What is a hostess bar?

Perhaps unsuprisingly it's quite hard to find pictures inside of hostess clubs so here's some Geisha's courtsey of mc500hats flickr stream.


In any city in any prefecture in Japan you will, on your adventures, find certain areas. These areas, at night, are lit up with gaudy neon signs. Men in suits stand outside door ways and hungrily eye the passing crowds. Women dressed in shiny revealing clothing warmly greet everyone who passes by. These areas are Japans red light districts. These areas are generally somewhat closed off to foreigners and have a certain mystery about what seedy acts occur behind all the shiny glam attached to the walls of the dirty cramped buildings.

Many of the buildings have large cardboard billboards outside plastered with women’s faces and fringed with gold tassels. The staircases and display area of the buildings also tend to have large pink umbrellas decorated with ink patterns. These buildings are hostess clubs. These are one of the main types of building in the red light district. Other buildings include cheap bars, karaoke bars, massage parlors and flower shops – strangely enough. I assume the flower shops are there so that you may buy flowers for your host.

Let me tell you a little about the interesting world of hostess bars. Hostess bars are generally of two types - the ones that hire girls from abroad. Girls are hired from Russia, Eastern Europe, China and the Philippines. I don’t know if these are the seediest places you’ll find in the red light district – but they’re pretty seedy and that’s for sure. These girls are paid extremely small amounts to work as hostess all night they will sleep all day in cramped tenancies and may only be a given a single free day through out their stay. After their stay they are returned to their countries and having made some money. The other type of host tends to be Japanese, the ages range from quite young (still in highschool) to the more experienced. Japanese girls will do far better than the non-native girls in terms of working conditions and wages.

How would you get into a hostess club? To gain entrance to one of these places as a foreigner is a little harder. Here are the ways you might gain entrance:

-Your Japanese is extremely proficient
-You are with a Japanese friend
-You know the owner
-You know a host
-You have a friend who has been before
-You have a friend who extremely proficient at Japanese
-You have a talking dog, which is extremely proficient in Japanese

Once in you may be given the option to chose a girl or take any girl. Choosing a girl will generally be more expensive. I wouldn’t really know which option to recommend. Then once in you may be given a choice to sit at the front or in the back room. The back room is more expensive – about 5 to 7, thousand yen an hour. (Prices will varying depending on club and location.) In the front room it will be about 3000 an hour.

Sometimes you may be able to drink for free! Nomihodai style. This depends on the per hour charge. You can drink for free but your host cannot every drink you buy for her or him (there are male hosts too) will be extremely expensive. The host will pour your drinks and cht to you and in theory that is all. You may wonder what’s all this backroom business then? Well the backroom tends to be a little more private.
All the hostess business comes from the Geisha tradition. Geisha were not prostitutes – rather they were entertainers. Though if they did like a client – then eventually they may sleep with him. Hostess exist in this similar limbo. I know a Canadian girl who lived in Toyko with her boyfriend. She supported them both by working as a hostess. All she did was pour drinks – she didn’t even speak much Japanese. Instead mean, usually elderly important business types, would come and have her pour drinks an she would be bought champagne (which she often disposed of by pouring into a near by plant pot). Nothing untoward ever happened.

Most hostess clubs have strict rules – about fraternizing with clientele but the boundaries are fuzzy. A male friend who attended some of the local hosting clubs went to the backroom area. Basically this was all kissing and heavy petting. If you frequent hostess clubs often you may eventually get a hostess that deals with you. I imagine most of these long term relationships do end in sex. Hostess clubs fill their own particular Japanese niche. There are faster ways to have sex in Japan – prostitution seems to be legal here or at least restrictions are not enforced.

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