|Jobs in Japan - Hostess/Dancer Jobs
By James Gibbs.
Only in Japan! This is a rather peculiar institution that appears to be a modern day version of the old geisha system. Although its name might suggest something of a more risque or questionable nature, in fact hostessing is rather tame and not so objectionable kind of work, regardless of how conservative your sensibilities might be.
After first coming to Japan, I had heard that there were many "high-class" hostess bars in Tokyo where well-heeled Japanese businessmen would go and relax after work. It sounded rather like a luxury afforded to a different class of people, but I thought someday in the distant future I might have an opportunity to go for myself and enjoy this wonderful experience.
Less than one year after beginning work in Tokyo as an English teacher, this hope became a reality. One of my students, a coowner of a small company invited me out for drinks. (In Japan, "invited" nearly always means the person doing the inviting pays.) To my surprise and great delight we went to a hostess bar. However, the excitement of finally being in a hostess bar soon turned to disappointment. To summarize the reason why, I would say it was because everything was so fake, so imitation.
Although some places are large in scale with 20 to 30 hostesses, most of these bars are small with 3 to 5 hostesses. After entering the bar, customers are warmly welcomed by a hostess. This is usually their own hostess who has cultivated a relationship with them, sometimes meeting them for dinner before going to the bar.
The girls are meticulously well dressed and usually attractive (but not always) projecting an image as if they were some kind of cultured, high society debutante. On the contrary, they are in actuality more like a "rent-a-girlfriend" for chatting.
The girls immediately go to work on their client by treating him and his friends like kings. The client has the girl's undivided attention, and she pampers him like a VIP, pouring his drinks, lighting his cigarettes, singing songs with him, laughing at his jokes, etc.
Conversation on topics of a sexual nature is not inappropriate. I seem to remember my companions starting a conversation about the sexual prowess of Americans and asking the girls (all of them Japanese) if they had had this kind of experience before. In turn the girls just laughed saying they had not but that it would be nice to try someday. I did not take that as an invitation, but rather I recognized it for what it was, just titillating conversation.
My student and his coworker were eating up all of this attention like these girls were crazy about them. It was kind of fun for about an hour, but then the girls were called over to another table. Some other girls came by and sat down next to us, one of them with about the same intelligence of a duck, asking a whole series of stupid questions. In the meantime the bill was climbing for my student (around ¥60,000 for three of us for two hours), and I found myself asking, "What's the point? This is so fake."
Well, the point was that my student seemed to have a great time, and he made an appointment to come back the next week as he did every week. Japanese tax laws let him write the whole thing off as a business expense, and he seemed more content to give his money to this hostess than to paying a 50 percent corporate tax to the government on his company earnings.
If you look at Japanese society as a whole, Japanese like a higher level of service, preferring to be pampered. Moreover, my personal opinion is that Japanese schools are so much more rigid than U.S. schools making dating or even socializing between the sexes much less common. Thus, for many Japanese men this hostess/rent-a-girlfriend for chatting arrangement can be quite stimulating.
Of course another side to it is just the status of the whole thing. If you are trying to impress a customer or friend, taking them to a hostess bar (an expensive thing to do) can accomplish two things: First, it shows that you are a person of means and class. Second, it shows that you place a high value on your association with this person.
For top-level executives in leading firms, there are even actual geisha houses, nothing more than a superhigh-priced hostess bar with traditional costumes, dancing and singing. Here it is said that the movers and shakers of Japanese business and politics arrange the big deals and cement vital relationships.
For years I walked to the station from my office in Ginza passing along a street with about four geisha houses. The streets were always lined with expensive cars and drivers waiting for the executives inside who were running up tabs of ¥500,000 or more. Night after night when I saw this scene, I would just shake my head and say what a bunch of morons. If I had an extra $4,000, I sure could think of a lot better ways to spend it; but I digress.
Back to hostessing, if you are a reasonably attractive foreign lady in Japan, you may want to consider hostessing as either a part-time or full-time job; or maybe not. When I used to work at various English schools, it seemed that about one-third of the female teachers were supplementing their incomes by moonlighting as hostesses. I envied them because it seemed like such an easy way to make an extra buck while having fun at the same time. In fact, most of these girls just enjoyed the nightlife. If they were not pouring drinks as a hostess in a high-class night club with middle- and upper-level Japanese businessmen, they would probably be at some ordinary night club drinking with their friends two or three nights a week.
However, to hear one hostess tell it, "Five hours of 'chatting' becomes very tedious. Many clubs are claustrophobic (nonsmokers be warned) with a mama-san who watches your every move to keep you 'smiling' and gleeful at all times." I guess it is true what they say; there is no free lunch.
Also, keep in mind that in a society like Japan where networking and connections are paramount, hostessing at a reasonably high-class club provides abundant opportunity for foreign ladies to meet and befriend people who can later provide valuable introductions and assistance, even visa sponsorship in some cases. Some of the high-paying private English lessons that you often hear about are easily secured by hostesses through businessmen they meet at their clubs. It may not be for everyone, but for some people hostessing can be the ticket to a successful and more productive experience in Japan.
In the following section, I have provided a list of hostess clubs that have advertised for foreign hostesses in various English media during the past few years. One hostess who I spoke with even urged me not to print the following list because some clubs would not want to receive calls and might be rude to callers. It seems that some of the smaller clubs do much of their hiring through personal introductions, but I do not believe many of these clubs are in this list. Other clubs, particularly larger ones, she said would love to have people inquiring and coming by for interviews.
In the end, I did not like the idea of just talking about hostessing and then saying look in The Japan Times or talk to other hostesses when you get to Japan. On the contrary, I would to present as much information about hostessing for this section of the book as possible.
In my database I have personal comments from several hostesses on about 30 clubs (but not all published). Although some were rather severe about a particular club, a very common comment was "didn't have to show visa" or "forgot to ask to see visa." Many clubs do advertise "proper visa required," but indeed hostess clubs as a whole seem to be worse than English schools as far as letting the visa slide. Moreover, according to Immigration, there is no "proper" visa for hostessing. It does not seem to fall under any particular skill area.
The lax visa part can be convenient, but at other times it can work against you. Much more so than English schools, problems with nonpayment of salaries are not uncommon in the hostess business. Of course this is not the norm, but with so many short-term people taking up these positions, more than a few owners and managers have not paid salaries. In some cases they know that the hostess will be returning to her home country soon or sometimes they know they can intimidate the lady, particularly if she is on a tourist visa. After all, what is she going to do, go to the government? That is exactly what you should do.
The labor office will call the bar to apply pressure but not legal authority, and it does not care what kind of visa you have. It is a little harder for a young lady to picket and leaflet a hostess club than it would be for an English teacher to do this to a school. However, that is another thing I would recommend. Of course you would want to bring three or four male friends with you. Also, if you have any problems of not being paid by a club, we would like to know about it so that we can reflect this information in next year's book. See the survey at the end of the book.
As for contacting clubs, I recommend that you do it between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., maybe even before 7:30 p.m. because clubs become busy from eight onward. The owner (usually a lady referred to as the "mama-san") might not mind talking to you early in the evening, but your chances of receiving a friendly response (from small clubs) will dwindle as the customers pour in and the club becomes busy.
If you are a little bold (maybe with good reason, i.e., you are a knock out), you might even walk in, but again, I would do this early. Unlike English schools where a walk-in to hand a resume to a secretary is a completely acceptable thing to do, people in smaller hostess bars (either the mama-san or the manager) are not going to want to deal with you while customers are present.
One important aspect of the hostessing business is the fact that hostesses cultivate a patronage with some customers. This is actually the goal of a hostess because in this very competitive business it is the hostess's ability to bring clients to the bar that is most highly valued by the bar owners. The tabs these people run up are high and mean big business for the bars, so a hostess who can bring four or five regular customers with her can just about work anywhere she wants to. It is the experienced hostess, however, who can do this, not something easily done by new arrivals. Also, foreign hostesses are generally considered a novelty and are not expected to follow all of the Japanese customs.
