Japan’s Hostess Culture

This is a really interesting piece in the New York Times about modern day hostessing in Japan by young females. They are simply hired in clubs and the like to flirt, make conversation, and show  a good time, without the sex (as the article keeps emphasizing) to a predominately male clientele. It is the modern version of geishas, now with auburn highlighted hair that has to hair sprayed all the time and fitten cocktail dresses and false eyelashes, usually listening to R&B in these lounges with the Japanese elites who can afford it. Nothing like this really exists in the United States, unless you count bartenders that can be hired at clubs to attend to tables and drinks, who are also usually  wearing their little black dress in high end clubs in the VIP sections. Fully clothed women simply there to look beautiful, drink with the men, flirt, and be a “host” and get paid for it is maybe the “classier” version of, say, hired strippers in the United States, as some have compared. Of course, this is a culture that has existed in Japan foa few centuries- what used to be tea houses accompanied by politicians and businessmen and geishas with their incredible white painted faces and kimonos. It really is a facinating aspect of the big city culture in Japan, and one that this article claims is not looked down upon given the difficult economy for women otherwise.

Even before the economic downturn, almost 70 percent of women ages 20 to 24 worked jobs with few benefits and little job security, according to a government labor survey. The situation has worsened in the recession.

For that reason, a growing number of Japanese women seem to believe that work as a hostess, which can easily pay $100,000 a year, and as much as $300,000 for the biggest stars, makes economic sense.

In a 2009 survey of 1,154 high school girls, by the Culture Studies Institute in Tokyo, hostessing ranked No. 12 out of the 40 most popular professions, ahead of public servant (18) and nurse (22).

“It’s only when you’re young that you can earn money just by drinking with men,” said Mari Hamada, 17.

Even one member of the Japanese Parliament, Kazumi Ota, was a hostess. That revelation once would have ignited a huge scandal, but it has not. She will run for re-election on the leading opposition party ticket, the Democratic Party of Japan, in the national election next month, and the ticket is expected to unseat the ruling party.

…..

Popular culture is also fueling hostessing’s popularity. TV sitcoms are starting to depict cabaret hostesses as women building successful careers. Hostesses are also writing best-selling books, be they on money management or the art of conversation.

A magazine that features hostess fashion has become wildly popular with women outside the trade, who mimic the heavily made-up eyes and big, coiffed hair.

Full Article

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