Host and hostess clubs

Hostess clubs are a common feature in the night-time entertainment industry of East Asian countries. They employ primarily female staff and cater to males seeking drinks and attentive conversation. The modern host clubs are similar establishments where primarily male staff adhere to females. Host and hostess clubs are considered part of mizu shōbai (literally "water trade"), the night-time entertainment business in Japan.

Hostess clubs


Signage for hostess bars in Kabukichō, Tokyo

In Japan, two hostess clubs and kyabakura (キャバクラ), a portmanteau of kyabarē (キャバレー, lit. "cabaret") and kurabu (クラブ, lit. "club"). Hostesses who work at kyabakura are known as kyabajō (キャバ嬢), meaning cabaret girl, and many of them use professional names called "genji name" (源氏名 genji-na). Hostesses light cigarettes, provide beverages for men, offer flirtatious conversation, and sing karaoke to entertain customers. Hostesses can be portrayed as the modern counterpart of geishas, providing entertainment to groups of salarymen after work. A club will often also employ a female bartender, who is usually well-trained in mixology, and may also be the manager or mamasan. Hostess clubs are distinguished from strip clubs in that there is no dancing, prostitution, or nudity. The idea of hostesses usually will implicate sentiments of gender inequality throughout the social aspects of Japan.

Hostesses often drink with customers each night, and alcohol problems usually occur from these actions.[1] These problems are derived from mass consumption of alcohol by which many consequences may arise. Most bars by a commission system by which hostesses receive a percentage of sales. For example, a patron purchases a $20 drink for the hostess, most of the time these are non-alcoholic concoctions like orange juice and ginger ale. The patron then has purchased the hostess's attention for the subsequent 30–45 minutes. The hostess then splits the proceeds of the sale with the bar 50/50. The light or no alcohol content of the drinks maximizes profits and ensures that the hostess does not become intoxicated after only a short time at work.

Businesses may pay for tabs on company expense with the aim of promoting trust among male co-workers or clients. At one establishment, about 90% of all tabs were reportedly paid for by companies.[2]

Patrons are generally greeted comfortably at the door and seated as far away from other customers as possible. In some instances, a customer is able to choose with whom he spends time, while most often that is decided by the house. In either case, the hostess will leave after a certain amount of time or number of drinks, offering the customer a chance to see a fresh face. While most establishments have male touts outside to bring in customers, it may also fall upon a (usually new) hostess to do so.

Hostess clubs have a strict "no touching" policy and patrons will be removed for trying to initiate private or sexual conversation topics.[3][4][5][6] However a red-light district version of the host/hostess club exists, called "seku-kyabakura" or "ichya-kyabakura" in which patrons are permitted to touch their host/hostess above the waist and engage in sexual conversation topics or kissing. Although this type of establishment is not common.[3][6][7][8] Normal hostess clubs are classified as a food and entertainment establishment and are regulated by the Businesses Affecting Public Morals Regulation Act, prohibiting any form of sexual contact between employees and customers. Normal hostess clubs also need a permit to allow dancing.[9] Clubs are inspected often by the Public Safety Commission. Any club found violating its permitted activities can have its business license terminated or be suspended, until corrections are made.[10]

Hostessing is a popular employment option among young foreign women in Japan, as demand is high. However, work visas can be difficult to obtain, so many choose to work illegally. The clubs sometimes take advantage of the precarious legal situation of the women.[11] The industry and its dangers were highlighted in 1992, when Carita Ridgeway, an Australian hostess, was drugged and killed after a paid date, and in 2000 when Lucie Blackman, a British hostess, was abducted, raped and murdered by a customer. The government promised to crack down on illegal employment of foreigners in hostess bars, but an undercover operation in 2006 found that several hostess bars were willing to employ a foreign woman illegally.[12] In 2007, the Japanese government began to take action against these hostess clubs, causing many clubs to be shut down, and many hostesses to be arrested and deported.

