September 11, 2012

Hot boys, alcohol and rats

A few years ago, my friends and I decided to find out what this whole host club business was about. For those of you outside Japan who've never heard of them, host clubs are where (supposedly) handsome young men pour your drinks, wipe the condensation from the glass for you, light your cigarettes, flatter you, and basically make you feel like a princess.

The clubs are quite popular with lonely women who have no boyfriends (or neglected housewives), and can be somewhat dangerous if you get in too deep with a host. If you go to these clubs, try to remember that the guys are in it for the paycheck. Never forget they aren't sincere, and they're just trying to part you from your money. If you can keep that in mind, you can have a fun time.

I'm of two minds about host clubs now, because one of my ex-boyfriends was a host in college. The routine, according to him, is to meet a girl the first time and get her number and email. He will then get in contact with her and say that he wants to see her outside work. It'll be all, "I don't want you to be a client! I want to date you as a man, not a host!" They will start dating, and all dates are actually paid for by the club. After a few weeks or more, the guy will ask the girl to start visiting the club to "keep him company." You have to pay to have a host sit with you, so this costs the girl a lot of money. She must also buy her own bottle of alcohol to keep in reserve, so for one night you could be looking at $400+. The hosts also drink alcohol from your bottle, so you need to buy new ones quite often, and they aren't cheap. This is another way to get a lot of money out of the patrons. After the girl has been visiting the club for a while, the boy will come up with a story like, "I'm so close to being number 1 this month and getting a big bonus, but I'm short by $500 bucks. If only one of my customers could buy that special bottle of brandy/champagne/whatever...." and the girl, so in love by this point, does it. Sounds horrible, right?

I can't really throw stones, though, because hostess bars do the same thing in reverse. Can I slam the men for scamming women when there are women out there doing the same thing? The only argument I have is that the clients of hostess bars are usually successful business men, not lonely housewives or part time workers. They usually have more money to spend than the women in host clubs do. 

My friend H had researched some clubs, and she picked one she thought another friend and I would like. We wanted the full on host experience. I wanted a club lit up like a UFO, the host haircuts on proud, mullet-like display, crazy suits, and expensive bottles of champagne set out in glass cabinets like expensive jewelry. On our way to the chosen club (Acqua, if you're interested), we had to walk up the main drag of Kabukicho that is riddled with about 50 host clubs. The club next to the one we had chosen had very aggressive hosts who tried to pull us in, but we had already made the choice to visit one specific club so we kept going. The front of the building is really amazing with a huge, lit up sign, and pictures of the most popular hosts. The downstairs entrance also seemed quite impressive with a sliding door and lots of lit up cases of expensive alcohol.

That is where the glamour stops.
The club is in a basement, and it looks like it. The ceiling was a bunch of pipes and rafters that were extremely dirty looking (big mistake painting them white if they aren't going to clean them occasionally). Also, within the first ten minutes of our stay we saw a huge rat climbing a door frame where the hosts come out of the back rooms. It was about a foot and a half long. Halfway up the door frame it fell down to the floor and disappeared behind some tables. Our girly screams echoed over the music of the club and all the patrons and hosts turned to stare at us. Seriously. They spent so much money on the decor at eye level, I couldn't understand why they wouldn't fix the ceiling (and any holes that the rats are apparently using to get into the club).

When we walked in, we were met with nervous faces (Oh my God! Foreigners! What do we do?!?) and were asked for our gaijin cards (I.D. for foreign people living in Japan). We had to sit down on a bench and wait for them to give us the okay. They asked us about parking, did we understand where we were (pfft!), and if we would be okay to talk in Japanese.

