Japanese Hostess Clubs - Article from NY Times

Discussion in 'NJ/NY/CT Massage / Spa' started by foder, Mar 3, 2003.

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  1. foder



    Guess I broke Rule #1, thou shalt search!

    Thanks, will do

    Actually, just went back to your thread - turns out I did remember reading it, just forgot about it... Anyway, a UGer was asking about JMPs and I figured this was probably the closest he'd get...

    Thanks again for the heads up..
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2003
  2. daengman



    do a search.
    I started a thread on that article right after it appearded last summer.
  3. foder


    Part 4

    Relaxation Without Shop Talk

    Like most clubs, Club Gold is a dusky, timeless vault, its walls closer to saffron than gold. For those who keep track, closing time is 1:30 a.m. Noriko spent many nights at the club, restless and impatient for her guests to leave, eager to switch from her clingy dress to jeans and a sweater. But it's the manager's job, not the hostess's, to hint that the night has come to an end.

    "I always told my hostesses that customers work hard for their companies," said Mr. Suganuma, the former club owner. "They need to be treated right, sent back to their companies refreshed. Whatever they say is right."

    Men visit the clubs as a release from stress. Even among groups of co-workers, talk of the office or of serious issues rarely surfaces. "Usually the hostesses are very young, new in New York," said Y. N., a frequent club customer who asked to be identified only by his initials. "I'm more experienced. I give them advice, and they like it."

    In New York and Japan, a hostess takes her conversational cues from her customer. If he wants to talk, she will listen with puppyish attention or laugh when he cracks a joke. A good hostess can also engage the most awkward man in banter. Most clubs offer karaoke, so singing can help move the night along. Food is never a diversion. Clubs offer snacks like cheese, fruit and crackers, but no meals.

    Some men go to the clubs just to socialize with co-workers and enjoy a few hours in the company of attractive young women. Y. N. puts himself in this category. Married with two young children, he said he liked talking with the young women at any number of East Side clubs. But he restricts his visits to work-related socializing, paid for by his employer. He said his wife knows that he goes to the clubs. "What's the big deal?" he asked.

    Others nurture hopes of having a relationship with a hostess. With these men, especially, a hostess must negotiate a narrow bridge in offering the illusion of sexual availability without suggesting the possibility of actual sex. Most of the customers are married. Most of the hostesses are single.

    'They Want a Girlfriend'

    "Even if they're married, they want a girlfriend," said Kanako, a former hostess at Club Gold. Kanako, 22, looks like an Asian kewpie doll, with big eyes and a round face framed by bright red hair. Petite and hip, she was able to wrap herself in the latest designer fashions by treating her clients like so many open wallets.

    As is customary in Japan's service sector, men don't tip the hostesses, but some men give them gifts on special occasions, like birthdays or holidays. For Kanako, accepting gifts was part of maximizing her earnings.
    One married customer took Kanako out to buy a Chanel bag and to dinner at a nice restaurant. Then he told her that he had made a hotel reservation for the two of them.

    "His wife was due to deliver their baby in a week," she said. "Can you believe this guy, going on dates with girls while his wife is pregnant and has to stay home? I got mad, and asked him, `Is that why you bought me these things, because you want to sleep with me?' He said, `No, that wasn't the case,' and apologized. I got in a taxi and went home to Queens."

    This spring, Kanako stopped working as a hostess. She had begun seeing a young Japanese man who said he would leave her if she didn't quit. "I preferred being poor with him to being rich without him," she said.

    Hostesses who live in Manhattan find it harder to dodge customers' advances. The more aggressive men find out where they live and then drop by their apartments on the pretext of walking a dog or doing an errand. Some even note whether a hostess appears to be home. If her light is on but she doesn't pick up the phone, he will confront her the next time he comes to the club.

    Ms. Karasawa, however, never entertains after-hours invitations. More experienced than the younger hostesses, she simply tells her customers that she does not want to see them outside the club.

    Still, she understands the paradox of being a hostess in New York: it's her job to soothe away the tensions of life in a foreign land for men whose safety net is much wider than her own.

    But, she said, "When it comes right down to it, we've got to look out for ourselves."
  4. foder


    Part 3

    The Hostesses' Shadow World

    Each hostess's approach to negotiating this shadow world, and integrating it into her life, is different.