In December 2009, a trade union, called the Kyabakura Union, was formed to represent hostess bar workers. The union was formed in response to complaints by hostess bar employees of harassment and unpaid wages by their employers.[13][14][15]

Snack bars

A snack bar in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan

A "snack bar" (スナックバー sunakku bā), or "snack" for short, refers to a kind of hostess bar, an alcohol-serving bar that employs female staff that are paid to serve and flirt with male customers. Although they do not charge an entry fee (and often have no set prices on their menus), they usually either have an arbitrary charges or charge a set hourly fee plus a "bottle charge". (Customers purchase a bottle in their own name, and it is kept for future visits.)[16]

Venues outside Japan

Hostess bars are also found in other east Asian countries, Hawaii, Guam, and California. In Hawaii, approximately half of Oahu's 300 bars are licensed as hostess bars.[16]

Some bars in Thailand label themselves as hostess bars; these are loosely related to the East Asian practice, although they are basically a class of the local go-go bars that do not feature dancing.[17]

Host clubs

Signage for a host club in Kabukichō, Tokyo

A host club (ホストクラブ) is similar to a hostess club, except that female customers pay for male company. Some host clubs also specialize in transgender women hosts.[18] Host clubs are typically found in more populated areas of Japan, and are famed for being numerous in Tokyo districts such as Kabukichō, and Osaka's Umeda and Namba. Customers are typically wives of rich men or women working as hostesses in hostess clubs.[19]

The first host club was opened in Tokyo in 1966.[20] In 1996, the number of Tokyo host clubs was estimated to be 200, and a night of non-sexual entertainment could cost $500 to $600. A women's studies professor explained the phenomenon by Japanese men's lack of true listening to the problems of women, and by women's desire to take care of a man and be loved back.[21]


Male hosts pour drinks and will often flirt with their clients, more so than their female counterparts. The conversations are generally light-hearted; hosts may have a variety of entertainment skills, be it simple magic tricks or charisma with which to tell a story. Some host clubs have a dedicated stage for a performance, usually a dance, comedy sketch, etc.

Hosts' ages usually range between 18 and the mid-20s. They will take a stage name, usually taken from a favourite manga, film, or historical figure, that will often describe their character. Men who become hosts are often those who either cannot find a white-collar job, or are enticed by the prospect of high earnings through commission.[20]

While hostess bars in Tokyo often have designated men out on the streets getting clients to come into their clubs, some hosts are often sent out onto the streets to find customers, who are referred to as catch (キャッチ kyatchi), but these are usually the younger, less-experienced hosts. A common look for a host is a dark suit, collared shirt, silver jewellery, a dark tan,[22] and bleached hair.

Pay is usually determined by commission on drink sales with hosts often drinking far past a healthy limit, usually while trying to hide their drunkenness. Because the base hourly wage is usually extremely low, almost any man can become a host regardless of looks or charisma (depending on the bar). However, hosts who cannot increase their sales usually drop out very soon, because of the minimal wage. The environment in a host bar is usually very competitive, with tens of thousands of dollars sometimes offered to the host who can achieve the highest sales.


Many of the clientele who visit host bars are hostesses who finish work at around 1:00 or 2:00 a.m., causing host bars to often begin business at around midnight and finish in the morning or midday, and hosts to work to the point of exhaustion. But business times have changed in recent years by order of the police due to the increased incidence of illegal prostitution by host club customers who could not pay the host club debts they had accumulated. Nowadays most of these clubs open about 4:00 p.m. and have to be closed between midnight and 2:00 a.m.[23] Drinks usually start at about 1000 yen but can reach around 3 million yen ($US 30,000) for a bottle of champagne.[24]

Buying bottles of champagne usually means a "champagne call" (シャンパンコール).[16] All the hosts of the club will gather around the table for a song, talk, or a mic performance of some kind. The champagne will be drunk straight from the bottle by the customer, then her named host, and then the other hosts gathered. Often a wet towel will be held under the chin of the customer and hosts while they drink to prevent spills. The performance differs from club to club, and is believed to have originated at club Ryugujo in Kabukicho by the manager Yoritomo.

