One of the many cultural curiosities about Japan that I was never able to understand while living there was the existence of hostess bars and clubs. Such places are found all over the world but tend to be hidden from view if you aren’t looking for one. In Japan, it is pretty hard not to notice them even in the smallest towns you might visit. One would assume (and I did), that these are fronts for prostitution but that is not quite the truth. Though I’m sure this is not unknown, the main point of them seems to be providing men with a nice, pretty female companion to talk to while they drink.
This isn’t any sort of perverse charity as the men who go to these places do pay a great deal of money but the abundance of these places suggest they are popularly frequented by men from multiple economic classes. I never went into one (at least as far as I know), or had any of these experiences but I did hear about them from time to time through whispers from Japanese colleagues or more openly from other foreigners.
When I first heard about these I remember wondering aloud why anyone would pay to talk to a woman. And often added jocularly that I would gladly pay not to. I assumed that they were actually paying for more than friendly chat and that this was just hidden behind another veil. As state above, this is not the case and most of these bars simply provide men a place to go and chat to a girl with a strong financial incentive to be friendly.
In the course of writing this, I went and read an overview on Wikipedia and nothing I wrote above seems far from the information I’d gleaned while living there. My suspicions about how foreign (mostly Filipino) girls are used in these clubs were confirmed. Though it was interesting to learn that steering conversations into sexual territory will see patrons removed from the clubs.
One of the other aspects I’ve noticed about Japan reflected in literature and popular culture is the nasty streak found in many Japanese women which I have written about. The first apartment complex I lived in had a woman that growled like a wounded dog at her family every other night. I have witnessed or heard plenty of tantrums in my time there. Japanese men work grueling hours often from very early to very late in the evening and often on weekends too. Many would come back looking forward to a hot bath and hot meal but instead come home to a hot tempered harpy.
It was connecting the existence of these clubs with the reality of home life that led me understand why men are willing to pay a premium to have a little pleasant female companionship after work. It also partially explains there willingness to endure very long working hours the way they do. It should go without saying that I don’t condone men going to clubs like these (or any other similar establishments) but I do now understand why there is a market for them.