This is a guest blog submitted by KasumiCelesta.
Some of you who have read my comments on various blogs might know that I'm currently living in Japan as an exchange student. For one of my classes, each student had to choose an aspect of Japanese society on which to do fieldwork and research. I chose to research host clubs.
A lot of you are probably wondering what a host club is. Basically, it is a place where women can pay for a male company. These Japanese hosts are often good-looking and dressed up in expensive-looking suits. Some of them have hairstyles similar to that of a rock star or a celebrity. In a host club, women buy (very expensive) drinks and are accompanied by these handsome men who cater to their needs and desires, listen to their conversations and even flirt with them. To an extreme, it can reach the point where a host ends up having sex with one of his customers, usually if she is a regular or high-paying customer; these cases aren't too common, but they do happen. (Sex is not an official part of the host's job, and it is his decision whether to do so if he feels it is necessary to keep his customers.) Hosts also have more than one customer, so it's not like a woman will get all of his attention 100% of the time, but when they are together, she is always the focus. For the guys, there are also hostess clubs in Japan. They basically function the same way, but with female hosts catering to male customers.
I know most of you are thinking, "that's horrible," or, "why would anyone pay all that money for champagne and fake love?" There's a lot to host clubs and the women that go to host clubs, which would take a long time to explain. It also has a lot to do with Japanese society and the issues with gender roles and relationships (especially marriages). You can read about some of it on the Wiki page
or message me if you have any other questions, I'd be happy to answer them.
Anyway, as part of my fieldwork I went to a host club in Kabukicho with a female friend who already had prior experience in this area. I walked in, fully aware of how the game works. I always felt confused by girls who would become addicted to host clubs, knowing that they would never or could never date a host, or even know if what he's saying is the truth (it's not always full of blatant lies, believe it or not). A first-time visitor will meet a number of hosts during a one- or two-hour session, and at the end she will choose one of them to be "her" host. The chosen host gets 50% of all sales when that customer returns to the club.
After a two hour night of talking to several hosts, I felt like I couldn't wait to leave.
I'm not exactly fluent when it comes to speaking Japanese and I was really nervous...until I met my final host for the night. He was the only host that I felt fully comfortable with. He was very outgoing and friendly (as hosts should be - looks aren't everything) but what made me choose him was when we found out that we shared a common favorite video game (yeah I'm a dork :P) and how interested he was when I told him that I played bass guitar (he said he wanted me to teach him one day, which is unlikely, but oh well). At the end of the night, he became my designated host. From there, we have been e-mailing each other by cell phone, just making friendly conversation. Of course this "mail business" is how he keeps contact with any of his customers, so it's nothing really special. I found out that he had only been working as a host for ten days and that I was his first designated customer, which made me feel a bit happy (okay, I was squealing in joy for "popping his hosting cherry," as one of my friends put it). But I'm cheering him on to get more customers...because he's not going to get much from me, heh.
I don't intend on going to see him that often at all, because it's very expensive and I don't want to get too personally involved with something that is supposed to be research. But, despite knowing how this game works, I still feel a special bond with my host. I look forward to his e-mails all the time, and it doesn't hurt that he's very good-looking
In the end, it's purely a host-customer relationship. Nothing will come out of it (unless he genuinely likes me or I pay a lot of money, neither of which is likely) and I'm okay with that. Just being able to talk to someone, even if it's in Japanese and by e-mail, makes me feel somewhat comforted. I'm making sure that I go to see him just once more before I return to the United States - not for my own pleasure, but because I honestly think he's a nice person.
So, how do you feel about host clubs based on what I've told you? Would you ever go to a host/hostess club? Do you think that all host-customer relationships - whether they are romantic or just friendly - are "fake"?