It’s possible, but it it’s not quite as simple as walking up to the doorman and asking to come in.
Why? Isn’t my money as good as the next girl’s?
Well, for starters, there’s a bit of a language issue. While there might be a few hosts who speak languages other than Japanese, most guys who go into the host business come from places where they didn’t meet many foreigners (if any), and most hosts weren’t exactly the class grind in high school. So while you think it would be a lot of fun to drink with them even if you have to communicate in sign language, the idea of having to entertain a scary foreigner without being able to use the gift of gab he’s so good at strikes fear into the heart of the bravest host. Clubs don’t want to put their staff into a position that they’re not equipped to handle, so as a rule, foreigners aren’t welcome. Even if you walk down a street in Kabuki-chō where dandies are accosting every other girl who walks by, most of them won’t even make eye contact with you if you’re a foreigner, let alone hand you a flyer for their club.
But what if I can speak Japanese?
Seems like that would solve the problem, right? But the second reason most clubs exclude foreigners is cultural. There are definite rules of behavior at a host club, but they’re unspoken. Japanese customers all know what’s allowed and what isn’t, but foreigners might not. Host clubs want to avoid situations where a customer does something that makes it unpleasant not only for her own host, but for the rest of the customers as well.
Imagine, if you will, a tipsy foreigner demonstrating just what she did last year in a Ft. Lauderdale bar during Spring Break. Or a customer who mistakes her host’s flirtatious attentions for a genuine invitation to take it all to the next level. And what about a customer who doesn’t understand the system, so she tries to order a drink, then thinks it’s outrageous she’s expected to buy the bottle? Or a customer who whips out her credit card at the end of the evening, only to find out that it’s cash only and she’s thousands short. The idea of having to deal with any of these situations is horrifying enough, but to have to do it with a customer who doesn’t speak Japanese is unthinkable. It’s easier just to say no to all foreigners than to take the chance someone will ruin everybody’s evening.
Yeah, but what if I speak Japanese, and I’ve read all your tips, and I’ve diligently checked out the do’s and don’ts and prices on the club’s website? There’s no reason they shouldn’t be happy to have me as a customer, right?
You’d think so, but the third reason foreigners aren’t particularly welcome is economic. Host clubs don’t make money on people who come once for the novelty of it. Their business is built on customers who come back again and again, who develop a (costly) relationship with a host. And they know most foreigners balk at paying host club rates for the kind of attention they expect to get for free from their boyfriends/husbands.
But I still want to go! Are you telling me it’s impossible?
No. Read on: How can I go to a host club?
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 Oh! Club! Host Walker website.
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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!