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Host and hostess clubs

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A hostess club is a type of night club found primarily in Japan which employs mostly female staff and caters to men seeking drinks and attentive conversation. Host clubs are a similar type of establishment where mostly male staff attend to women. Host and hostess clubs are considered part of mizu shōbai (lit.'water trade'), the night-time entertainment business in Japan.

Hostess clubs[edit]


Signage for hostess bars in Kabukichō, Tokyo

In Japan, hostess clubs are called kyabakura (キャバクラ), a portmanteau of kyabarē (キャバレー, lit. "cabaret") and kurabu (クラブ, lit. "club"). Kyabakura hostesses are known as kyabajō (キャバ嬢) (cabaret girl), and many use professional names, called "genji names" (源氏名, genji-na). They light cigarettes, provide beverages, offer flirtatious conversation, and sing karaoke. The clubs also often employ a female bartender usually well-trained in mixology, and who may also be the manager or mamasan.[citation needed]

Hostesses often drink with customers each night, and alcohol-related behavior problems are fairly common.[1] Most bars use a commission system by which hostesses receive a percentage of sales.[citation needed]

Businesses may pay for tabs as company expenses with the aim of promoting trust among male co-workers or clients. At one establishment, about 90% of all tabs were reportedly paid for by companies.[2]

Patrons are generally greeted at the door and seated as far away from other customers as possible. In some instances, a customer can choose with whom he spends time, but most often that is decided by the house. In either case, the hostess will leave after a certain amount of time or number of drinks.[3]

Hostess clubs have a "no touching" policy, and patrons who try to initiate private or sexual conversation are removed.[4][5][6][7] A red-light district version of the host/hostess club exists, called seku-kyabakura or ichya-kyabakura, where patrons are permitted to touch their host/hostess above the waist and engage in sexual conversation topics or kissing.[4][7][8][9] Normal hostess clubs are classified as food and entertainment establishments and regulated by the Businesses Affecting Public Morals Regulation Act, prohibiting any form of sexual contact between employees and customers. Normal hostess clubs also need a permit to allow dancing.[10] Clubs are inspected often by the Public Safety Commission. Any club found violating its permitted activities can have its business license suspended.[11]

Hostessing is a popular employment option among young foreign women in Japan. Most visa types do not allow this type of work, as hostessing falls under the category of fūzoku (風俗),[12] so many choose to work illegally. The clubs sometimes take advantage of the women's precarious legal situation.[13] The industry and its dangers were highlighted in 1992 when Carita Ridgway, an Australian hostess, was drugged and killed after a paid date, and in 2000 when Lucie Blackman, a British hostess, was abducted, raped and murdered, allegedly by the same customer, serial killer Joji Obara. The government promised to crack down on illegal employment of foreigners in hostess bars, but an undercover operation in 2006 found that several hostess bars were willing to employ a foreign woman illegally.[14]

In December 2009, the Kyabakura Union was formed to represent hostess bar workers.[15][16]

Snack bars[edit]

A snack bar in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan

A "snack bar" (スナックバー, sunakku bā), "snack" for short, refers to a kind of hostess bar. It is an alcohol-serving bar that employs female staff to serve and flirt with male customers. Although they do not charge an entry fee (and often have no set prices on their menus), they usually either have an arbitrary charge or charge a set hourly fee plus a "bottle charge". (Customers purchase a bottle in their own name, and it is kept for future visits.)[17]

Venues outside Japan[edit]

Hostess bars are also found in other east Asian countries, and in Hawaii, Guam, California, and British Columbia. In Hawaii, approximately half of Oahu's 300 bars are licensed as hostess bars.[17]

Some bars in Thailand label themselves as hostess bars; these are loosely related to the East Asian practice, although they are essentially go-go bars that do not feature dancing.[18]

Host clubs[edit]

A host club (ホストクラブ, hosuto kurabu) has female customers pay for male company. Host clubs are typically found in more populated areas of Japan, and are numerous in Tokyo districts such as Kabukichō, and Osaka's Umeda and Namba. Customers are typically wives of rich men, women working as hostesses in hostess clubs, or sex workers.[19]

The first host club was opened in Tokyo in 1966.[20] In 1996, the number of Tokyo host clubs was estimated to be 200, and a night of non-sexual entertainment could cost US$500–600. Professor Yoko Tajima of Hosei University explained the phenomenon by Japanese men's lack of true listening to the problems of women, and by women's desire to take care of a man and be loved back.[21]

Young women lured to "malicious" host clubs can rack up large debts; some of them turn to prostitution to pay them back.[22][23][24] Habitually, the store also co-signs for the customer's debts with the host. These schemes have become a problem in Japan, and some stores have banned them.


