A recent CNN special called Geisha Guys spurred a conversation in a music forum I visit on occasion.
My first point goes to CNN: Geisha Guys? Really? Seriously guys, you could have come up with something better.
Secondly, the first time hosts happened to come to my attention was when a friend linked me to a japanese animation she had recently become completely obsessed with. Ouran High School Host Club (If I have the title wrong forgive me, I have no head for keeping in track, the names of things, to be sure, as we all know). The animation is enjoyable and fun, though it really did nothing to truly interest me other than a curiousity to see how it ends... in some point in time in the future... for I have not watched it in months, because of the lack of true depth to the show. The show gives an insider look at what a high school host club, formed at a ritzy school for students of wealth, does as hosts and the comical trouble they seem to always find themselves in. Of course true host clubs are not like the one depicted in this except for the similarities in services. (Except, I have not heard of a host club that sells lovely sweets and tea as their main items as opposed to alcohol, hahaha.)
Thirdly, hosting has become, what I would consider unfortunately, something acceptable and at times even glamour in the public eye. You can find it in numerous non-fiction, as well as fiction, books, mangas, animations, films, documentaries, etc.
A general description on host clubs would be this:
There are both host clubs tailoured towards women and hostess clubs tailoured towards men.
Both with the same basic job description.
Age range is usually between 18-mid 20's. Many foreigners will also take on this job when they move to Japan as a means to make easy money. Oftentimes, illegally, due to lack of work visas.
As a host you must not only make sure your customers drink (which you pour for them), a lot, but also flirt, and entertain them in anyway. Be it magick trick, story telling, karaoke, etc. The key is to get the customer attached and have them coming back for more.
Hosts are paid based off of commissions from drink sales. If a customer decides to keep one host as their favourite for return visits that host will always receive a portion from that customers drink sales. Unless, there is a special circumstance or the customer conferences with the owners, quite a few host clubs will not allow you to change from host to host, either. Drinks can go from 1000 yen around (10 USD) but can reach around 3 million yen (USD 25,000). Because business is based off commissions, it is an extremely competitive job to have. Minimum wage is very low and hosts who are unable to make more will usually drop out because of this.
Tabs can be set up for customers when they cannot at the time afford their host habit. ID, fone number, as well as address are taken down for when the time comes for the host to collect their pay. Though, there are plenty of customers who do not pay or become unruly or troublesome in anyway they can be banned, though anything they do not pay for, the host will in turn becomes liable for the payment. The same with customers who do not pay off tabs, this becomes the hosts responsibility. Hosts can oftentimes become entirely in debt depending on how much the customer has left the company without. They will make house calls, even visits to make sure they get their payment when it is due. Many hosts have a work fone for contacting customers and a private fone for their personal lives.
Hosts or other employees will at times walk around outside near the host bar looking to entice new customers.
Some hostesses even have to go on paid dates with customers outside of work. Some owners make these dates mandatory and deductions will be made if quota is not met, though the commissions system is also still in place (which may or may not make up for it). Rumour has it some are even paid extra for sexual acts given on these dates.
Leaving a customer alone is bad manners and can cause trouble for the host.
The job does come with many dangers, there are cases where hostesses have been kidnapped, raped, and murdered by obsessive customers.
My opinion on host clubs/hosts:
I feel that something is to be said in a world where host clubs are considered something of the norm. Hosts are usually people who cannot get regular jobs, or people who are desperate for fast cash. Many hosts develop alcohol problems, and many become full of guilt because of what the job entails. A host has to act, for hours, as someone they are not to please someone they do not actually care for just for money. They lose themselves in the job. It is a wearisome job with many stresses. Hosts spend so much time at their job being someone there not that they become lonely, depressed individuals.
I feel pain for these hosts. Their customers become obsessed, and turn them into competitions between themselves to see which of them can truly win him/her. But the hosts are the ones who go home in the end feeling empty, and used up. Sure, they may have money, but they have also lost their dignity, through the process. In the end they are still alone, and must have so many troubles finding someone to actually be with (as though they would have the energies to do so) because if you think about it what sane woman would want to date a host?
My opinion on the customers:
These people are obviously not getting something from the current state of their lives that they need replaced with fake emotions. Many customers become obsessed, or fall "in love" with their hosts, something which I find to be rather pathetic. To fall head over heels for the character you are paying for someone to play for you? Allowing a facade to turn you into a crazed freak? These women, and men, become individuals who have trouble in real relationships because they focus themselves so heavily on this dream they are paying someone for. It is a very sad case both ways.
Perhaps if people were more honest, caring, sympathetic, whatever, we would have no need for jobs of this nature.
Links for more information. Have a go at it. See what you think in the end: