Thursday, June 19, 2008

Inside a Tokyo Hostess Club

By Niki Chan

One girl's take on the life of a hostess.

She had a sincere good-natured air about her that was uncontrived and real. She always had some funny story or joke to tell you and she would nudge you in the arm with her elbow and laugh when it was done. There was an innocence about her that was evident in her age. She was only eighteen years old, and she liked to tell everyone in the club that she was only eighteen. This always got the sukebe old men excited. I didn’t like her at first, because she was not a good hostess, and also because I had been known as the youngest hostess.

I remember her telling me that before she had left Singapore, she had worked a similar job and had gotten one of her customers to buy her some dresses, saying she needed them to work at the club. She was laughing because she had really intended to come to Japan and hostess with the clothes.

She had these big, beautiful brown eyes that seemed to absorb everything they saw. They were like dark orbs in her flawless face. She was beautiful in an unconventional way. She had boyish mannerisms that were direct, and contradicted the way she looked. She often hunched and walked quickly, not a graceful girl really, often erupting into loud bouts of laughter and almost falling off her seat. She had a tattoo band on her arm that looked quite nice. I remember it was joined, and I remembered that a joined armband was bad luck.

She did not hide her emotions well on her face, sometimes she looked sad, but mostly she looked happy. I remember thinking that she was about my younger sister’s age, and that I wouldn’t want my sister working in a place like this. I know she lived with her boyfriend who was an Israeli and that he was some kind of drug dealer, who liked to gamble. Where she met him I do not know, but she told me that she didn’t think she would ever date another Israeli guy.

Rita and I often walked home together, because we lived very close to one another. She would talk about Japan, her family, her siblings, her father, her mother, her fights with her boyfriend. I would mostly listen and sometimes offer advice. She seemed to need to just talk about what was on her mind and get it off her chest. Her father was Chinese and her mother was Hawaiian. Her mother had left the family to go back to Hawaii. Rita had said that it had been very hard on the family, and Rita felt bad that she left the family as well to go to Japan. She felt that her younger siblings really needed her. I think this recent occurrence of her parents divorce was really bothering her. She eventually wanted to reunite with her mother in Hawaii.

One time she invited me home to her place after we had gone to play pool with her boyfriend at the Tokyo sports cafe. He had struck me as a pretty rough guy. He was not very tall but he looked like he needed a haircut and a shave. She greeted him with a big kiss that almost bowled him over. We played pool for a little while, the boys played, and she and I just talked about the club, and how she thought she was going to get fired. We had both considered cutting the hostess crap and try dancing, but she said she had chickened out, and I said I just couldn’t make myself do it.

We ended up at her apartment afterwards. I can’t remember if there were any windows in the place, but it was pretty sparse. It was clean though. A sarong separated the bedroom from the kitchen, and an electric heater was near the bed. As soon as we got home she broke out the hash and asked me if I wanted any. The bong got passed around from her boyfriend to his friend to her. She was loosening up a little, smiling more. Then her boyfriend started cutting lines of coke with his credit card. She had a rolled up a bill and offered me some. I said thanks. I was fine. She and I had been talking about family stuff, and she was showing me yellowed wedding pictures of her mom and dad.

We kept talking even as she snorted. I remember seeing her slip away into herself and away from the conversation. At first she was still as enthusiastic as when we had started talking. Her eyes slowly became glazed over and her conversation became slower and you could see her slip into the background of what was going on, although she was still there. It was strange to see the effects of the drug as you talked to her, and you were lucid. I often wonder what she was feeling and needed to numb or escape from. I now knew why she stayed with her boyfriend.

She talked about how a lot of people at the club were druggies. Like Oshimoto, the manager, who she said always teased her because she often came stoned or high to work, and he often was as well. When she would do funny things because she was high, they would laugh at her. She said sometimes she couldn’t deal with being a hostess. It was usually so boring, or so annoying having all these men want to grab you all the time.

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