Sign posted in Kokubuncho, Sendai City

Male hosts pour drinks and will often flirt with their clients.[citation needed]

Hosts' ages usually range between 18 and the mid-20s. They will take a stage name that will often describe their character. Men who become hosts are often those who either cannot find a white-collar job, or are enticed by the prospect of high earnings through commission.[20]

While hostess bars in Tokyo often have designated men out on the streets getting clients to come into their clubs, some hosts are sent out onto the streets to find customers, who are referred to as catch (キャッチ, kyatchi), usually the younger, less-experienced hosts. A common look for a host is a dark suit, collared shirt, silver jewellery, a dark tan,[25] and bleached hair.

Pay is usually determined by commission on drink sales with hosts often drinking far past a healthy limit, usually while trying to hide their drunkenness. Because the base hourly wage is usually extremely low, almost any man can become a host regardless of looks or charisma (depending on the bar).[citation needed] Hosts who cannot increase their sales usually drop out very soon, because of the minimal wage. The environment in a host bar is usually competitive, with tens of thousands of dollars sometimes offered to the host who can achieve the highest sales.


Many of the clientele who visit host bars are hostesses who finish work at around 1:00 or 2:00 a.m., causing host bars to often begin business at around midnight and finish in the morning or midday, and hosts to work to the point of exhaustion. Business times have changed in recent years, by order of the police, due to the increased incidence of illegal prostitution by host club customers who could not pay the host club debts they had accumulated.[clarification needed] Most of these clubs open about 4:00 p.m. and have to be closed between midnight and 2:00 a.m.[26]

Buying bottles of champagne usually means a "champagne call" (シャンパンコール, shanpan kōru).[17] All the hosts of the club will gather around the table for a song, talk, or a mic performance of some kind. The champagne will be drunk straight from the bottle by the customer, then the host, and then the other hosts. Often a wet towel will be held under the chin of the customer and hosts while they drink to prevent spills. The performance differs from club to club, and is believed to have originated at club Ryugujo in Kabukicho by the manager Yoritomo.[27]

A "champagne tower" (シャンパンタワー, shanpan tawā) can usually be done for special events. Champagne glasses are arranged into a pyramid, and champagne is poured onto the top glass until it trickles down the layers of glasses. This costs typically 500,000-1,000,000 yen (US$3,500-7,000) or more.[citation needed]


On the first visit to a host club, the customer is presented with a menu of the hosts available, and decides which host to meet first. Over the course of the night, the customer will meet most of the hosts. The customer then decides which host they like most, and can make him their named host (指名, shimei). This can be done by buying a "bottle keep" (a bottle of liquor that can be saved for next time). The named host will receive a percentage of the future sales generated by that customer. Most clubs operate on a "permanent nomination" (永久指名, eikyū shimei) system: once the named host has been nominated, a customer cannot change hosts at that club.

Sometimes a host will go with a customer for a meal or karaoke after hours.[28] This is called "after" (アフター, afutā). Staying longer at the host club is considered the proper way to treat a host. It is possible to go on day trips or travel with a host, but a host can only go with their own customer. A host interacting with another host's customer is liable to be fined or fired from the club. Drinks can be purchased on tab, but contact information is taken and the customer must pay later. If the customer does not pay, the host must. It is considered rude to leave a customer alone, called "only" (オンリー, onrī). A customer who is abusive and troublesome is called a "painful customer" (痛客, itakyaku) and may be expelled from a club.[citation needed]

Business strategy[edit]

Usually, hosts try to make the clients feel loved without having sex with them.[20] Sometimes, if a customer pays a large amount of money or if the host likes them in return, the host can have sex with the client.[25] "Mail business" (メール営業) is the practice of a host emailing a customer regularly to ensure their return. Similarly, a host may call their customer.

