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Young Japanese Women Vie For A Once-scorned Job

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http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/28/business...ml?ref=business

TOKYO — The women who pour drinks in Japan’s sleek gentlemen’s clubs were once shunned because their duties were considered immodest: lavishing adoring (albeit nonsexual) attention on men for a hefty fee.

But with that line of work, called hostessing, among the most lucrative jobs available to women and with the country neck-deep in a recession, hostess positions are increasingly coveted, and hostesses themselves are gaining respectability and even acclaim. Japan’s worst recession since World War II is changing mores.

“More women from a diversity of backgrounds are looking for hostess work,†said Kentaro Miura, who helps manage seven clubs in Kabuki-cho, Tokyo’s glittering red-light district. “There is less resistance to becoming a hostess. In fact, it’s seen as a glamorous job.â€

But behind this trend is a less-than-glamorous reality. Employment opportunities for young women, especially those with no college education, are often limited to low-paying, dead-end jobs or temp positions.

Even before the economic downturn, almost 70 percent of women ages 20 to 24 worked jobs with few benefits and little job security, according to a government labor survey. The situation has worsened in the recession.

For that reason, a growing number of Japanese women seem to believe that work as a hostess, which can easily pay $100,000 a year, and as much as $300,000 for the biggest stars, makes economic sense.

Even part-time hostesses and those at the low end of the pay scale earn at least $20 an hour, almost twice the rate of most temp positions.

In a 2009 survey of 1,154 high school girls, by the Culture Studies Institute in Tokyo, hostessing ranked No. 12 out of the 40 most popular professions, ahead of public servant (18) and nurse (22).

“It’s only when you’re young that you can earn money just by drinking with men,†said Mari Hamada, 17.

Many of the cabaret clubs, or kyabakura, are s***** establishments of dark wood and plush cushions, where waiters in bow ties and hostesses in evening gowns flit about guests sipping fantastically expensive wine.

Some hostesses work to pay their way through college or toward a vocational degree, or to save up to start their own businesses.

Hostessing does not involve prostitution, though religious and women’s groups point out that hostesses can be pressured into having sex with clients, and that hostessing can be an entry point into Japan’s sprawling underground sex industry.

Hostesses say that those are rare occurrences, and that exhaustion from a life of partying is a more common hazard in their profession.

Young women are drawn nonetheless to Cinderella stories like that of Eri Momoka, a single mother who became a hostess and worked her way out of penury to start a TV career and her own line of clothing and accessories.

“I often get fan mail from young girls in elementary school who say they want to be like me,†said Ms. Momoka, 27, interviewed in her trademark seven-inch heels. “To a little girl, a hostess is like a modern-day princess.â€

Even one member of the Japanese Parliament, Kazumi Ota, was a hostess. That revelation once would have ignited a huge scandal, but it has not. She will run for re-election on the leading opposition party ticket, the Democratic Party of Japan, in the national election next month, and the ticket is expected to unseat the ruling party.

It is unclear how many hostesses work in Japan. In Tokyo alone, about 13,000 establishments offer late-night entertainment by hostesses (and some male hosts), including members-only clubs frequented by politicians and company executives, as well as cheaper cabaret clubs.

Hostesses tend to drinks, offer attentive conversation and accompany men on dates off premises, but do not generally have sex for money. (Men who seek that can go to prostitutes, though prostitution is illegal.)

Hostesses are often ranked according to popularity among clients, with the No. 1 of each club assuming the status of a star.

More at the link.

I wonder how long this career will remain a big payer. Seems a rather lavish waste of money.

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A recent GF of mine from Tokyo used to do this. It is actually a highly paid and safe position in relative terms. The girls are highly protected from physical contact by security staff. As for lavish waste of money; this is a society which had Geisha's and trying to come to conclusions based on a western point of view will always be difficult.

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I wonder how long this career will remain a big payer. Seems a rather lavish waste of money.

For all the parallels that UK economists like to draw with the UK following Japan's route to economic stagnation and zombie banks, the UK misses one crucial ingredient - a very large industrial base which makes for the wealthiest middle class in the world. Think about it - even at the height of Japan's recession, unemployment didn't breach 5%. So "lavish" and "waste of money" are very relative terms in Japan.

Also, the UK and US media likes to overplay Japan's economic malaise - when Japan says it is in a recession, they're talking about something of an economic technicality. Whereas for the rest of the world its very real.

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A recent GF of mine from Tokyo used to do this. It is actually a highly paid and safe position in relative terms. The girls are highly protected from physical contact by security staff. As for lavish waste of money; this is a society which had Geisha's and trying to come to conclusions based on a western point of view will always be difficult.

