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Ginza's hostesses feel the economic pinch

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“I’ve been in business in Ginza for 40 years and never have I seen things this bad,” says a club “mama” describing life these days in Tokyo’s most fashionable nightlife district. "Three days and not a single customer! The first two days we all drank away our blues, but now we’re ready to burst. What if nobody comes, ever?”

The 1990s collapse of the economic bubble hit Ginza hard; the “Lehman shock” of 2008, Shukan Shincho (Jan 28) finds, hit it even harder. Some 20,000 of the world’s most elegant hostesses work in the district’s 4,000-odd bars, clubs and restaurants. What happens to them when times turn sour and elegance becomes dispensable?

There is no one answer, of course. Most tough it out, swallowing pay cuts for lack of a viable alternative. Others go home to their parents in the country. A growing number, says Shukan Shincho, are drifting downmarket to the trade known as “fuzoku” -- ero-entertainment where the line between entertainment and prostitution is thinly drawn. No recession, it seems, can kill this industry. It thrives, and the pay is robust -- so much so that even the debts (10 million yen on average, estimates one soapland owner) incurred in pursuit of the lifestyle Ginza once represented can be paid off in about a year.

“My base pay used to be 70,000-80,000 yen a night,” says “Shiori,” a Ginza hostess. “Now it’s 30,000 yen less, and there’s no use complaining. I’m not bringing in as many customers these days, and if I come on too strong, they’ll just say, ‘If you don’t like it, quit.’ Quit and go where? So I put up with it.”

Hostess pay cuts reverberate through the entire Ginza economy. Hairdressers, for example, are feeling the pinch. A hair set that once cost 3,300 yen is now on offer for as little as 2,000 yen.

Some survey the crumbling scene and see opportunity writ large. One entrepreneur is investing 250 million yen in a spacious new club, called “O,” set to open next month in Ginza 8-chome. “Ginza’s so far down, there’s nowhere to go but up,” he tells Shukan Shincho.

It may turn out that way, but for now many hostesses see only devastation, personified by an increasing number of customers who, pinched themselves, not only don’t tip but sometimes vanish after running up a tab.

"Fuzoku," though a comedown after Ginza, at least is economically stable. It’s better than that -- potential earnings are as much as 3 million yen a month, tips included, especially if you have “former Ginza hostess” on your resume.

“Sex with a Ginza lady is a dream come true,” says one soapland operator.

Still, it’s a pity to see the embodiments of Ginza tastefulness answering ads placed in "fuzoku" magazines by soaplands and delivery-sex outlets known euphemistically as “deriheru” -- delivery health. Shukan Shincho poetically likens the women to flowers on the verge of extinction.

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

63 Comments
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This is a great, short concise article with some good data to back up.

It's a buyers' market out there, and for those priviledged few with cash in their wallets, it's some of the best party times since the 80's.

Hostess clubs and those other formerly exclusive establishments are showing a lot more appreciation for us average Joe Schmoes.

The Internet also has helped to break down the walls and create entrepreneurs out of many of these ladies, cutting out the middlemen (i.e. pimps).

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What if nobody comes, ever?

Golly, I guess you'll have to get a real job like everyone else.

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haven't found the hostess bars more open to gaijin, although fuzoku will let in anyone these days there must a business lesson spurting out there somewhere

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"haven't found the hostess bars more open to gaijin" Their business is communication. If you dont speak Japanese you cannot do business with them.

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Maybe the silly boys are recognizing that it's silly to pay to chat. Now if you were a foreign "host," I mean private English teacher, the young ladies pay you, and chat. Even old guys like me!

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From 70,000 to 30,000/night? It's still a lot of money. A hairdo for 2,000? Stop whining, will you? 250,000,000 yen for a new club, called O? Ohhh!!! Ginza only downgraded from ultra-expensive place to very expensive place. What are they complaining about?

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“Sex with a Ginza lady is a dream come true,” says one soapland operator.

I nearly spat out my coffee when I got to that hilarious quote. Paying for sex with a whore with the likelihood of contracting STDs or worse, who maybe has a high school diploma.... Ginza would be my last stop to drop 10,000 en or more.

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A lot of this is about the fact that many Japanese companies/banks/government departments actually have their expense accounts scrutinized these days.Not only a lack of extra spending money but more rigorous accounting practices.As for the "mama" quoted at the start.Did she really believe that she would still be cuttin the mustard in her 60s/70s?

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Somehow I just can't find it in my heart to feel much sympathy for the Ginza hostesses and their hard times.

