SCHIZO-ALIAS

Musings about Japan and life as a human, a cosplayer, a minority, a music lover, an English teacher.

Refresher: About Host Clubs

Just the other day, a reader left a comment on an old blog post
that I wrote about host clubs. I realized that I haven’t mentioned
hosts or host clubs in quite a long time, so I decided to write my
comment response in the form of a new blog post.

Chantelle asks:

“Why
would you advise against going alone? And what sort of stuff do they do
to make you believe they’re in love with you? And how do they get you
to spend so much money??”

Let’s break it down to one question at a time.

Q: Why would you advise against going alone?

I advise against going alone (especially
for the first time) because I believe that most people (myself
included) typically have less self-control than they think they do. Most
of us set certain limits for ourselves, saying, “Okay, just one,” or,
“I’m going to stop now,” and we end up not following up on our word. In
some cases it’s pretty harmless, in other cases it’s dangerous–like
ballooning in weight because you ate four hot dogs instead of two like
you said you would, or getting completely wasted one night because you
couldn’t stop drinking bottle after bottle of beer. With host clubs,
it’s no different. A first-time goer might hear all kinds of things and
set a certain expectation of how things will be and how much money
they’ll spend, but they’ll never know for sure until it happens. They
might end up having more fun than they expected and want to stay at the
club longer, or they remember that they brought more than how much they
decided to spend and ends up spending more, or they end up meeting a
host that they really REALLY like, and it drives them to go further than
they imagined.

Because of that, it’s best to go with a friend
whenever possible. Talk about how much each of you are going to spend
and keep each other in check while you are there. And do proper
calculations! Host clubs are required by law to add a very high tax to
whatever is charged, so a 3000 yen entrance fee + 1000 yen host
designate fee + 1000 yen for a pitcher of melon soda is not going to
equal 5000 yen; it’s going to be even higher than that. Also discuss how
much time you’re going to spend at a club. Unfortunately, one or two
hours can go by very quickly when you’re having fun, so it can be
tempting to request an extra hour. Friends can remind and encourage each
other to stay within their limits. Make a promise to leave together,
and within the discussed amount of time.

Q: What sort of stuff do they do to make you believe they’re in love with you?

Please
know that not all hosts do this. The hosts that I’ve met with more than
once have never done anything to make me think that they had feelings
for me. Our conversations were pretty friendly and normal. Occasionally
there was a little flirting and the cute act of feeding each other when
food was there, but there was no confession of feelings or suggestive
physical contact. Behavior varies from host to host–some will talk to
you like a friend, and others will talk to you like they’re interested
in you romantically. But one thing that customers are expected to know
about is the “unspoken agreement” that the host-customer relationship is
strictly a relationship of “host” and “customer,” and nothing more.
Women know that a host club is not a place to get a boyfriend. And
although it does happen that a customer may end up dating a host, the
relationship is likely to be unstable, either due to jealousy because
the host has to talk to other women (as it is his job to do so) or
because the host can have very tough work hours, working from around 5pm
to do “catch” (recruiting new customers) all the way to 1 or 2 in the
morning cleaning up after the shop closes (and if they miss the last
train, then it’s hanging around until 6am when the trains start running
again).

Even if a host does flirt or say things suggesting that
he likes a customer, it’s still up to the customer to accept it as true
or false. Some customers don’t even get those signals and still end up
falling for their host because they’re too hopeful and make the biggest
deal out of the most subtle things. If a host says he likes you, but
says that the only way you two can date is if you come to the shop, I
wouldn’t consider him very trustworthy; it would be much more convincing
if he actually quit his job as a host to prove that he means what he
says.

Q: How do they get you to spend so much money??

I
can’t speak from experience, as I’ve never had a host convince me to
spend more money. Of course, this might be because the hosts knew I was a
college student with no job and thus didn’t have a lot to spend. The
other issue is making sure that a customer has the money to pay. There
can be trouble if a customer ends up spending way more than they can
afford. A documentary in English called The Great Happiness Space
features several female customers of a host club in Osaka who actually
turn out to be sex workers in the red-light district, because it pays
enough money to reduce debt. But these jobs can be so stressful and
terrible that these women just end up going back again and again to the
host club to get away from harsh reality and into a fun fantasy.

In
the case of customers that visit regularly and always order bottles of
champagne, they might be pushed to spend more for a variety of reasons.
Whenever any drink is ordered, it’s not just for the customer to drink,
but also for the host as well. Because of this, drinks tend to run out
more quickly. A bottle of champagne can be emptied out if multiple hosts
get glasses for a champagne call, or more often when a customer is
encouraged to down their glass (or bottle) as they’re cheered on by the
hosts around them.

But the hosts won’t outright tell you to order
more drinks or stay for extra hours. It’s more like encouragement, and
with certain customers it doesn’t take a lot of encouragement for them
to spend more money. In The Great Happiness Space, some customers were even encouraged not to have any more, because they were already too drunk.

As
host clubs push further and further into mainstream Japanese society, I
imagine that it’s not as necessary to get customers to spend more as it
may have been in the past, since more women from the middle class are
visiting. With the young single women still living with and being taken
care of by their parents, they might feel no pressure at all to spend
more money, knowing that they can just get more from Daddy’s wallet. So
from what I know, I can say that it’s not so much what the hosts do but
rather a customer’s own circumstances and willpower that determine
whether they’ll spend more.

So I hope this answers your
questions! Sorry it’s kind of long, but I just wanted to make sure I was
being as detailed as I possibly can. I don’t have any upcoming plans to
visit any host clubs anytime soon, but I do want to visit a few in
Osaka, to compare them to the ones I visited in Kabukicho last year.
Whenever that happens I’ll surely update.

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One response to “Refresher: About Host Clubs

  1. Chantelle November 11, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    No thank you so much for all that, it was really interesting. I love your blog, it’s so insightful, keep up the good work ^_^

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