Youth is highly prized in Japanese show business, doubly so in the music sector, and triply so for idol singers. That means many idols retire from performing, or “graduate,” to use the industry term, at an age when they’re far too young to retire from working entirely.
For example, Manaka Shida was one of the inaugural members of Keyakizaka46 (now renamed Sakurazaka46), one of the many sister groups to AKB48. Shida joined Keyakizaka46 in 2015, when she was 16 years old, and “graduated” from the group in 2018, exactly one week before her 20th birthday. Since then she’s worked in modeling, but on Monday she announced that she’s starting a new job as a bar hostess.
Shida spread the word through her personal Twitter and Instagram accounts, with the above tweet saying:
“I am going to be starting work at [hostess bar] Next Ginza! It’s a different way from how it was before, but I finally have a chance to see all of you again and I’d be happy if you’d come to see me. I’d be very happy if women came to see me too."
Shida went onto more detail on her Instagram account, adding:
“Honestly, I think a lot of people are probably surprised about this. I really have wanted to try doing this kind of work for a long time but thought I wouldn’t be able to, so I never really actively tried to. But I asked for advice from people I know, and many of them were very supportive, and I decided ‘You only live once, and I want to do it, so let’s give it a try!’
I’m very excited but also very nervous, but this is a type of work I’ve really been longing to do, so I’ll do my best, even though I have zero experience. I’d like to sincerely thank my family, friends, and the owner and staff of Next Ginza for all of their advice before I made this announcement, and to everyone who’s been supportive on social media.”
For the uninitiated, Japanese hostess bars are neither strip clubs nor brothels, but bars where customers pay not only for their own food and drinks but also an additional fee for a hostess, generally dressed in comparatively revealing formalwear, to sit at their table and chat with them, as well as paying for any drinks or food the hostess partakes in. Hostesses are expected to be friendly, supportive, and attentive, and while all of that is provided on the basis of monetary compensation, one could argue that the fantasy being offered/purchased isn’t that far off from the one bought into by hardcore idol otaku.
Those similarities have prompted some online commenters to wonder if renting Shida’s companionship at Next Ginza might be a much more cost-effective way to spend time with her compared to having to buy CDs in bulk to get raffle tickets for a handshake event, the most common method for otaku to secure face-to-face time with their favorite idol.
As the establishment’s name implies, though, Next Ginza is located in Tokyo’s expensive Ginza neighborhood. Hostess clubs typically have obfuscating pricing systems, but a look at Next Ginza’s website lists a 60-minute session at 6,000 yen before 8:30 p.m. and 12,000 yen after. There’s also a VIP course of 15,000 yen-an-hour, plus “royal VIP charges” of either 25,000 or 50,000 yen per group, plus a 3,000-yen fee for designating which hostess you’d like, as opposed to having one assigned to you. Oh, and there’s also a 35-percent “service fee,” and, as required by law, Japan’s 10-percent sales tax, and it’s unclear if any food or beverages are included in all that, or if those are all additional purchases that must be made.
Sources: Twitter/@_manakashida via Otakomu, Instagram/manaka.shida.98, Yorozoo News
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