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Its a buyers market.

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Another reading is that the Japanese men finally grow up. Or have they? Maybe too many "grass eaters" nowadays.

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“Sex with a Ginza lady is a dream come true,” says one soapland operator.

I would say that sex with 6 Ginza ladies in a reverse gang bang would be a dream come true.

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try and port chinese business people to this social network and see the amazing results.

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Shukan Shincho poetically likens the women to flowers on the verge of extinction.

A wonderful example of 物の哀れ, the love of Japanese to things that have lost their beauty. Like the cherry blossoms fallen after a rainy day. Maybe Japanese culture isn't dead after all.

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Ouch! This global recession isn't over.

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Japan has admired this industry for too long. The girls I have met who were once hostesses are pretty messed up in general. No skills, out of proportion expectations and bad attitudes. So the collapse of this industry may do a lot for encouraging women to use their brains instead of their legs to get a job.

As for the rising sex industry where a lot of these girls are falling, that is simply sad. But not unexpected given the fact that too many have very little else to offer for employment and no desire to learn something more.

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The high-end Ginza bars in the days I found them flourishing during the mid-80's required introductions from their regular customers or they'd turn you away. But once in, they'd treat you like a king. They are reluctant or turn away foreigners not because they are racist, but because they fear the foreigners will make a stink about the high bar bills and misunderstand the nuances connected with the hostesses. I usually went to Roppongi for personal drinking and Ginza for business.

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"This global recession isn't over."

Let me put my stimulus package in your recession.

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“Sex with a Ginza lady is a dream come true,” says one soapland operator.

Oh and I always hear that hostesses do not have sex with the clients. And that it is a very dignified job, where the ladies only bluff to rip the men off their hard earned money.

Is there a way to find out how much money earned by Lehman employees were paid for these mama sans?

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womanforwomen,

The Lehman Brothers Inc. vanished a couple years ago, heheh.

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I'm assuming "Sex with a Ginza lady is a dream come true" refers to a hostess who has had to take a job in a soapland/sex parlor, not an actual currently working Ginza hostess.

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Yes I'm guessing soaplands are booming? If people are going to drop 5-man+ they want sex, not a beer and a chat! You can get that for free...

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"If people are going to drop 5-man+they want sex, not a beer and a chat! You can get that for free..."

Where?! Answer now, please!

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Where?! Answer now, please!

craigslist. 'top', 'bottom', and otherwise.

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I'm with tkind2 on this, the girls I'd met (note past tense) in dresses so tight they had to be be born in them were for the most, vapid with a bar set so high as to be unattainable. 'I wanna kind man' 'richu desu' 'fabulously handsome' and 'devoted to little old Gina moi'. yeah ... like be my guest and do dream on. many had developed a chronic drinking habit and with gravity working on them, as it does with us all, getting pretty edgy about futures after 35. One can take the girl out of the bar, but not necessarily the bar out of the girl is how a friend put it...

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going to Tokyo on DoD business soon and ready to revive the local economy, how much is a typical soapland tab ?

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oberst: Oh, about ¥200 for the towel and the same for soap I guess?

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my heart bleeds for these sad creatures. they have no skills, no personality, pretty much nothing of offer.

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describing life these days in Tokyo’s most fashionable nightlife district. “Three days and not a single customer!

Apparently its not all that fashionable anymore.

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Sometimes I think the whole Ginza thing is a dreadfully sharp two edged blade.

You have a lot of girls living out some kind of Cinderella thing hoping to find some rich, nice guy who could fall in love with a cute hostess girl and make all her dreams come true. That usually gives way to just hoping for someone to take real interest which gives way to being jaded or showing up as desperation as time goes on.

On the other side you have guys who can't engage a woman's attention without paying for it and start to think of women as something that can be bought and sold. These guys hardly look at hostesses as potential wives. Many have the wife at home already and are looking for an escape.

It is unhealthy for all concerned. So maybe it is best if this industry dies off. Maybe both customer and hostess would have a better chance of forming real relationships.

Sadly I think given Japan's ability to objectify women, it will simply mean more untouchable hostesses will become very touchable sex industry staff in a cycle far more riskly and destructive.

Shame of Japanese society for allowing this to be popular and admired. You should care far more for the fate of these women who are someone's daughters.

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It's a vicious cycle where it's so expensive to live or commute to Tokyo that these women are earning good salaries and consider themselves broke. Not that it helps that many of them drink and have expensive tastes to boost their self esteem after working as a hostess. Vicious cycle here.

