The hostesses of Ginza, the Geisha of modern times
In Tokyo, thousands of clubs receive men every day for different kinds of exchanges with women. From sexy dance clubs to intimate places that seem to be prostitution, to luxurious lounges, the men have many choices. Interview with a hostess of a luxury club for discovering this world, far from the usual ideas.
Chinatsu (a name borrowed by many hostesses in Tokyo and which means “thousand summers”) is a hostess in one of the many luxurious clubs in Ginza area, one of the richest areas of Tokyo. Every night of the week, at 8:00 pm, after going to her hairdresser and having dinner, she goes to the club where she works for four years. In a salon, with other beautiful girls well dressed, well-styled, well made up, she waits and receives every night rich men to offer them her company. The appearance is essential. But a hostess is not a pretty plant put somewhere. She is a person who can listen, curious about new experiences, who knows how to adapt to new situations and how to chat. A kind of modern geisha.
«Even if there are rich, there are alone»
When she receives a guest in the club, Chinatsu knows that she will stay with him for a long part of the night. Together, first, at the club, they chat, drink glasses of alcohol, champagne, wine or Japanese whiskey. “One day, one of the customers spent over ¥400,000 for champagne and Japanese whiskey in one evening” Chinatsu remembers. Until midnight, they spend time together to talk about very different subjects, “except too personal topics” she said before adding, “Then, often, we go to eat or karaoke”. When Chinatsu comes back home, it’s usually 3 or 4 a.m. Sometimes even 5 a.m. « Normally, I don’t decide when it stops. Sometimes it’s boring » she admits.
This kind of club is not open to everybody. “People have to pay a lot or be introduced. The clubs don’t want any curious or problems. And customers want to be discreet” says the hostess, “Only to sit in the club, people have to pay 50,000 yen (500 dollars) and then they can order drinks”. On the Ginza area alone, “There are nearly a thousand of these clubs”. Shinjuku is another area known for this kind of activity. “But Ginza is the top level,” she says. Doctors, architects, Ceos, managers of big companies, actors and politicians go to this place after their work for a moment of sharing. The idea of sexual exchange doesn’t exist.
“Most clients are about 50 years old,” thinks Chinatsu. They are usually married, have children. They choose to spend their time in these luxurious clubs, “ Because they are finally alone. A lot of them work until late. And with their wives, the communication stopped. They say, “I don’t want to go home now” “. They prefer the company of young girls, who smile and listen. It helps them: “Even if they are rich, they are alone, I offer them time and happiness” adds Chinatsu. To use hostesses is also a business strategy.
Hostess and business strategy for customers
“Foreign customers of Japanese companies are invited to discover this experience of Japan,” explains the young lady. Regular Japanese customers invite «their» hostess during hidden business meetings outside the clubs: “They are accompanied by young girls who, by their smile and their sense of contact, make the business atmosphere smoother. The businessmen, in the presence of the girls, also want to show their power and their money and refuse to show their weaknesses. All this helps contracts. It is psychological and strategic,” analyses Chinatsu.
This kind of meeting usually takes place outside the club, with regular customers. These are very important in her job: “I have 7 regular customers. Every month, I have to bring them to the club several times”. To maintain this close relationship, she regularly accompanies them at various events. Not during her working hours. And she doesn’t receive money for that. “I do this because they became friends or because it is a strategy to keep the customers,” she admits. The benefits can be interesting: “ I learned to play golf, I discovered diving, kabuki opera, sumos, good wine or caviar, I met famous people. I also receive gifts”.
A particular relationship but not sexual
Discoveries, encounters, gifts but no intimate relationships swear the hostess: “ Some girls go further with customers but it is rare. Some customers may try to get closer, but we find a way to refuse their intention without losing them”. Therefore, It is important to find the balance to maintain a distance with customers but also to keep a close relationship, with friendship and trust. To do that, Chinatsu has to work a lot. More than accompanying them at events, hostesses must also have imagination and show commitment to keep their regular customers: “ I offer them gifts for their birthday. At the restaurant, I have to share their drunkenness. When we go out sometimes, I have to learn a song for a party or rent a kimono that costs me 100 dollars and that takes me several hours to prepare”.. Appearance is essential in this business. Chinatsu regularly has to change her clothes and buy new luxury products that she pays with her own money.
Difficult to stay the feet on the ground in this hostess career
Finally, the efforts are important: “If I lose my regular customers, if I don’t bring them to the club, I can lose my job”. Because Chinatsu is an employee of the club. Every month, she receives $5,000 as salary (and commissions when customers come to the club). There is a particular relation with the regular customers. But the money has always been the driving force in this activity. Little by little, some other hostesses lost the sense of reality. She explains: « Girls changed because of money. Some take a plane to Paris only for shopping for a few days». Chinatsu takes care to keep her feet on the ground: “I always take the cheapest train or bus”, she clarifies.
The family is also there to support her in the job. By the way, she started to be the hostess with her grandmother helping her. Chinatsu grew up and walked a lot. Can she imagine doing this job a long time again? “I do this, first to save money and build my future life,” the young woman admits. However, this experience taught her a lot about life: “Before arriving in Tokyo, I thought the rich people had a lot to share. But money is not everything. A person can be very rich outside and very poor, alone inside”.
Differences between a Hostess and a Geisha
Geisha are very different from luxury hostesses. The Geisha are known for their beauty, elegance, sophistication of their attitude, talent to entertain, respect for tradition and to develop a conversation. They know and practice traditional arts such as dance. Contrary to popular belief, Geisha do not give sexual favors. Even today, it is possible to see Geisha in Tokyo or Kyoto. Rich men spend a lot of money just to be with them.
Author: Pierre Westelynck