Also a "champagne tower" (シャンパンタワー) can usually be done for special events. Champagne glasses are arranged into a pyramid, and champagne is poured onto the top glass until it trickles down the layers of glasses. Depending on the champagne used, this can cost between 1 million and 2 million yen.


On the first visit to a host club, the customer is presented with a menu of the hosts available, and decide which host to meet first, but over the course of the night, the customer will meet most of the hosts. The customer then decides which host they like most, and can make him their named host (指名 shimei). This can be done by buying a "bottle keep" (a bottle of liquor that can be saved for next time), stating interest in a host. The named host will receive a percentage of the future sales generated by that customer. Most clubs operate on an "permanent nomination" (永久指名 eikyu shimei) system: once the named host has been nominated, a customer cannot change hosts at that club.

Sometimes a host will go with a customer for a meal or karaoke after hours.[25] This is called "after", and considered bad manners by some people. Staying longer at the host club is considered the proper way to treat a host. It is possible to go on day trips or travel with a host, but a host can only go with their own customer. A host interacting with another host's customer is liable to be fined or fired from the club. Drinks can be purchased on tab, but contact information is taken and the customer must pay later. If the customer does not pay, the host must. It is considered rude to leave a customer alone, called "only" (オンリー). A customer who is abusive and troublesome is called a "painful customer" (痛客 tsukyaku) and may be expelled from a club.

Business strategy

Usually, hosts try to make the clients feel loved without having sex with them, as it takes up their time and energy.[20] Sometimes, for instance if a customer pays a large amount of money and/or if the host likes them in return, the host can have sex with the client.[22] If the same host meets the same client, they have a higher chance of having sex than the host having sex with another client. The clients attempt to make the individuals very comfortable, thus they will feel compelled to provide for the businessmen in the future by some means. This exchange may be by political or economic means. There are other various methods of business. For example, "mail business" (メール営業) is the practice of a host emailing his customer regularly to ensure their return. Similarly, a host may call their customer, but this is fading in popularity now with the rise in popularity of mail business. Hosts will usually carry a business phone and a private phone.

Kyabakura Union

The Kyabakura Union (キャバクラユニオン Kyabakura Yunion, lit. "Cabaret Club Union") is a trade union for hostess club employees in Japan.[26] The union was formed on December 22, 2009 by Rin Sakurai. Sakurai formed the union in response to reported problems encountered by hostess club employees with their employers including harassment and unpaid wages.[14] The union is affiliated with the Part-timer, Arbeiter, Freeter & Foreign Workers Union, often referred to as the "Freeter" Union.[27]

Literature and films


There are many Japanese fictional works, such as TV dramas, novels, video games, manga (and anime based upon them) which revolve around hostesses or host clubs (for example, Club 9, Bloodhound and the more light-hearted Ouran High School Host Club). These are aimed at a general audience, and demonstrate how such clubs have come to be accepted, to some extent, as part of the urban landscape of Japan. This even extends to non-Japanese fiction, for example with the crime novel Tokyo (2000), by British author Mo Hayder, which has as its main character a British hostess starting out in the industry. The episode "Meet Market" of the American TV drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation featured a version of a host club in Las Vegas. In Isaac Adamson's novel Dreaming Pachinko, the character Miyuki worked at an exclusive hostess club in Ginza. The adventure video game series Yakuza allows the player to attend hostess clubs. Its sequel has a side-quest that allows the main character to become a host himself or manage a hostess club.

Rosa Kato starred in TV Asahi's Japanese drama called Jotei in which she played a poor high school drop out who is compelled to succeed in the Hostess business and become the number one hostess in Tokyo after her mother passes away to undiagnosed cancer. The 2004 film Stratosphere Girl follows a young Belgian woman joining a Tokyo hostess club and trying to solve the mystery of a missing Russian hostess. In the Starz show Crash the character Inez works in Los Angeles. In NTV's 2001 Ranma ½ live-action special/movie, Nabiki Tendo is a hostess at the establishment her father, Ranma's father, and the antagonist frequent. A South Korean live-action film, Beastie Boys is about two young men, Seung-woo and Jae-hyun, who serve as hosts or male escorts for a discreet private women's club in a posh district of Seoul.


There are several fashion and lifestyle magazines, for example Koakuma Ageha, which mainly cater to hostesses,which cater to hosts and sometimes also to their recruiters and fans. Koakuma Ageha is known as an unconventional fashion magazine modeled by real hostesses, and it is one of the highest-selling fashion magazines in Japan.

The Shōhei Imamura documentary History of Postwar Japan as Told by a Bar Hostess (にっぽん戦後史 マダムおんぼろの生活 Nippon Sengoshi: Madamu Onboro no Seikatsu) (1970) tells the story of a hostess/prostitute in postwar Yokosuka, Kanagawa.

In the 1994 book Nightwork: Sexuality, Pleasure, and Corporate Masculinity in a Tokyo Hostess Club, anthropologist Anne Allison, informed by her own work in the mid-1980s as a hostess in a Japanese bar, describes hostess bars as providing an atmosphere where masculinity is "collectively realized and ritualized."

The 1995 documentary Shinjuku Boys by Kim Longinotto describes a Tokyo host club in Shinjuku staffed exclusively by female-to-male crossdressers.

Tokyo Girls is a 2000 documentary in which four Canadian women share their experiences working as hostesses in Japan.

The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief is a 2006 documentary about a host club in Osaka.


A typical look of a Chinese KTV hostess club with bright and colorful lights and elegant architecture.

KTV/Hostess bar throughout China

KTVs are a source of interactive musical entertainment through the utilization of a karaoke bar by which words appear on a large interactive television. It is important to distinguish the difference in desirable environments for individuals of different age groups within the KTV. Individuals within their early thirties to late forties typically prefer the exclusive, private realms of rented rooms rather than the stereotypical open dance floor disco enviornement. KTV's are usually encountered within East Asia nations and are a principal location for Chinese business ethics.[28]

Hostesses within the KTV

Chinese businessmen use various hostesses as a means of persuading the businessmen and as an outlet to earn favors in the future. This mentality is carried with many Chinese businessmen and has become the common perception on business for many of the Chinese men. These hostesses serve to please the client and allow the client to feel satisfied and trustwothy while present at the KTV.[29] Hostesses are expected to pressure businessmen to drink, sing and gain as much attention as possible.[30]

The Chinese businessmen that visit the KTV maintain a main and sentimental priority of establishing connections within their respective companies. Hostesses internally degrade their personal and "moral appearance" in order to satisfy a sentiment of masculine pleasure. These implications directly integrate into the creation of hegemonic masculinity for the Business world. This correlates to the value of male dominance throughout the business world and enhances the principle of hyper-masculinity which decreases diversity for Chinese ethics. This also leads to gender inequality for females not only in the KTV's, but more generally throughout many realms of life in China.[31]

This may entail the loss of moral code and ethics for the women in the KTV. These bars and clubs proclaim that they are not a front for prostitution, yet it appears that these acts are the mere start of something much more serious, which may include aspects of prostitution as it is traditionally thought of in Western culture.[32] These values also relate to the foundations of Guanxi, by which there is created a hierarchical system of social order because the males clearly possess more power in the KTV than do the hostesses. Hierarchy systems of Power generally will lead to gender discrimination throughout the future and add to the already existing gap of gender implications in China. Guanxi also maintains the business order for the owners of the KTV by creating a workplace that is managed by a hierarchal power system where again hyper-masculinity is fully engaged in the mens favor.

