Kabukicho Nights

Jin, 26, was motivated to become a host to make a lot of money and develop his personality. After 7 years of working in the business, Jin says “This business is fluid like water: sometime you make good sales, sometime you make bad sales. Girls come to host clubs because they’re lonely. Some of them want to support their favourite host like they would support a pop idol, even if supporting a host is more expensive”
Tsukasa Toujuo, 27, owns a club in Kabukicho and has been working as a host for the past decade. “The most difficult part of this job is that I have to flirt with girls that I don’t want to flirt with. Our job is selling a dream and sometimes that includes having sex, but we call it “business sex”. Some girls think they are the only one we are interested in, but in reality they aren’t. It’s our job is to make it feel like they are in a relationship with us, that’s our business.”
Yuusi Yasaki, 20, was raised in an orphanage and started working as a host when he was 18 after seeing Japan’s n.1 host on TV. “What I like about this business is that I am the product and I am selling myself instead of selling other products. I can also advance in this career regardless of my age or experience, it all depends on how hard I work and how good I am: I have people older than me working as subordinates. If we are good, we can earn “lifetime earning” (200million yen/over one and a half million EUR) in a very short period.”
Roland, 26, is one of the most popular hosts and a national celebrity. He wants his industry to be socially recognised and in order to achieve this he takes part in charity events with international football players to help children with cancer. “In Japan 90% of people work for a company and those companies tend to put restrictions on appearance and a dress code for their employees. Because of this, the average appearance of the Japanese guy is very low, unsophisticated. They are also not good at treating the girls and taking them on dates. On the other hand, as hosts we are trained on how to entertain the girls and how to look. I want my customers to be happy, so the first thing I tell them is “don’t fall in love with me” because that would be a problem and they will be unhappy.”
Tsukasa Mikami, 30, has been working as a host for over 7 years. While studying to be a hairdresser, one of his classmates was doing really well as a host and that inspired him to pursue the same career. He hopes to open five hair salons one day.
Sena, 21, was scouted at a bowling alley in his hometown and began working as a host there before moving to Tokyo. He finds it difficult to adjust himself according to the customer’s personality. His main motive to do this job is the good earnings, while his dream is to be a tourist guide in Kyoto.
Rui Kiriya, 22, dropped out of school when he was 15 to become a host. “Before I started, money and hanging out with the girls was my motivation, but now entertaining the clients and giving them a good time has become my priority. A lot of girls who come to the host club have some darkness in them or are unsatisfied and I can give them joy. The difficult part is that I have to play a character all the time, I cannot show who I really am, I have to play the image of the host. If one day I’ll have a son and he’ll ask me what I did when I was young, I’ll tell him I was giving joy to girls. And if he’ll ever be interested in being a host I will not stop him, because it will be a good life experience”
Takami Rei graduated university and started working as a “salary man” for a manufacturing company. He became a host to earn more money and he says he’s now financially fulfilled, with a nice apartment and a car that previously he could have only dreamed of. He thinks that host clubs come from Japanese history and our culture. “After WWII Japan was struggling, there was a lot of poverty and Japanese men focused solely on bringing money back home to make ends meet, neglecting their wives and families. Because of this, women became unsatisfied. Maybe in foreign countries people can be poor and still enjoy life, but that’s not how Japanese people function. Now Japan is richer and women are more affluent, so they can spend money how they like. Hosts are a way for them to get satisfied. Sometimes the girls don’t pay their bills right away and then their debt becomes so high that they disappear. In that case the club charges the host for the missing amount.
Jun, 20, has been working as a host for less than a year. He was scouted while working at a bar in Shinjuku. “We are offering a service worth more than the money the clients pay for, we are giving them an out-of-the-ordinary experience. It is difficult to control the feelings of the girls. It is very important to keep in touch and communicate with them on a daily basis. The girls who come here also go to other host clubs, so I have rivals. I have to be their number one but at the same time if they get too much into me, then that becomes a problem. It’s a hard balance to keep.”
Hayato, 20, was fascinated with the host lifestyle and would feed his curiosity by watching internet videos. This prompted him to move to Tokyo and become a host himself. Today, he and his roommate live in an apartment that is owned by the club owner they both work for. He likes his job because it allows him to have very good conversations with other people, wether they are customers or staff, although he finds it difficult to initiate a conversation for the first time. “I don’t have any dreams, I just live to have fun.”
Ojarumaru, 24, has been working as a host for the past three years. “One day I looked at myself in the mirror and decided to start working as a host. I like this job: I can drink alcohol freely, but training younger hosts is difficult”
Soshi Kurosaki, 25, is from Tokyo and has been working as a host for three years. “I started because I wanted to make much more money than my parents and in this job I can make a lot of money if I do well”.

Kabukichō is Tokyo’s red-light district and one of the most lively once the moon has risen. Massive billboards advertise all different kinds of entertainment on offer, including young men available to keep women company. They can be found in “host clubs” – the male version of the more popular hostess clubs – which have started to open as women in Japan became more independent and emancipated.

All types of women come to these clubs, from the office workers to the ones themselves working in clubs. They are all looking for a “boyfriend experience”, to spend some time with a man who treats them nicely and has a chat with them over drinks. Some say it is the only place where they can get that and they are willing to pay a lot of money for it.

The men are usually from low-income families and are attracted to the job by the easy money and the popularity they can achieve. They spend a big part of their income on expensive clothes and accessories, but also plastic surgery. They all try to look like the most popular pop idols of the moment, an androgynous look achieved by surgically removing their beards, getting eyelid surgery to get rid of the “almond eye” and have a “western fold” but also getting tear bags injected because they “look cute”.

In a few years they can earn what a “salary man” takes a whole life to earn, but it doesn’t come easy, as Tsukasa explains:

The most difficult part of this job is that I have to flirt with girls that I don’t want to flirt with. Our job is selling a dream and sometimes that includes having sex, but we call it “business sex”. Some girls think they are the only one we are interested in, but in reality they aren’t. It’s our job is to make it feel like they are in a relationship with us, that’s our business.