Should you start to bring in customers, be careful about allowing them to run up accounts with the bar. This is a not-so-uncommon practice where the hostess accepts responsibility for her clients' bills. I would recommend that you just completely avoid this kind of arrangement. Inevitably, some clients will skip out, and you will have the money they owe taken out of your salary.
You will notice that nearly all of the clubs listed are located in one of four areas: Ginza (high-class area, mostly Japanese businessmen), Akasaka (reasonably high-class), Roppongi (bars are a little cheaper and patronized by more Westerners) or Shinjuku/Kabukicho (includes all kinds of places). With these addresses and a good map, you can knock off several interviews in one evening just walking around the block or crossing the street.
By the way, there are certainly many other clubs in other parts of Japan, but many of them do not advertise in the papers, relying on personal introductions. Indeed, it is said that these "introduction-type" jobs are a little better paying. You will just have to get out, meet people and make connections to get these introductions. Some clubs, particularly outside Tokyo where there are not many English media places to advertise, often put up help wanted notices at guest houses.
One final point, as I mentioned hostessing does not include any kind of sexual services or nude dancing. There are other places that offer these kinds of services, but they should not be included in this book. However, some of the ads for clubs are often ambiguous, so a few clubs that offer more than "conversation" may have slipped in. I will keep updating this information and try to eliminate any such places because hostessing (with the exception of a few places that misuse the name) does not involve sexual services.
Some places (generally catering to foreign businessmen and businesswomen as well) do offer Las Vegas-style floor shows, sometimes topless, but the performer and hostess roles are generally separated. These clubs also have some class, i.e., they are not strip bars.
In summary, a foreign guy may not be the best source from which to get information on hostessing, but I have done my best to present, explain and provide information about this entirely legitimate line of work that is available to many foreign women in Japan. For future editions, I certainly welcome any feedback that you would like to provide. Again, refer to the survey form at the back of the book.
Let's start with a bit of history about dancing in Japan; back in the late 1980's an American lap dancer named "Kimberly" introduced the concept of "lap dance" to a Japanese strip club owner in Roppongi, Tokyo. Yes, that's right! Kimberely from good ole down home USA started the whole thing.
At the time, Kimberly was hired to perform on stage as a topless showgirl at the Flamingo Club, however, her all-American experience taught her that lap dancing was where the real money was at; the club's owner really liked Kimberly's concept, her style and her... so he took her advice & transformed his club into stage & table side performances. The concept quickly caught on, it became very popular & many of Kimberly's friends flew over to join her in Roppongi.
Japan was in the height of its economic boom and many wealthy customers frequented the club where Kimberly worked in order to lavish in style - the all-American way. One of the regular customers who frequented Kimberly's club decided that he too would like to live the American dream, he happened to have enough money to start his own strip club and contacted some of his friends in New York to seek out their advice. In the blink of an eye 7th Heaven Strip Club was proudly showcasing up to 50 exotic dancers from America & worldwide.
The economy peaked over the next five years until the bubble finally burst & many American dancers returned home to mom & pops back in the USA.
But the legend of the high flying Yen lived on and Tokyo eventually became a haven for exotic dancers. Strip clubs began sprouting up everywhere....yet at the same time dozens were shutting down faster than you could stamp your visa - because some people just don't know how to run a strip club.
By the late 1990's "dancing in Japan" had become a household name & strip clubs in Tokyo were flourishing. Since then, dancers have been flocking to Tokyo expecting to earn copius amounts of money. Some gals believing that by being blonde they'll strike it rich, while others were just happy to be there for the good ole Japanese experience.
Acting/modeling/narration in Tokyo. The complete source of information on agencies, the industry and the jobs from an insiders point of view.
The Secret list of English Teacher Employers in Japan. Stop wasting your time - find the best jobs before they are even advertised.
Working as a Wedding Minister in Japan. Everything you need to know to get started as a Foreign Wedding Minister earning great Yen.
Exotic Dancing in Japan. Information and resources on how to apply for exotic dancing and hostessing postions in Japan.