Gender inequality in the KTV

KTV's can become a very hostile and degrading environment for women because of the Gender inequality surrounding the Chinese business practices and their infatuation with unethical sentiments. Male Chinese businessmen will essentially bring their deemed mistresses to these KTV's to "satisfy" their clients by setting them up with various women in aspiration of forming strong business connections through loyalty. This provides a very distressing business world for women by which they are classified as inferior to the men. Throughout East Asia many women cannot attend many events hosted at KTV's or other specific locations because of how degrading and appalling these events become for the Chinese women.

Throughout East Asia discrepancies exist amongst the male worker and female workers. The female workers face inequality in the workplace because of hyper- masculinity and the implications of this device. Young female migrant workers seek the urban lifestyle as opposed to the rural lifestyle in order to escape the traditional Chinese fundamentals of a family. The female migrants move to urban areas for a modern and innovative lifestyle. The female migrant worker[33] is a clear illustration of inequality corresponding amongst the male and females in the workplace. These ideals allude to the "inequalities" present within the KTV amongst males and females. Specifically, these principles correspond to the Chinese business world and the inequality that has existed in the past and will continue to exist within the future.

The businessmen at the KTV's utilize these settings for business connections; however, the women cannot always obtain these vital connections in the same efficient and orderly manner as the men for a multitude of reasons. The women are typically seen as a lower social status as the men throughout the business world, although they are hypothetically equal or even better than the men in certain circumstances. The role of the mistresses within the KTV's may cause a blurred vision for the businesswomen in the KTV because the men become preoccupied with the mistresses and their sexual innuendos.,[34] the role of mass consumption of alcohol to establish trust and comfort for the clients affects women in a KTV because the women usually do not consume mass amounts of alcohol like the men.

These inequalities are extremely prevalent within the Chinese KTV's and lead to an increased amount of gender discrimination within China as seen throughout Anxious Wealth by John Osburg.[35]

Implications of mass alcohol consumption

KTV's are a typical location for Chinese business practices by which the businessmen attempt to formulate connections and loyalty amongst other various businessmen. The businessmen will try to establish a comfortable setting by providing fruit plates, women, or Alcohol drinks.[36] Chinese businessmen can be potentially seen consuming alcoholic beverages up to six or seven days per week solely to portray their loyalty to the businessmen principles and fulfill the pleasurable environment of the KTV. Mass alcohol consumption has very negative effects on the bodies of these individual that frequently visit KTV's. These consequences may include mental, physical, ethical, or even moral issues for the Chinese men.

Mass amounts of alcohol for potential consumption.

Alcohol is a very prominent factor of KTV's and suitable with the overall culture of East Asian nations. Extreme consumption methods are usually used by the Chinese businessmen in exchange for personal health and moral conduct similar to the hostesses sacrificing their moral ethics to please the male consumer.[37]

Guanxi connection with the KTV

KTV's are used as a way to network within the business world through alcohol influenced cultivation of relationships with both "state officials and other entrepreneurs",[35] which positively affects their "business ventures" . This idea of networking is known as building "guanxi". "Entrepreneurs" pursue prestige in their realm of business and the idea of prestige is overwhelmingly influenced by the strength of one's network to a point where entertaining clientele becomes a second job. By entertaining a client, these businessmen are essentially building networks that are usually more developed and enhanced than building networks through actual relatable work. Guanxi is not based upon the actual credibility of the worker or the specific work he or she does, but is actually based on the fundamental of deriving connections. This world of guanxi is based upon social networking with other businessmen rather than having a more efficient and diligent work ethic. Guanxi is an extremely powerful sentiment when it comes to connections and ranking up in a company or simply establishing yourself in the business world.[38]

