Hosts: The Modern Male Geisha of Japan?

What is a host? He’s a charismatic guy who gets paid by the hour to talk to and drink with women. I find their whole getup pretty funny- skinny suits with lots of jewelry, hair that must take hours to tease up, and a lot of them have faces that strike me as much more young and effeminate than you’d want in a pick-up artist. They’re a fact of life, though, and if they weren’t bringing in the bills, you wouldn’t see so damn many of them around Kabukicho.

I’m sure there’s a better term out there for hosts, but “male geisha” fits them better than “man-whore.” After all, these men aren’t paid for sex as much as they are for image and company. Obvious a host’s life is far removed from that of an actual Geisha, but the idea of an entertainer with a well-honed set of particular skills who entertains guests-one-on-one for an evening is similar, no? (someone’s going to rip me a new one for this analogy, I’m sure)

(The sign on the storefront says “Women-Only Club,” or “Club for the Exclusive Use of Women”)

Women's Only Club

It appears that this guy is the “Top Dandy.”

Top Dandy

Host clubs advertise all the men inside on big billboards; once they enter, women choose their companion from a menu.

Pick a Man-Boy, any Man-Boy

A few hosts I met in Osaka. Talking to them, they don’t have much of an air at all- it’s a job to them, and I’m just a guy unrelated to their work. When they actually go into action, though, they’re intense- they’ll walk up to any girl that looks like she has a few bucks, and motormouth her with questions, trying to find some commonality or emotional connection. These particular ones weren’t too good, at least from what I saw- they didn’t manage to bring a single girl back to their club.

Osaka Hosts

Osaka Hosts 2

The worst hosts barely pull in minimum wage; the best are paid like CEO’s. It may sound like a dream job, but it’s a dusk-to-dawn marathon of binge drinking and emotional manipulation, and I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the clubs out there have ties to less-than-savory characters. If this culture is at all interesting, I really recommend watching The Great Happiness Space: Tales of an Osaka Love Thief. If you have Netflix, you can instant-watch it, but otherwise, it’s available at most video stores or part-by-part, for free, on YouTube. It starts out by drawing you into a magical world where men get paid silly amounts of money to flirt with cute girls, and then brings reality crashing down on the whole thing. It’s nothing but well-cut, well-shot interviews with hosts and their clients, and the world-exclusive look at a fairly underground subculture has gotten it quite a few awards.