The free market will fix everything, it always does. New, cheaper, and more sustainable businesses will arise to take this place, and existing clubs will evolve or die off. The future is always brighter in the long run.

bobbafett, please never change. =)

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What a titalating article: elegant Ginza hostesss reduced to sex workers. Is it true?? Who knows!!

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its probably less that they're "reduced" to sex workers than that they've always been sex workers, but now the curtain has been pulled back to reveal the truth

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tkoind2: Agreed. If this industry dies off, it would probably be a good thing for all concerned. Men might actually go home to their wives or go on dates and the women might find a job that doesn't involve selling the false attraction and companionship. The only problem is, some women can make a lot more being a hostess than being an office worker. Going from 80,000 a night to 50,000 is not exactly 'devastation'.

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I for one don't judge these women, and the career choice they make. Good luck to them if they can make up to 80,000 yen in a good night. I guess they could go and work as an "OL"/tea-lady for a Japanese company, getting 20% of that salary and probably even less respect.

I hope - in spite of the recession we are in - they keep milking these salarymen dry until their wallets are as thin as their credit cards!

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I think its good: hostess will have to recycle, maybe get some more useful knowledge’s, not only how to light a cigarette

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Burakumindes, it is not a career choice. It is not a career in the first place. One thing is that it is a vicious cycle: the wife and children of the men who are clients of these hostesses are deprived of the time and attention from the fathers and husbands. If those places did not exist the men will return to their homes and start valuing what they have. Everybody needs the love and attention.

Single men is a different story. Maybe if the hostesses charge very high price, then only the single men who can afford will visit those places. And the hostesses will make no money or loads of money.

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the wife and children of the men who are clients of these hostesses are deprived of the time and attention from the fathers and husbands. If those places did not exist the men will return to their homes and start valuing what they have

I do see your point, but I put it to you, womanforwomen, that the married salarymen with kids who go to these places and drop up to 8-man on a night with hostesses are not the sort to be "returning home" to "give time and attention" to their families. These fellas have more pressing wants than returning to their wives and whining kids!

A significant portion of guys here - and elsewhere mind you - have been going to various forms of hostess bars since day 1 in Japan - and will continue to do so no matter what the legality or economic circumstance. These girls and women working in this industry are just a product of the ingrained desire for these establishments within Japanese Culture, and I actually admire their entrepreneurship to a degree. Personally, I have never felt the need to pay money to someone to chat with me and pour me drinks!

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I agree that some hostess bars will likely always exist in Japan but certainly if women were seen as equals there wouldn't be nearly as many. The popularity of this industry says something about the Japanese culture and values. It says that women don't really have any valuable skills and are just around to please men. It also says that it's okay for married men to flirt and have fake relationships with women who are not their wives. It suggests a man's selfish sexual desires are more important than his wife and children. Not exactly values that a society should want, I think.

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Most guys that go to snacks are suckers. I know a handfull of snack girls and when they get off work, they call me and my friends and we go party....spending the customer's (johns) money.

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I know far too many uni students who want to do this job because a) they are too stupid to get a real job b)think that prince charming, who is hot and rich, will ride in and marry them. Now, what rich, handsome man want a nasty, dumb wife?? Not all that many, thank the lord which is why these women end up being "mamasans" or whores.

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It's a dead-end job, for sure. You make that 80,000 yen a night only as long as your looks hold up. When the next "young chippie" shows up and starts taking your "clients", the daily income will start to go down. God help you if you've plugged into an 80,000 yen/day lifestyle and don't save anything for when that happens.

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It is not a career in the first place.

Its true, its more like desensitization in a cult, for the eventual day that they are forced into the full time career of prostitution. Kind of like getting their feet wet.

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dolphingirl, womanforwoman,

The thing you 2 dont realize is that a lot of housewives dont want their hubby(also called sodai gomi) coming home earlier(certainly not often!) & being a burden on the home life any more than they have too.

Its a vicious circle, its j-culture, its why many of us foreigners can have much better lives in Jpn than the locals because we dont have to follows their rules/ways.

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Exactly GW. Which came first? The guy who goes to the club because he wants to or the guy who goes to the club because his wife is a cow and is using him just as a cash machine and sperm donor?? Your average relationship here in Japan is messed up from a western perspective. I don't feel sorry for these women as they are a product of their society. Just like the cake eating, husband bashing cows are. I feel sorry for the guys. They work hard to hand over their pay checks to some beastie. I woudl think twice about marrying a Japanese woman if I were a man.