Kyabakura Union[edit]

The Kyabakura Union (キャバクラユニオン, Kyabakura Yunion, lit. "Cabaret Club Union")[29] is a trade union for hostess club employees in Japan.[30] It was formed on December 22, 2009, by Rin Sakurai, who formed the union in response to problems hostess-club employees reported with their employers, including harassment and unpaid wages.[31] The union is affiliated with the Part-timer, Arbeiter, Freeter & Foreign Workers Union, often referred to as the "Freeter" Union.[32]


KTV/hostess bar in China[edit]

KTVs are a source of interactive musical entertainment through the use of a karaoke bar. KTVs are usually found in East Asian nations and are a principal location for Chinese business meetings.[33][34][35]

Hostesses within the KTV[edit]

Chinese businessmen use hostesses as a means of persuading other businessmen and as an outlet to earn favors in the future. Hostesses are expected to pressure customers to drink, sing and gain as much attention as possible.[36]

Chinese businessmen that visit the KTV maintain a priority of establishing connections within their respective companies. Hostesses internally degrade their personal and "moral appearance" in order to satisfy a sentiment of masculine pleasure.[37] This may entail the loss of moral code and ethics for the women in the KTV.[38] These values also relate to the foundations of Guanxi, by which there is created a hierarchical system of social order because men possess more power in the KTV than do the hostesses.

Implications of mass alcohol consumption[edit]

KTVs are a typical location for Chinese business practices where businessmen attempt to formulate connections and loyalty with other businessmen. They will try to establish a comfortable setting by providing fruit plates, women, or alcoholic drinks.[39] Chinese businessmen can be seen drinking baijiu up to six or seven days per week solely to portray their loyalty to the businessmen principles and fulfill the pleasurable environment of the KTV. Mass alcohol consumption has negative effects on the bodies of the individuals that frequently visit KTVs.