    Ms. Karasawa is unusual among New York's Japanese hostesses because she doesn't hide her job from her friends and family. She said she was not ashamed to be a hostess. She decided she needed the flexibility of the clubs, because she can take the night off when she has an English-language class or another conflict. She said her parents know about her job, and offer moral support.

    But Ms. Karasawa receives financial help from no one. She squeezes her tuition and other expenses from the $1,500 to $1,800 she takes home each month from Club Kira. Ms. Karasawa has to manage her money carefully. She buys her cocktail dresses on the outskirts of the garment district for $20 each.
    Though money is tight, Ms. Karasawa does not let her job take up more time than necessary. She already works five hours a night, five nights a week, at $15 to $18 an hour. Most clubs pay hostesses a $15 to $20 bonus if they bring a customer in with them by 9:30 p.m. A hostess will typically call her customer at work or ****** him to arrange a dinner date, and then accompany him to the club.

    But Ms. Karasawa refuses to do that. "Customers are customers, not friends. I would have a better meal at McDonald's with a friend than an expensive meal with a client."

    Ms. Karasawa said she often struggled with her customers' notions that hostesses are young women who spend all their money on recreation and neglect their studies. What bothers her more than sexually suggestive remarks, she said, are comments like, "If you don't have money, you shouldn't study abroad."

    "It really sets me off when they say that," she added. "But I can't show my anger."

    Unlike Ms. Karasawa, Noriko, 28, a former hostess at Club Gold, an expensive club on East 52nd Street, kept her hostess work a secret, even from her parents, who help her meet expenses. After Sept. 11, Noriko's hours were cut from four days a week to two or three, but she said she didn't mind, because her reduced schedule meant that her new boyfriend had less reason to be suspicious.

    Even in jeans and a simple top, Noriko exuded femininity with her careful makeup and red-highlighted hair that fell in soft layers around her face. On the nights she worked, she told her boyfriend that she was out with friends or studying late at the library. About misleading her boyfriend, who is Japanese, Noriko said, "I didn't feel guilty, because I didn't have feelings for the clients."

    Recently, she discovered that her boyfriend had taken some of his business clients to an expensive hostess club. "I was kind of surprised," she said, "because he's not the type to go to clubs. But in his case, he has to go sometimes."

    Noriko echoed Ms. Karasawa's frustrations about customers who wouldn't take her seriously. Last year, she earned a graduate degree from a top New York university, but her customers refused to acknowledge her achievement. "A typical customer I didn't like would say things like: `Where do you live? You live in Queens. What do you do? You go to language school,' " she said, voicing a typical hostess stereotype. "They didn't give me a chance to answer for myself."
  5. foder


    Part 2

    Outside the Mainstream

    In the last two decades, it has become fairly common for Japanese women to study and even work overseas. Still, a Japanese woman's decision to live abroad sets her outside a mainstream culture that guarantees her security as a homemaker, but is not concerned with her professional fulfillment.

    "It's very striking that a lot of Japanese women don't have a long-term plan when they go abroad," said Karen Kelsky, a professor of anthropology at the University of Oregon and the author of "Women on the Verge: Japanese Women, Western Dreams" (Duke, 2001). "They have vague notions that they want a career, but they have no societal support for their career goals. It's a poignant situation."

    Most New York hostesses fell into the job when they encountered the city's high cost of living. The entertainment at the hostess clubs has its roots in the geisha tradition, which dates to 18th-century Japan. Like the geisha, a hostess indulges her customer's every conversational whim, creating a space where he can escape routine and shed his workaday persona.

    For this privilege, patrons pay cover charges of up to $150 at places like Club Kira and $30 an hour at the less expensive clubs. A few of the top New York clubs have sister clubs in Tokyo owned by the same people. But most clubs here are owned by Japanese men who have relocated permanently to New York. At the clubs, customers buy bottles of liquor at about three times the retail price. A bottle of Johnnie Walker Black for $120 is a popular choice.

    Titillation is one of the top attractions; hostesses flirt and flatter. Officially, touching is prohibited, but it happens anyway. Sexual banter abounds, but actual sex is rare, and never on the premises. At the hostess clubs, it's men's egos that receive the most caressing.
    Club Kira sometimes gives its customers an extra chance to assert their masculinity. On holidays and other special occasions, a game of darts allows them to win savings off their bill if they strike close to the bull's-eye. One night, Ms. Karasawa, wearing a lipstick-red blazer and a long black skirt slit to the thigh, stood behind her customer and rooted as he took aim at the target, an easy seven feet away.

