While the recession has wreaked havoc on relationships here, in Japan it’s given a better name to what used to be a naughty profession: hostessing. Hostess clubs are akin to gentlemen’s clubs, only they’re all about non-sexual attention—beautiful women are paid to tend to men’s drinks, light their cigarettes, and laugh at their lame jokes. Young Japanese women have a crazy hard time getting hired for other jobs, since companies tend to favor men of the same age. Meanwhile, hostessing can be crazy lucrative—top hostesses make between $100K and $300K a year—and thus professional hostesses have gone from being considered tarts to respectable career gals. High school girls ranked hostessing #12 out of the top 40 professions, above nursing or working for the government. And why wouldn’t they want to spend their nights in evening gowns, sipping champagne? It’s a helluva lot better than getting minimum wage to temp, right? [NYTimes]Young Japanese girls see the hostess life as ultra glamorous. Kazumi Ota, a member of Japanese Parliament, used to be a hostess, as did TV star Eri Momoka. She says, “I often get fan mail from young girls in elementary school who say they want to be like me. To a little girl, a hostess is like a modern-day princess.” Pop culture has continued to boost the hostess industry with play in TV and books. In Japan, there’s even a fashion magazine which depicts hostess fashion and the made-up eyes and giant hair popular among women who host.
In Japan, salary men go to hostess clubs to bond and say, “Hey, we’re men,” with co-workers and business associates, kind of like they do at strip clubs here. Large Japanese companies even have expense accounts at these clubs. Hostessing doesn’t involve sex, though clients do of course put the moves on their favorite hostesses. Women and religious groups worry that hostessing is like a gateway drug into sex industry positions.
In Tokyo, there are about 13,000 hostess clubs. Some of them even provide hosts to wealthy cougar women. Atsushi Miura, an expert on the subject, says, “Some people still say hostesses are wasting their life away. But rather than criticizing them, Japan should create more jobs for young women.” We say amen to that. [NY Times]