See also


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  2. Anne Allison. Interview: May 4, 2003
  3. 1 2 "セクキャバ/風俗初心者入門ガイド". Retrieved 2016-06-05.
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  5. "キャバ嬢がおさわりされた時の対処法". Retrieved 2016-06-05.
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  7. "ガチの色気で美女が急接近!高級いちゃキャバの甘美なる世界観 | 日刊SPA!". Retrieved 2016-06-05.
  8. "セクシーキャバクラ(セクキャバ)のサービス、お仕事内容|職種辞典" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2016-06-05.
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  11. Japanese flesh traders targeting Western women, Asian Sex Gazette, 13 January 2005
  12. Nightclub hostess world still seen as one where profit trumps visas, safety, The Japan Times, 3 July 2007
  13. Kyodo News (December 2, 2009). "Kyabakura Bar Hostesses To Form Labor Union" (News agency article). Nihon Keizai Shimbun. Retrieved January 13, 2009.
  14. 1 2 Mainichi Shimbun (December 23, 2009). "Bar hostesses form union to combat workplace exploitation, sexual harassment" (Newspaper article). Retrieved January 13, 2009.
  15. Matsutani, Minoru (January 13, 2010). "Club hostesses unionize to fight gray-area abuses" (Newspaper article). The Japan Times. Retrieved January 13, 2009.
  16. 1 2 3 Faier, Lieba (Feb 2007). "Filipina migrants in rural Japan and their profession of love". American Ethnologist. 34: 148–162. doi:10.1525/ae.2007.34.1.148. JSTOR 4496790.
  17. Winchell, Meghan (November 1, 2004). "To make the Boys Feel at Home". Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies. 25: 190–211. doi:10.1353/fro.2004.0043. Retrieved 2015-04-21.
  18. Japanorama, BBC Three, Season 3 Episode 2, first aired 26 March 2007
  19. Japan, The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 1997–2001
  20. 1 2 3 Akiko Takeyama. "Commodified Romance in a Tokyo Host Club" (PDF). University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-17.
  21. Clubs Where, for a Price, Japanese Men Are Nice to Women The New York Times, 8 September 1996
  22. 1 2 Tokyo plays host to sexual shift, The Guardian, 18 September 2005
  23. Allison, Anne (October 2008). "Nightwork: Sexuality, Pleasure, and Corporate Masculinity in a Tokyo Hostess". Modern China. 98. JSTOR 683001.
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  26. Kyodo News (December 2, 2009). "Kyabakura Bar Hostesses To Form Labor Union" (News agency article). Nihon Keizai Shimbun. Retrieved January 13, 2009.
  27. Matsutani, Minoru (January 13, 2010). "Club hostesses unionize to fight gray-area abuses" (Newspaper article). The Japan Times. Retrieved January 13, 2009.
  28. Westwood, Clint. "Karaoke Chinese Style Aka KTV - The Single Dude's Guide to Life & Travel." The Single Dudes Guide to Life Travel. N.p., 01 Sept. 2011. Web. 23 Oct. 2016
  29. "KTV Cambodia, Coloso KTV Beautiful Girls Nightlife in Phnom Penh City." YouTube. YouTube, 17 Feb. 2016. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.
  30. Gaetano, Arianna (2015). Out to work: Migration, Gender, and the Changing Lives of Rural women in Contemporary China. Univ. of Hawaii. ISBN 978-0-8248-4098-3.
  31. "China's Growing Gender Gap: Women Are Not Just 'leftover' but Left out." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 12 May 2014. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.
  32. "The World of Chinese." The World of Chinese. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2016.
  33. Gaetano, Arianne M. Out to Work: Migration, Gender, and the Changing Lives of Rural Women in Contemporary China. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
  34. "Booze, Sex, and the Dark Art of Dealmaking in China | VICE News." VICE News. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.
  35. 1 2 Osburg, John. Anxious Wealth: Money and Morality among China's New Rich. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
  36. Vaseline, By Marge. "My Time as a Hostess in a Sleazy Chinese Karaoke Den | VICE | United States." VICE. N.p., 12 May 2015. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.
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  38. International, US-Pacific Rim. "The Most Misunderstood Business Concept In China." Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 24 Feb. 2011. Web. 03 Nov. 2016.

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