Commodiﬁed romance in a Tokyo host club
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Walk anywhere at night in Tokyo’s famous Kabuki-cho¯ sex district, the largest in Japan, and you can’t miss them – young males, mostly, wearing fashionable dark suits with matching leather shoes and typically smoking cigarettes. They are hosts – “hosuto” in Japanese – men who make a living entertaining Japan’s increasingly restless and well-heeled women. Thousands of these so-called hosts prowl the streets of Kabuki-cho¯, making every effort to draw women’s attention. With their slim bodies, tanned skin, and perfectly set medium-long hair, they show off their assets like peacocks preening for the attention of potential mates. On the crowded streets, they intercept dressed-up female passers-by, handing out their business cards. “Hey, are you going back home? Why don’t you stop by our club to relax and enjoy yourself?” they implore. Many women ignore their come-ons, but a few will inevitably go on to spend tens of thousands – and in some cases millions – of yen on hosts at host clubs. To explore why women are so intrigued by the host club scene which has only recently gained notoriety in Japan, I spent two months in the summer of 2003 interviewing people who participate in this unique subculture.