolage kids' to emulate. Sorry Kitsune but I ain't buying that kind of vulgarity for a second.

    She can delude herself that hostessing is an audacious natural expression of femininity (whatever that even means!) to be somehow celebrated rather than repressed as much as she wants. The bottom line is it pays fantastically well and suits certain girls who want to make a lot of cash in a short space of time in a relatively easy manner. And good luck to them, if a student can earn her tuition fees for uni or save up enough to put down a deposit on an apartment by doing this gig for a few years then great!

    But any girl entering Mizu-shobai for reasons other than earning cold hard cash needs either therapy or some serious moral guidance. It is underground for a reason and its employees, and patrons, tend to prefer it that way.

    I am just sick of the increasing trend by the media to bring certain aspects of the Sex Industry into mainstream culture. Maybe it's since I became a father, maybe since I turned 30, who knows? What I do know however is that Japanese society needs hostesses giving career advice to its youth right now like it needs a hole in the bleedin' head.

  • 0

    buddha4brains

    In pushing the notion that hostessing is an honorable profession Chocho-san and her ilk are lowering the ceiling of expectations. Easy work for big financial rewards? Sounds like a Ponzi scheme to me. Meanwhile young women lower their expectations about what they can achieve as does society in general - a step back toward the notion that women in the office are merely "wall flowers".

    I can understand how, as one poster said, it can be a world-away experience and a respite from the stress of everyday living. But a profession that should rank on the top 10? There are other ways to make money - though it may require some hard work.

  • 0

    illsayit

    Sounds to me like the professionals are trying to get some class back into their work, because of all the crap that is in abundance. In other words their economics are not making turnovers, because the pros know you have to sacrifice all, the crap, dont know where the sacrifice line is drawn.

  • 0

    thebottomline

    "Show me the money"

  • 0

    Stallion

    In pushing the notion that hostessing is an honorable profession Chocho-san and her ilk are lowering the ceiling of expectations. Easy work for big financial rewards? Sounds like a Ponzi scheme to me. Meanwhile young women lower their expectations about what they can achieve as does society in general - a step back toward the notion that women in the office are merely "wall flowers".

    I can understand how, as one poster said, it can be a world-away experience and a respite from the stress of everyday living. But a profession that should rank on the top 10? There are other ways to make money - though it may require some hard work.

  • 0

    KaptainKichigai

    Oh for Goodness sake. If I am going to pay 50 bucks, 25 pounds, 5000 yen for an hour, she better be dancing on a pole naked. We have hostess clubs in the States...they are called strip joints. lap dances are 20 bucks a pop.

  • 0

    Fair dinkum!

    Yep, been to one 'gent's club', got ripped off, watered down drinks, ugly hostesses rotated every ten minutes, totally disappointed! Honor? The only reason honor would come into this topic is because most of the girls keep their honor by not going to bed with (all) the punters, although, their dignity must take a serious beating!

  • 0

    cwhite

    since there is no quality control for hostess clubs in Japan you have a better chance of running into a disappointing club rather than one you would want to go back time and time again. The later being the expensive one.

    Anyway, 20-30% thinking about it means squat. Think about it all you want like all those tv announcer wannabes... reality is they already have too many hostess clubs and they can only take customers from each other. Times change and different types of hostessing will emerge to comfort the new age kids. I believe there are a few where you can go as a couple...

  • 0

    Spanishwoman

    There are so many exciting professions that give you money while not letting your brain oxidize... And you can do them even if you are old or ugly or fat... What about being a doctor, lawyer, architect, scientist, an engineer, anything that requires some intellectual effort...? Unless you have an empty brain... I know many people unfortunately don't have a chance to study, but I am reading here that university students dream of a hostess job...

  • 0

    Alphaape

    I have only been to a few "gaijin friendly" places, but have met many of the women after work. Some of the ones that think that there's no tomorrow usually find themselves let down when they hit 30, and the newer girls get younger and younger. By that time, if they have not saved any of their money, they will begin to get desperate. I hate to over generalize, but I have met a few sailors here in Yokosuka who have married a few of the older ones, after their hostess time is over and of those guys, they have had huge problems with the wife adjusting to married life, or in one case, where the guy was much younger than his wife and he basically "woke up" to the world around him and saw he could do better, but she did not want to get divorced and put out in the cold.

    While I have had this discussion with many Japanese women who claim that most American men cheat on their wives, I all ways come back with this argment. Say I am a salary-man, and after a long tedious day at work, I stop off and drink with my favorite hostess from 7pm-11pm. Stumble home from Tokyo to Yokosuka and get home b midnight. Go to bed, and get up the next morning and go to work and do it all over again. To me, the hours from 7pm-11pm are when the relationship develops. What I mean is that during this "prime time" that I am off work, I am off in a bar, sitting with another woman, paying her money and drinking and talking with her about life's problems. I thought that was what a wife was for, sharing my thoughts with her, and not some strange woman whose only concern is that my credit card clears or hope that another one of her favorite customers doesn't come in and get jealous. The women I have had this discussion with did not think about it in that manner. True, it is still bad to go and sleep around, but in most cases, a man would go, do his "business" and come home. So maybe I am missing the point on the whole hostess thing.

    If the ladies want to do it, then go ahead. All I can say to them is think ahead and have a plan. They are still making babies in Japan, and there will all ways be a new 20 yr old coming to the bar to work one day.

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