I had never seen any polls backing up the thesis outlined in the article title, but the larger youth culture definitely pointed signs towards a general acceptance of hosts and hostessing. I mean, the hottest subcultural styles in recent years have been O-nii-kei for boys and Koakuma Gyaru for girls — admittedly “yankee” delinquent fashion looks, but both based on idolizing people in the mizu shoubai nightlife. Now thanks to marketer-extraordinaire Miura Atsushi, we see that about a quarter to a third of young women are pretty comfortable with “lighting pathetic smelly old misogynist patriarchs’ cigarettes” as a career aspiration.
You don’t have to be a moral crusader to be upset about this development. Wanting to become a hostess either requires an incredible lack of imagination or just chronic disillusion at work opportunities for women. Being a hostess is not a “long-term career,” but when your options as a woman are being a “secretary” or a “serious employee who has to drop out of the management track once pregnant,” hostessing looks like an equally winning destination. And when you work as an “office lady,” you have to flatter the exact same suits every day for much less money than a hostess. You can at least change out your assigned salarymen every 30 minutes as a hostess.
The main problem with the ensuing Sankei Shimbun moral outrage, however, is that this is clearly a product of social stratification. Dead is the idea that anybody can work hard enough to become a successful white collar employee. If you have no college degree and live in some godforsaken Iwate Prefecture village, what other options do you have upon arriving in Tokyo, with no money and no social capital, than to become a hostess. Imagine more and more people every year falling out of the middle class, and now hostessing makes more and more sense as an occupation.
By some estimates, 30% of professional models moonlight as cabaret hostesses.
This is only half the story. The real scoop here is that professional modeling agencies own and operate hostess clubs at which they employ their less popular models. Yes, if you want to be a model in Japan, your agency will basically half-pimp you out to Roppongi and Ginza to serve on entertainment executives while you are “in training.” If one of the corporate media bosses likes you, he will go to your agency head and say, “Hey, I like that girl Miho,” and they’ll say, “Which one is Miho? Oh you mean Kaho. Same bitch, thousand names, right? Ha ha. Okay, maybe we can let her be a model now instead of treating her like an indentured semi-sexual servant.” And the media guy will say, “Let us treat her like an indentured semi-sexual servant.” Then they’ll both laugh and money will change hands. Seriously, can you think of a better fly trap for hostesses than opening a “model agency”?
Screed aside, I blame the male customers for all this. There are a million hostessing jobs because there are ten million guys who are so inept with talking to normal women that they happily pay ¥6000 for an hour of “banter” and Suntory Old on the rocks. Prostitution is a universal; “kyabakura” is an aggregate of guys who need a pep talk and to learn to think about their own wives as human beings.