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Inside Tokyo’s Wildest Host Clubs

Turn down the lights, hire a bunch of cute hosts, and keep the drinks coming, and it shouldn’t matter what your club looks like, right? Actually, no. Designing host clubs is a lot like designing casinos and supermarkets – if you want to inspire women to spend money like water, you better make sure you have a bunch of these:

CHANDELIERS. LOTS AND LOTS OF CHANDELIERS.

ZeadClub
Too many chandeliers is just enough. (Club Zead)
Or if you only have one, make sure everybody knows it's an EXPENSIVE one! (Dolce Club)
Or if you just have one, make sure you label it so everyone knows it’s an EXPENSIVE one! (Club Dolce)

And why do we have to have so many chandeliers? Because the ur-club that started it all, back in the 70s, had so many chandeliers it basically WAS a chandelier.

AitaKangouClub
This club is still open in Kabuki-cho! (愛田観光Club)

COLOR SCHEME. BLACK…OR WHITE?

AvaClub
Black, with lips… (Ava Club)
DeZonClub
…or white, with artsy skulls? (Club DeZon)
AnAnClub
Of course, black seems like a no-brainer in a club where, uh, things can and do get spilled, but consider this: if you go with white, you can spiff it all up with colored lights. (Club AnAn )

SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO SPELL IT OUT, FOR CUSTOMERS WHO AREN’T QUITE WITH THE PROGRAM

CandyClub
Use English, so your non-English-speaking customers can blush and giggle over the Google Translate on their phones. (Candy Club)
PlatinaClub
Say it in pictures. Weird, subliminal pictures. (Club Platina)

THROW IN A BUNCH OF LEOPARD PRINT

The more leopards, the better.

AgehaSwallowtail
Fake fur and leopard print-clad Ageha Gals are perfectly camouflaged at the Club Ageha.
HoneyClub
If you can’t get yourself any leopards, bombard your customers with luxe patterns on every surface, even the ceiling, like they do at the Club Honey.

GOTTA HAVE SOME PRIVATE BOOTHS…

FateClub
…so the free-spending customer enjoying a night with her favorite host can see, but not be seen. (Club Fate)
ScandalClub
What goes on behind the red curtains? Whatever it is, I’ll have what she’s having! (Scandal Club)

…AND A VIP ROOM, FOR WHEN THEY’RE READY TO LEVEL UP FROM THE PRIVATE BOOTHS

IneedYouClub
It’s no coincidence that the portal to the VIP room is guarded by rows and rows of the kind of super-pricey booze you need to buy in order to even get a shot at taking your main squeeze in there for a nip. (I Need You Club)

DON’T FORGET THE LASERS

No host club would be complete without lasers. Lots of frickin’ lasers. Because when there’s a champagne call, the whole club’s gotta know it.

LupinClub
Lights! Music! Champagne chugging action! (Lupin Luxury Space)
SenoritaClub
Mirror ball of the new millennium: the LASER mirror ball. (Club Senorita)
MagicClub
Or step it up a notch, and go full-on laser light show. (Magic Club)

DISPLAY THE HELL OUT OF THAT ASPIRATIONAL BOOZE

“I’ll know I’ve made it when…

Rey'sClub
…I can afford something from the glowing pink $ Collection!” (Rey’s Club)
CelesClub
Or forget the mirrors, the video screens, the leopard print booths – decorate the walls with decanters of spirits so expensive they’ll make your eyes water. (Club Celes)

AND NOW, FOR THE TEST…

RomeoClub
Chandelier? Check! Tower o’ glasses, waiting for the Dom? Check! VIP room complete with tinkling fountain? Check! Private room with tufted leather love seat? Check, check, check! (Club Romeo)
Zero
Or you can do it all in style! This is one of the clubs where I went to do the research for Fallen Angel.

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:

Why do women go to host clubs?

What kind of women go to host clubs?

What’s it like to visit a host club?

How expensive is it to go to a host club?

What is a host club “champagne call”?

Can foreigners get into a host club?

How can I go to a host club?

How do I find a good host club?

Why do hosts dress like that? Everything you always wanted to know about host fashion.

A Day In The Life: What’s it like to be a host?

Photos all courtesy of the HostXHost website (Japanese only).

Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Tokyo. If you’d like to feel what it’s like to slip into a leather booth surrounded by sparkling crystals, champagne and conversation, the deadly charming hosts who work at Club Nova in Fallen Angel are waiting to welcome you…

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The #1 hostboy at Club Nova makes a handsome living, whispering sweet nothings in the ears of women who pay him a fortune for the privilege. But the party’s over when…read more

Watch the Fallen Angel book trailer (1:08)

Jonelle Patrick View All

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!

4 thoughts on “Inside Tokyo’s Wildest Host Clubs Leave a comment

  1. I was going to suggest that when you come back to Tokyo, we go to a host club. I’ve never been to one. But after looking at these pictures, I’m feeling slightly nauseated.

  2. Ha, it’s definitely an acquired taste, for Westerners! Also, the last time I went, I was totally wiped out afterwards, because speaking Japanese to a new stranger every ten minutes for two hours while drinking sho-chu, with loud J-pop playing in the background, is NOT RELAXING. heh.

  3. Wow, Jonelle. Loved Fallen Angel but I assumed that the clubs you talked about were sort of one-offs. No idea the whole idea was so huge…

    • Yes, there are hundreds, all over Japan! It’s big business! Have you, by any chance, seen the short documentary “The Great Happiness Space”? It’s a beautifully-done piece about a host club in Osaka, told entirely through supremely well-edited interviews with hosts and their customers. Well worth a look (on Netflix or maybe even YouTube, subtitled in English) if you’re at all interested in seeing and hearing these guys for yourself.

      And thank you for making my day by telling me you enjoyed Fallen Angel! It’s so thrilling to hear a kind voice come out of the void, and say the thing all writers live to hear! (^O^☆♪

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