Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Host Clubs

One of the rather unique aspects of city life in Japan is the "host club", a place where women pay good-looking men to chat and flirt with them, but the idea can be a little difficult to explain well. After a friend posted this BBC documentary video she found over on Youtube, I thought I'd share it here as I felt it's a pretty even-handed summary of what host clubs are. (As a note, if you're at work, there's a bit of cussing in the subtitles and drunken horsing around.)

Before watching, here's some cultural background to the concept:

- While it may seem odd to imagine young women paying $100 or more just to chat with a hot guy for a couple of hours, in Japan the sexes don't mingle nearly as much or as comfortably as they do in the overall West. My coworkers laughed at the idea of Japanese schools ever having a prom because they said all the guys and girls would just stand across the ballroom from each other the entire time.

- Conversation has long been prized in Japan: Geisha, while highly skilled artists, are in some ways the forerunners of hosts and their female equivalent hostesses. Trained in traditional arts, an ideal geisha is also an excellent conversationalist who can relax and entertain her clients with both racy jokes and innuendo or philosophical debates. Hostesses eventually did geisha in, in terms of popularity, due to their cheaper prices and lower standards, but that's a post for another time.

- Young working women, a.k.a. OL (office ladies), often live with their families, enjoying a rent-and-bills-free existence until they get married and not saving any money, so they typically have a huge amount of disposable income to spend on trips, clothes, or anything else they like.

(While there is some debate in the Youtube comments about how much money they're saying, they are indeed saying the equivalent of $20-$50,000 in American money per month. o_O I never knew it was that much myself, but even if they're inflating it by half that's still more than I'll probably ever make in a month!)

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