    When her customer's sure throw shaved $100 off his bill, she clapped and smiled, perky as any high school cheerleader. When her turn came, her dart nicked an outer ring. Throughout the night, the women's darts always wobbled short of the mark.
    Insincere? Of course. But in the hostess clubs, it's a man's world.

    When men pay for sex, "it's not sincere, it's really cold," Mr. Suganuma said. "The clubs are different. They're not sincere, but they're warm. Let's say you're a lonely guy in New York City. Everyone at the clubs tells you you're the greatest. If you want to smoke, they'll light your cigarette. If you want to drink, they'll pour your drink. Those little things really count."
  6. foder


    Sorry for starting a new thread but this is a long article.... from the July 28, 2002 New York Times. {SLINKY - please let me know if it's not acceptable to post articles like this (copyright issues aside...) Thanks}

    July 28, 2002
    Not Quite Sex and the City

    LUB KIRA guards its secrets well. Waiters in tuxedos admit the male customers to this unmarked Japanese haven, tucked into a residential building on East 49th Street in Midtown, only after studying them through a hidden camera. A red awning signals the club's presence with just two stars: "kira, kira" means sparkle in Japanese. The businessmen who retreat here to unwind know that the shining stars are emblems of the club's young hostesses.

    In a cracker box of a lounge, Ryoko Karasawa and her customer huddled shoulder to shoulder on low leather seats. Around them, other couples leaned into one another. The women wore tight cocktail dresses. The men had arrived straight from work in dark business suits.

    Ms. Karasawa refreshed her customer's whiskey for what seemed the hundredth time. She poured delicately, cradling the bottle in both her manicured hands. He was drunk, but the married executive did not let his tongue, or his hands, slip much. Not as much as other customers. And Ms. Karasawa was relieved. That night, at least, the $80 she would earn for five hours of work would come a bit easier.

    Manhattan harbors some 15 Japanese hostess clubs, secretive bars that employ young women to serve as companions for the almost exclusively Japanese and male clientele. Most of the clubs are clustered on the East Side between 45th and 53rd Street.

    Common in Japan, hostess clubs offer a hint of the illicit, a chance for ritualistic flirtation but no sex. In a city known for its libido, they represent not quite sex and the city. The small number of hostesses who sleep with their customers do so outside the clubs' auspices. For the men, these sanctuaries mostly provide, for a few hours at least, the illusion of back home.
    Even so, business has declined since Sept. 11, as the terrorist attacks dampened the city's night life. According to the Japanese Consulate, four Japanese companies have abandoned the city since September. In addition, the still-struggling Japanese economy means shrinking company expense accounts and limits on corporate entertaining. At least two expensive clubs have closed in recent months, and more customers are paying their own cover charges.
    So, another layer of fragility has been added to a sometimes fragile world where half the hostesses don't use their own names, and where emotional sleight-of-hand is the order of the night.
    Club Kira's d├ęcor is tasteful but impersonal, as in an expensive hotel. Gleaming coffee tables are cluttered with bottles of Scotch, bowls of rice crackers and heart-shaped ashtrays. A murmur of jazz leavens the talk and laughter within the gray-blue walls.

    There are no windows, no clocks, nothing to intrude on the club's mission to offer a timeless sense of refuge and relaxation to men who pay the $150 cover charge simply to sit and talk with the hostesses. Usually, the customers' employers pick up the tab.
    Diversion for the men comes at a high price. For the women who serve them, this means hard work.

    "When I was young, I didn't understand this as much, but a hostess's job is to help people have a good time," said Ms. Karasawa, 31, who was a hostess in Tokyo for 10 years. "Why else would they pay?"

    Ryoko Karasawa was the pseudonym she used on the job in Japan, and she did not want her real name revealed for this article. Other women interviewed also declined to give their full names.
    For the hostesses, most of whom are here on student visas, the clubs represent one of the few job options readily available to them. Some clubs pay the hostesses in cash, off the books. Many of the women hide their night jobs because they violate visa restrictions. Being a hostess also carries a social stigma in the Japanese middle class.

    "Most young Japanese women have aspirations," said Ichiro Suganuma, a former manager of an expensive club who now works in the film industry. "They want to be a singer, be rich, see America. But when you come here, it's hard. There are a lot of other women like you."

    Last edited: Mar 3, 2003