Eventually we passed whatever criteria they were after and were brought to a table. An extremely nice host (who I later designated -- let's call him pouty lips, cuz that's what he has in his picture at the club) explained the system to us and asked if we'd like to choose someone right away. We wanted the whole parade of hosts, so we said we wanted to meet them all and would choose later.
When you go for the first time, you're given a special price of 5000 yen (approximately 50 dollars) for 2 hours. You also get a bottle of either Shochu or Brandy to drink at your table. D and I chose brandy while H chose shochu. The bottles are fairly big, so you can get a good 12 to 15 drinks out of it. About 85% of the hosts also drank H's shochu, so our bottle of brandy lasted a really long time. 
The hosts came in groups of twos or threes and stayed for about 10 to 15 minutes each. Some were extremely funny and witty. Some were shitfaced or on drugs and were unintelligible. The conversation ranged from Canada to Japan to movies to sex. It was really hilarious.
One host, with the most perfect host hair, was so wasted that his eyes were practically rolled back in his head. He slurred his words badly and the only thing that was said clearly was his joke about his "big dick" which was said in English. Yah, I wasn't too impressed with him. He had blue (?) contacts in, and the dim lighting made his eyes seem white. The whole experience with him freaked me out. His teeth were also almost transparent. I guess that's what happens when you constantly have to go throw up in the bathroom so you don't die of alcohol poisoning.

This is him here, if you're wondering:

There were a few bright spots, though. Two or three hosts were very witty and seemed "real". Talking with them made the evening so much fun. Of course, one of them was from Osaka. I LOVE Osaka people. They are open, friendly, and don't beat around the bush like Kanto area people.They weren't the most good looking hosts, but their personalities really made them shine.
After the first hour and a half, we were asked to select one host to accompany us for the rest of the evening. I was a little put out because there were a few more hosts we hadn't met yet. I really wanted the host to stop hovering and waiting for us to choose someone, because I wanted time to think about it and discuss it with the girls. As it was, I felt pressure to pick someone in a hurry. D chose the funny Osaka guy and H chose another hilarious host I'll call Mr. Personality. I didn't really know what to do, so I chose pouty lips that had explained the system to us at the beginning. He was pretty nice and I hoped we could have a good conversation.

Here's pouty lips' headshot:

Sadly, I was disappointed in pouty lips. He chatted with me about various topics, but his attention kept wandering, and as a result so did mine. He also laughed at a mistake I made in Japanese and repeated it to all the other hosts. I thought it was rude to ridicule me when I was making an effort to speak in his language. H and D seemed to be having a really great time with their boys, so I had host envy.
When our time was up, Osaka, Mr. Personality and pouty lips carried our purses for us and led us back up to street level. They politely thanked us for the evening, but only Osaka made a point of telling D he wanted mail from her. I'm wondering if the other two just assumed we wouldn't return, or if they were put off by the fact we had boyfriends.
I had a really good time for the first hour and a half, but if I had to go back again and pay nearly 30,000 yen to sit with the same host, I wouldn't enjoy it.
I think the key to enjoying a host club is to only go for the first time. You get to meet a large assortment of boys, drink lots of booze, and only owe 50 bucks at the end of the night.

Out of curiosity, I emailed another host from the club that had given me his business card. I told him that pouty lips and I hadn't really gotten along and that I was curious about going back to the club and choosing a different host. I was told it was "very difficult" (translation: not done), but that if I had VERY strong objections to the host and still wanted to come back, I should talk to pouty lips about breaking off my relationship with him and seeing if it would be okay to continue with another host. I loved the way he worded it. I pick pouty lips for less than 30 minutes at the end of the night, don't exchange numbers, and we're in a 'relationship.' I doubt many women try to break it off with their chosen host, because you'd have to see that host glaring at you from across the room every time you went. It's better just to leave that club and choose another.

I visited another club in Roppongi called Club Dios, and I'll put the post up for that sometime in the near future.


  1. I would LOVE to read about your Roppongi club adventure! I half-hoped I would find a host club during my visit to Tokyo earlier this year but I figured that even if I had found one my appearance would be alarming to the employees. Now I'm kind of glad I didn't... ? LOL It sounds like you all had a lot of fun, though.

    1. It can be fun if you get good hosts that are fun to talk to. Unfortunately, hosts aren't much like on TV. Most were dull or just made crude sexual comments to shock us. Mind you, we never met any of the #1 hosts, because they don't come to your table unless you designate one. Probably a #1 would be a real charmer. =)

  2. I have a question. Do you have to speak Japanese fluently to visit a host club our the club you went to?

    1. Yes. I'm sorry to say most clubs don't want foreigners to come in for the very reason of communication problems. We had to sit through a lot of explanations about fee breakdowns, how to choose a host, etc. All of that was in Japanese. If you don't have a friend who can translate for you, then I would give up on the idea.