Will going to a host club blow your budget for a month? The answer is, it won’t if you’re careful. Most clubs have an “introductory price” of ¥2000-¥3000 that includes one to two hours at the club being entertained by the hosts and a bottle of either saké, shōchū or brandy. If you go with someone who’s a regular – meaning she’s a repeat customer who has a shimeisha (a host who always entertains her) – your charge is a little higher (around ¥5000) but you can stay as long as you like. You can find out the specifics of a club’s special first-time price by looking at the “system” page on their website. It’s offered any night except when there’s a special event at the club.
So the first visit is fairly cheap, but after that, it gets expensive. The second visit will cost you about $150 to walk in the door, plus alcohol. There is typically an entrance fee (around ¥7000) and a table charge (around ¥4000), plus a whopping 40% in various taxes, just to remind you that you’re indulging in a luxury that’s on par with smoking cigarettes.
On your second visit it’s customary to choose the host you liked best from the ones who visited your table when you were there before, and designate him your shimeisha. That will add ¥2000-¥3000 to your bill. After you’ve requested your host, it’s time to start drinking. But you can’t order a single drink, you have to buy a bottle. If it’s a very expensive bottle (say, a bottle of Hennessey brandy) that costs thousands of dollars, you don’t have to empty it all in one sitting; you can keep it with your name on it for your next visit. But the tide goes down quickly if you’re being entertained by several hosts, since each time a new one comes to your table, he’ll top up your glass and pour one for himself.
And why do the hosts want that bottle to be finished as quickly as possible? Because the usual way host clubs are structured, once you choose your shimeisha, he takes home a significant percentage of what you spend on alcohol. Hosts have to hit a monthly minimum in alcohol sales before they start getting a percentage of their loyal customers’ bar bills, but a top host can make his minimum in a few days. Hosts also take home hefty bonuses if they’re among the top five earners for the week, so many customers try to help their hosts make the top five by buying expensive drinks, especially if they see another host pulling ahead. The second time I went to a host club, I watched as the table next to us requested a champagne call. After that, three other tables matched her, so their shimeishas wouldn’t fall behind in the weekly rankings
Fallen Angel readers often ask me what it’s really like to go to a host club. If you’re curious too, here are answers to the TOP TEN QUESTIONS ABOUT HOST CLUBS:
Photo courtesy of the Excellent Club Zero website.
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The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon
“A great read!” —Liza Dalby, author of Geisha and The Tale of Murasaki
Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!