Tokyo Hostess Interview Series (Part IV)
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For many Japanese men, being entertained by a beautiful foreign woman can be seen as a highly desirable change of scenery. To some, it can be a means to fondly recall a past overseas posting. For others, the appeal might be akin to selecting chocolate ice cream after a lifetime of always preferring vanilla.
Given this, Tokyo's Kabukicho, Kinshicho, and Roppongi areas are teeming with hundreds of hostess clubs filled with Thai, Korean, Philippine, Taiwanese, American, and European women. For a girl on staff at one of them, life can be a bit unique when compared that of her Japanese sisters.
Jessy, a Filipina, is currently in the middle of her second hostess tour in Japan. Her Roppongi club staffs 20 girls, all from the Philippines. She arrived in Japan after paying an agent in the Philippines roughly $1,000. She is provided with a small apartment in Asakusa by the club that she shares with three other girls. But she is lucky. Most such apartments house six girls. Her employment visa is designated as "Entertainer," the same visa given to rock stars and sports figures, and must be renewed every six months.
The basics of the job, though, are not dependent on nationality and have been unwavering for hundreds of years; she holds pleasant conversations with a number of customers simultaneously, always providing ample sexual innuendo and the quick draw of a wild west outlaw with her cigarette lighter. Then there is the permanent smile.
This week the Captain shares excerpts from a recent interview with Jessy. Take a seat in the lounge and put your feet up as he continues his Tokyo hostess interview series.
Name: Jessy Ann Reyes
Home: Northern Luzon, Philippines
Former jobs: Worked at a retail store in a mall in Manila
Working hours: 7:00 PM - 3:30 AM (on average)
Wage: 120,000 yen/month
Hobbies: Watching videos, karaoke, and shopping
Future Plans: To save money, enjoy and live life every day as a gift, and to one day have her own family.
Captain Japan: Why did you decide to become a hostess and how did you find your job in Japan?
Jessy Ann Reyes: I was recruited by a scout in the Philippines and wasn't excited by my former job. Plus I heard the salary one can make hostessing in Japan is quite good. I felt the need to help my family as well, even though I come from a rather small family of four.
The reason I came to Japan was because this is where most of these types of jobs exist. I have heard that there are similar clubs in other Asian countries but that Japan is better and safer.
CJ: What kinds of customers do you have?
JR: All types, from the Japanese salaryman to foreigners. Our club is very open to allowing anyone to come in (Many clubs have exclusionary policies with regards to foreigners - Captain.), probably because it is located in Roppongi. In certain areas they, the club owners, don't allow foreigners unless they come in with a Japanese friend or acquaintance.
But for the most part, most of the customers are Japanese who work at a company and most are married. The age range at our club is quite broad, from young 30s to late 50s. Most of the foreigners are Americans who work in financial-related companies, I think.
CJ: Can you describe a customer that is too aggressive?
JR: We are taught by our sempais, (Literally meaning elder mentor in Japanese but specifically this reference refers to girls who have been working in this business for a while and assist the new girls - Captain>), to take the guys' hands in ours and hold them in our laps. There are always some aggressive guys who try to touch our butts or [other] certain parts, which are considered offensive [to us]. But a good hostess can usually control her client. Obviously, if a girl likes a guy she will let him get away with certain other things.
CJ: What are the entrance prices?
JR: There isn't an entrance price. Our club works on a set price for 90 minutes. The base price is 9,000 yen, which includes all the whiskey one wants to drink, a so-called "free drink" in Japanese. Additional charges come from requesting a girl (Referred to as shimei in Japanese - Captain.) and buying a girl drinks and food. If a customer stays beyond the 90 minutes, each hour costs more.
CJ: What are the prices for specific items, for example, 1 glass of beer, 1 bottle of whiskey, or 1 bottle of champagne?
JR: A glass of beer is about 1,000 yen but I believe everything comes with a 10-15% service charge and the 5% consumption tax. Most people don't buy whiskey because it comes with the set. Champagne is from 15,000 to 20,000 yen [a bottle].
CJ: Are there quotas for you at the club?
JR: Yes, there is an amount of pressure to have so many dohan (Compensated dates during which the customer will visit the club - Captain.) and have a number of customers request you each month, but there's no penalty like at other clubs.
The only thing is [that] I may not get invited to this club again unless I am somewhat popular. And this is a nice club. I believe if that is the case I will still be able to work at a club in Tokyo again as my agent in the Philippines will try to place me in another club if this one does not invite me again.
CJ: What is the difference between a good mama-san and a bad mama-san?
JR: I don't know. I've only been here twice, both times at the same club so I don't know what makes a bad mama-san. A good one looks after her girls and makes sure that they are protected and happy and at the same time looks after the club's customers to make sure they are having a good time, I think.
A bad mama-san would view her girls as pieces of property and with a lack of respect for what we do and who we are...
CJ: Are you able to make friends with your colleagues?
JR: Of course. Filipinas are very friendly and we look after each other. There is always competition, but in general we get along very well. I've only had conflicts with a few girls, but nothing major.
CJ: What kind of preparation do you have for yourself on a daily basis?
JR: The main thing is to get enough rest. We only get two days off every month and with the Dracula-type hours it can be a bit tiring. There is some stress [in this job] so it's important to get our sleep and make sure we eat properly because it's easy to gain weight doing this job and not many of us are able to get any exercise while we are here.
CJ: Does the poor Japanese economy have an effect on the hostess business?
JR: Of course! It was very slow during the World Cup because I think people were taking their clients out to watch games or going home to watch them. Anyway, not many customers were coming in.
The busiest days are on the 25th, especially if that falls on a Friday because most people get paid on that day. The weekends can be a bit slow because, as I said, most of the clients are married and have to spend time with their families, at least on Sundays!
CJ: What are the positive aspects of being a hostess?
JR: The pay for us is very attractive because the wages back home are very low and life is tough. I would say a positive aspect of this club is being able to meet a few attractive foreign men! But those are the exception, not the rule!
JR: The hours and lack of free time make this job very tough. Also we eat at strange times, which is unhealthy but we can usually adapt after being home for a few weeks. The other negative is guys trying to put their hands where you don't want them or who do not respect the girls.
CJ: Can you give an example of an interesting customer?
JR: (Laughs) The guys who can make us laugh are the most interesting. I think almost all Pinays (Filipina women) like guys who are funny as it makes us feel comfortable. We need to be entertained sometimes, too.
It is somewhat tiring always thinking of things to talk about, and some of us don't speak nihongo (Japanese) that well yet so that's a bit of a challenge but some guys can speak some English and some actually speak Tagolog.
CJ: Do many customers encourage you to meet them after work?
JR: Some do, like this [one particular] guy who is interested in me as his girlfriend but it's not usual because we don't usually get out of the club until 3:30 am. So some guy is in for a long night if he wants to see one of us!
CJ: How long are you planning to stay in this business?
JR: Not long. Although it pays well, it isn't something I see myself doing for a long time. Perhaps a couple more years and that will be it.
There are some girls who have been coming to Japan for over 10 years, many of them of course end up marrying Japanese men and having children.
But, while this job pays well and I have had the chance to travel and live in a foreign country, I don't see myself doing this for very much longer. I don't think it is suited for everyone and I have other goals for my life.
Note: Eric Prideaux provided the Roppongi street photo.
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