I was more thinking about this from an economic perspective that this sort of spending would get cut back by execs as budgets get cut.

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Hostesses tend to drinks, offer attentive conversation and accompany men on dates off premises, but do not generally have sex for money. (Men who seek that can go to prostitutes, though prostitution is illegal.)

Japan is the most sexualised society in the world, they are really open about sex. Let's not kid ourselves that these highly paid 'hostesses' aren't giving special services to these men on those 'off premises' dates. Even if it's not sex it might be other things, foreplay? I wonder if Japan even considers foreplay to be in the same ballpark as sex, they could say it's not prostitution but imply that it's still foreplay.

But I'd guess the extra services are negotiated between client and hostess rather than official, ie it's down to the discretion of the hostess of what services she will offer, and I imagine many of them offer many services at the right price.

By the looks of it, it's high school/ university girls becoming hostesses (age 17-21) so I'm not surprised they wouldn't admit it involves prostitution or 'special massages'. And the young ages involved are probably why there are many levels of interaction and trust building before further things happen.

Ofcourse it's all hush hush, wink wink, in the know stuff. And because there may be a proportion of hostesses who don't do sex, another proportion that lie obtusely about if they do, then it may seem from the outside to be rare.

The kind of people who go to see hostesses are often wealthy businessmen, in Asia prostitution is much more accepted than in the West and many businessmen see it as just another entertainment.

I don't personally have a problem with it as I believe we unneccessarily demonise sex in the West when in reality it's not doing much harm.

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Recession, yeah right. While I was in Japan last year I spotted a shop selling £150 melons (ok so they came in a nice wooden box and had a bow round them, but at the end of the day they're still melons). I think the same shop was selling a banana for a couple of quid.

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Recession, yeah right. While I was in Japan last year I spotted a shop selling £150 melons (ok so they came in a nice wooden box and had a bow round them, but at the end of the day they're still melons). I think the same shop was selling a banana for a couple of quid.

Japanese people are efficient, hard workers or so I've heard. Combined with a large industrial base and a culture of spending money there is a large middle class because businessmen and high earners like to spend their money on products and services which trickles down through the economy.

For all the faults of Japanese society, I do admit it's productive and efficient at capitalism, much like Chinese society is proving now on a much larger scale.

Edit: Average income of manufacturing worker is apparantly 28,800 pounds according to a website I found, yet service type jobs earn much lower. I wonder how much manufacturing jobs would pay in the UK?

Edited by Saberu

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Japanese people are efficient, hard workers or so I've heard. Combined with a large industrial base and a culture of spending money there is a large middle class because businessmen and high earners like to spend their money on products and services which trickles down through the economy.

For all the faults of Japanese society, I do admit it's productive and efficient at capitalism, much like Chinese society is proving now on a much larger scale.

Edit: Average income of manufacturing worker is apparantly 28,800 pounds according to a website I found, yet service type jobs earn much lower. I wonder how much manufacturing jobs would pay in the UK?

They also have no concept of a work life balance. As the older generation is retiring the woman have no idea what to do with these strange men in their house. They have spent their whole lives with their husbands practically living at work.

That sounds really sad to me.

I work so that I can have a life, but it seems to me as though in Japanese culture you you have a life so that you can work.

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A recent GF of mine from Tokyo used to do this. It is actually a highly paid and safe position in relative terms. The girls are highly protected from physical contact by security staff. As for lavish waste of money; this is a society which had Geisha's and trying to come to conclusions based on a western point of view will always be difficult.

The Lucie Blackman murder case revealed that this job carries many more risks than might appear at first. Any young woman tempted by the money would do well to read up on it.

http://www.japanprobe.com/?p=1627

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They also have no concept of a work life balance. As the older generation is retiring the woman have no idea what to do with these strange men in their house. They have spent their whole lives with their husbands practically living at work.

That sounds really sad to me.

I work so that I can have a life, but it seems to me as though in Japanese culture you you have a life so that you can work.

And look who is benefitting the most from the work centric culture, it's the businessmen not the employees. The businessmen get much more money and still have the free time to enjoy it. Just goes to show, being a businessman is the only way to benefit well from efficiency of your own work.

Many people value their working ability on the amount of money they can earn per hour simply because they haven't applied their skills properly or haven't got the marketing ability to sell themselves through the right avenues.

I never said I envy those Japanese employees, but it's interesting to see the result of a hard-working and efficient workforce though I'd rather be the boss than the worker.

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