Alcohol is a very prominent factor of KTVs. Extreme consumption methods are usually used by the Chinese businessmen in exchange for personal health and moral conduct similar to the hostesses sacrificing their moral ethics to please the male consumer.[40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ As Lucie Blackman murder verdict approaches, foreign hostesses remain vulnerable, Japan Today, 13 April 2007
  2. ^ Anne Allison. Interview: May 4, 2003 Archived August 23, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Gagne, Nana Okura (2010). "The Business of Leisure, the Leisure of Business: Rethinking Hegemonic Masculinity through Gendered Service in Tokyo Hostess Clubs". Asian Anthropology. 9 (1): 29–55. doi:10.1080/1683478X.2010.10552594. S2CID 143661034.
  4. ^ a b "セクキャバ/風俗初心者入門ガイド". C-naganaga.com. Retrieved 2016-06-05.
  5. ^ "おさわりとは|キャバクラ用語の意味を解説". Try18.jp. Retrieved 2016-06-05.
  6. ^ "キャバ嬢がおさわりされた時の対処法". Caba-manual.com. 2015-12-06. Retrieved 2016-06-05.
  7. ^ a b "キャバクラと風俗(デリヘル)の違い – 高級デリヘルコラム". Vip-deri.com. 2016-03-28. Retrieved 2016-06-05.
  8. ^ "ガチの色気で美女が急接近!高級いちゃキャバの甘美なる世界観 | 日刊SPA!". Nikkan-spa.jp. 2014-01-09. Retrieved 2016-06-05.
  9. ^ "セクシーキャバクラ(セクキャバ)のサービス、お仕事内容|職種辞典" (in Japanese). Momocaba.com. Archived from the original on 2016-06-25. Retrieved 2016-06-05.
  10. ^ "風俗営業許可(スナック・パブ・クラブ・キャバレーなどの営業許可申請)". Nagisa-office.com. 1999-02-22. Retrieved 2016-06-05.
  11. ^ "スナック・キャバクラ等の風営法開業許可手続き – トミタ行政書士事務所(埼玉・東京)". Tomitas.jp. Retrieved 2016-06-05.
  12. ^ "The Permit to work as a part-time job to earn wages. – working visa japan".
  13. ^ Japanese flesh traders targeting Western women Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine, Asian Sex Gazette, 13 January 2005
  14. ^ Nightclub hostess world still seen as one where profit trumps visas, safety, The Japan Times, 3 July 2007
  15. ^ Kyodo News (December 2, 2009). "Kyabakura Bar Hostesses To Form Labor Union" (News agency article). Nihon Keizai Shimbun. Retrieved January 13, 2009.
  16. ^ Matsutani, Minoru (January 13, 2010). "Club hostesses unionize to fight gray-area abuses" (Newspaper article). The Japan Times. Retrieved January 13, 2009.
  17. ^ a b c Faier, Lieba (Feb 2007). "Filipina migrants in rural Japan and their profession of love". American Ethnologist. 34 (1): 148–162. doi:10.1525/ae.2007.34.1.148. JSTOR 4496790.
  18. ^ Winchell, Meghan (November 1, 2004). "To make the Boys Feel at Home". Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies. 25 (1): 190–211. doi:10.1353/fro.2004.0043. JSTOR 3347266. S2CID 143656260.
  19. ^ Japan Archived 2007-08-11 at the Wayback Machine, The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 1997–2001
  20. ^ a b c Akiko Takeyama. "Commodified Romance in a Tokyo Host Club" (PDF). University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-17.
  21. ^ Clubs Where, for a Price, Japanese Men Are Nice to Women The New York Times, 8 September 1996
  22. ^ "Editorial: Japan host clubs' shady dealings that can lead women to prostitution must stop". The Mainichi.
  23. ^ "Host clubs' in Tokyo force women into sex work to pay off huge debts". The Guardian.
  24. ^ "'Host crazy' women fall into debt hell through pay-later system". Asahi Shimbun.
  25. ^ a b Tokyo plays host to sexual shift, The Guardian, 18 September 2005
  26. ^ Allison, Anne (October 2008). "Nightwork: Sexuality, Pleasure, and Corporate Masculinity in a Tokyo Hostess". Modern China. 98 (1): 206. JSTOR 683001.
  27. ^ "【明日から使えるホストの雑学講座】歌舞伎町の大手ホストグループの歴史! – HOSPARK(ホスパーク)". hostclub.biz. 27 May 2021.
  28. ^ Zheng, Tiantian (October 2008). "Commodifying Romance and Searching for Love: Rural Migrant Bar Hostesses' Moral Vision in Post-Mao Dalian". Modern China. 34 (4): 442–476. doi:10.1177/0097700408319493. JSTOR 27746899. S2CID 220739207.
  29. ^ "フリーター全般労働組合|フリーター|キャバクラ". フリーター全般労働組合/キャバクラユニオン (in Japanese). Retrieved 2021-03-01.
  30. ^ Kyodo News (December 2, 2009). "Kyabakura Bar Hostesses To Form Labor Union". Nihon Keizai Shimbun. Archived from the original (News agency article) on December 19, 2012. Retrieved January 13, 2009.
  31. ^ Mainichi Shimbun (December 23, 2009). "Bar hostesses form union to combat workplace exploitation, sexual harassment" (Newspaper article). Retrieved January 13, 2009.
  32. ^ Matsutani, Minoru (January 13, 2010). "Club hostesses unionize to fight gray-area abuses" (Newspaper article). The Japan Times. Retrieved January 13, 2009.
  33. ^ Westwood, Clint. "Karaoke Chinese Style Aka KTV" The Single Dude's Guide to Life Travel. N.p., 1 September 2011. Web. 23 October 2016
  34. ^ Osburg, John. Anxious Wealth: Money and Morality among China's New Rich. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
  35. ^ International, US-Pacific Rim. "The Most Misunderstood Business Concept In China." Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 24 Feb. 2011. Web. 03 Nov. 2016.
  36. ^ Gaetano, Arianna (2015). Out to work: Migration, Gender, and the Changing Lives of Rural women in Contemporary China. Univ. of Hawaii. ISBN 978-0-8248-4098-3.
  37. ^ Fincher, Leta Hong (2014-05-12). "China's growing gender gap: women are not just 'leftover' but left out". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-12-21.
  38. ^ "The World of Chinese." The World of Chinese. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2016.
  39. ^ Vaseline, Marge (2015-05-12). "My Time as a Hostess in a Sleazy Chinese Karaoke Den". Vice. Retrieved 2017-12-21.
  40. ^ "Alcohol's Effects on the Body | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)." U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2016.[better source needed]

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