Let’s slip past the secret door and find out what it’s really like to go to a host club!
When you arrive for your reservation, at some clubs you’ll be handed a photo album before being seated at a table. Inside are glamour shots of all the club’s hosts, and you’ll be asked if you’d like to request a specific host to entertain you.
If you choose one of them, that host will come to your table as soon as he’s free. If he’s a popular host, though, he will have to split his time between all the tables that have requested him, so don’t expect him to stay with you the entire evening. If you don’t choose a specific host, a series of hosts will come to your table, switching every ten to fifteen minutes. If the club isn’t busy (eg. a weekday night), some of the top hosts might have time to stop by. Otherwise, you’re more likely to be entertained by those who don’t have many regular customers yet.
Note: I’ve never chosen a specific host. First of all, it feels squicky to me to order up a guy like picking out a steak. Also, it costs extra to request a specific host, and at your next visit, that host will automatically be your entertainer. It’s frowned upon to ask to switch after you’ve chosen, so it’s best to choose wisely if you’re going to do it.
Next, a host will escort you to a table and ask what you’d like to drink. The choices are usually saké, shōchū or brandy, which you can have on the rocks or with water. You don’t order by the drink, you order by the bottle. The host will mix your drink and mix one for himself. Check out the way they do it! The techniques for pouring and mixing drinks are carefully learned, the gestures as precisely executed as tea ceremony!
Then, you drink and talk. Hosts are really good at making conversation, but they’re even better at listening. They are masters at making you feel like you are the most interesting, attractive woman in the world. They’re masters at creating an atmosphere of friendship/flirtation. Usually they sit across the table and talk, but occasionally one will sit next to you instead and you’ll learn the meaning of the Japanese word “doki doki”!
Sometimes there are champagne calls, special performances, or an event (eg. a host’s birthday, or the first anniversary party for the newest hosts) at which champagne tower is poured.
When the constant stream of topping up finally gets to you and you need to visit the ladies’ room, tell your host and he’ll escort you. When you come out, he’ll be waiting outside with a hot hand towel and take you back to your table.
When it’s time to go, you ask for the check and it comes in a little envelope on a tray. You pay with cash. Some clubs may accept credit cards, but you need to make sure before you go. And be sure they take foreign credit cards (VISA is the best bet), not just credit cards from Japanese banks!
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:
Top photo from the Prince Club Shion website; middle photos from the Luminosite Club and Burning Club websites; bottom photos from the Excellent Club Zero website
Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Tokyo. And if you can’t make it to Tokyo right away, you can always slip behind the closed doors of Club Nova and sip champagne with the drop-dead charming hosts in Fallen Angel…
Watch the Fallen Angel book trailer (1:08)
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!