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From my observations: it is quite often and kind of “ normal” in japan to cheat on your wife / husband. Very sad…

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Wow, so many of you really don't understand Japan. A typical OL working for a JCompany earns about 5M and she works 10 hour days. And, what % have a chance to move up the ladder? Her goal is to get married an quit. I would expect a very small % would keep their jobs if their husbands could afford it. Remember, I am talking about a JCo.

Now, a hostess earns that much and probably a lot more (depending on the club) and works a fraction of the time. And, she wants to marry a rich guy too. What is the difference? Doing some data entry a monkey could do or having to build up some fools ego.

Plus, look at other countries such as the US where there are countless strip clubs.

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Dano2002 says, A typical OL earns about 5M. hahahah..what world do you live in..they are lucky if they get 3.5M. And Im talking about the well educated that are bilingual as well!

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dano2002, I totally agree with you. While being a hostess would not be my personal choice of occupation, I'd not go so far as to rubbish another person's effort to make a living. There's so much moral wrangling going on about the rights and wrongs of mizushobai in Japan and yet conveniently forgetting that many will be/ are reduced to living below the poverty line. Westerners can sometimes be so obnoxious and hypocritical about women's right etc, when they are so quick to deny a woman a means to a living.

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I'd like to correct myself. Not "Westerners" but rather "champions of western ideals". My apologies.

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The typical OL earne nothing like 5 million yen a year!

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Many have already said it. Its pretty simple. Women here want a cash cow, sperm donor, and someone to pawn the unwanted chores on. If you were married to a woman like this, (MANY MANY J-women fit this) why would you want to go home to that? The only reason men in western countries dont do it as well, is because its illegal. Men want sex most any time they are awake. Women dont. A lot of Japanese women dont want sex at all after the kids are popped out. If Japanese women saw their potential mates in an emotional light instead of a systematic function of life, things might change.

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Then I have an idiot question: why men are getting married with such women ( who see in men as ash cow, sperm donor, and someone to pawn the unwanted chores on )

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Because they are new to japan and don't have a clue or they are just screw ups that no one back home will marry. I feel sorry for the first group. But then again, they need to ask the old time gaijin guys and they'd find out the truth fast enough - but MY girl is different... Yeah, no she's not.

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I like hostesses. They serve a purpose in life but I do feel that they charge way too much, and if they were not so expensive then they would have more business.

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OL's earn peanuts. hostesses earn decent money. They get to dress well, have nails and hair done and do a job that is actually envied by many women and they are admired by men. Sounds like a J-girl's dream..... They fulfil a need in a society where many married or dating couples scarcely communicate. Leave the hosties alone!! If they move onto taking koney for sex, why not? It's their lives and their bodies.....

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marushka: I think it's because men are raised to believe that their self-worth lies in how much money they make and how well they can provide for a family. Also, mothers usually do everything for their sons so they have no housework skills whatsoever. They need to marry a woman who will look after them; do the laundry, the cooking & cleaning. They don't mind doing a few chores that make them feel manly.

And the woman gets what she wants--a wallet, a sperm donor and someone to take out the garbage. Seems like a win-win doesn't it? Except that there is no real relationship to speak of and that's why these men end up at hostess bars!!

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Tmarie, dolphingirl: thanks, understood. But in this case scenario, when a man needs someone to do his laundry, cooking etc- is it not easier and cheaper to hire a maid?

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"My base pay used to be 70,000-80,000 yen a night"

Why bother?

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"My base pay used to be 70,000-80,000 yen a night"

I suggest these trollops audition at San Francisco's "Mitchell Bros" theatre. Last I heard auditions were held on Mondays. Tattoos are frowned upon. And while the Americans will amount to fierce competition for the average Ginza hostess, if you've got the goods, you should make around 10 times what you've previously earned. Good luck and God bless.

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Such a SCAM, but all in all both parties are happy !! I guess it is ok. Paying a woman ,to talk to,drink with, & pour drinks for me is kind of stupid. But this is customary in asia. I wish them luck, if the SCAM works go for it !!!! If idiots line up at the door for service. Serve them with a smile I just hope these guys get some bed sheet action out of all the money they spend on these skanky dankies !!!!

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The Ginza hostesses would rather feel the salaryman's pinch than the economic pinch. Hostesses epitomize the anything-for-money mentality some in Japan buy in to. There's a short shelf life for these chicks and then a big multi-year gap on their CV when they account for the those years. I'd try to keep a secret too.

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Hostess club - to each his own but what a stupid concept. IMO, these girls should pay me to talk to them and pour my drink at the same time.

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