Mr. Sato goes for a night out with the [handsome] boys.

It’s no secret that the target market for Japan’s host clubs are women. If you just want to get a drink, there are plenty of places to do that, but the whole point of going to a host club is that while you’re having that drink, there’ll be a handsome, sharply dressed man or two sitting with you.

But our ace, and male, reporter, Mr. Sato, couldn’t help feeling curious. Every day on his way to SoraNews24 headquarters he walks through the host club district of Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighborhood, and recently he started wondering what it would be like to spend an evening inside one, which is how he ended up at host club Vanps, chatting with a host named Yuya.

Mr. Sato: I’m guessing you don’t get a lot of middle-aged dudes like me coming in by themselves?

Yuya: “You’re right, we don’t.”

Mr. Sato: So I guess I must be putting you guys in a difficult position?

Yuya: “No, not at all! Gender isn’t a prerequisite for hospitality. On the contrary, when we hosts go out drinking in our private lives, we’re often having drinks with older men.”

Mr. Sato: I see. Now that I think about it, even if your customers are mainly women, the host club industry itself is a male society, so there must be a strong senpai/kohai element, where the younger hosts [kohai] are expected to learn from the older ones [senpai].

Yuya: “Yeah. If you’re a host you spend a lot of time communicating with other men. The senpai/kohai relationship isn’t as formal as it was in the past, but it’s still something that we value. I’m one of the older hosts here, but I try not to be too hard on my kohai. Actually there are even times when they’re the ones scolding me (laughs).”

While they were talking, Mr. Sato had been drinking beer. Generally speaking, though, hosts (and hostesses) only drink what the customer buys for them, and otherwise just sip tea. Mr. Sato started feeling a little bad about the beverage imbalance, and so he offered to buy Yuya, as well as any other hosts who joined them, something.

Yuya: “Should I get you a drink menu then, so you can make the selections?”

Mr. Sato: Naw, I don’t really like to get into those nitty gritty details. Instead, could you jut let me know when our tab gets up to about 30,000 yen [US$270]? That’s what my budget is.

Yuya: “Of course. Letting us know that is actually a big help for us.”

Now that they both had some booze in front of them, Mr. Sato had another question for Yuya.

Mr. Sato: I’m in my 40s now, but back when I was younger, it was a given that people in their 20s drank. Nowadays though, I hear that young people aren’t as into alcohol, so do you notice more customers who only order soft drinks for themselves?

Yuya: “Yeah, we do. Actually, it’s changing for hosts themselves too. When I started out, pretty much every host would drink a ton, but now some of them don’t drink at all.”

Mr. Sato: Huh. Guess it’s a sign a’ the times, huh? But I guess if the customer is having a good time talking with ya, it don’t really matter if ya get boozed up or not.

Yuya: “Working as a host is one of the best ways to polish your communication skills. Have you ever thought about giving it a go?”

Mr. Sato: Naw, not really the sorta thing I’m cut out for, so I’ll leave that to you guys.”

At this point, Mr. Sato took a look at his watch and saw that it was about 10:30. Even though he’d arrived at the host club at 8 and planned to stay for just two hours, the time had passed without his realizing…and yet, he was having such a good time that he was in no hurry to leave.

Mr. Sato: So how many guys ya got working here?

Yuya: “We have 13 hosts, and two other non-host employees.”

Mr. Sato: So the 13 of ya come in on different days?

Yuya: “No, we’re all here every day. Well, except Sundays, when the club is closed, or if someone takes a day off.”

Mr. Sato: Wha-? Wow, you hosts are hard-workin’ guys. But it’s not like you’re all constantly schmoozin’ with customers, are ya?

Yuya: “If one of us hasn’t been requested by a customer, we still spend time supporting the other hosts. We do have a staff waiting room in the back, but it’s pretty small, so pretty much everyone is out on the floor at all times.”

Mr. Sato: So what’s the average age of the hosts?

Yuya: “I’d say it’s about 25. Oh, here comes Ryo-Ma. He’s 23, and just started working here three months ago. He’s already one of our top hosts, though, so we think he’s going to go far.

Yuya went on to explain that Ryo-Ma is the club’s most-requested host so far for 2020, and that in addition to working at Vanps, he’s also an aspiring musician who’s held one-man shows. As the night went on, Mr. Sato met a trio of other hosts, Hayato, Kibakuro, and Yato, all with eyes shining with youthful energy. As they chatted, Mr. Sato basked in the cozy atmosphere that to him now felt like the locker room of a youth sports team, with him as the older but still-cool upperclassman, filled with the spirit of camaraderie (and also the confidence/conviction-boosting effects of several beers).

Mr. Sato: “Lishen up, guys! Ya’ll can do anything ya set yer minds to! Anything! Don’t waste yer time listening to jerks who say ‘Oh, YOU couldn’t do that!’ That’s what they usta say ‘bout me in high school when I said I wanted to be a novelist. I still haven’t become one, but I’m still chasin’ my dreams! So don’t listen to people who say yer dreams are impossible! Don’t believe what they say! Believe in yer own course through life, and run full-speed ahead on it!”

Mr. Sato was now in an extremely good mood, and his host companions were jovially fired up too. After his life-affirming speech, an employee came over to inform him it was last call, so he ordered one more beer, when suddenly a startling thought occurred.

Last call at Vanps is at midnight, which meant he’d been in the club for four hours. He’d asked them to cut him off when his bill hit 30,000 yen, but had they forgotten?

Of course not, because Yuya and his crew are pros. It’s just that Mr. Sato’s own drinks had been extremely affordable, by downtown Tokyo standards.

As mentioned above, Vanps doesn’t get a lot of male customers, and so there’s a deep dude discount. On Mr. Sato’s visit, male customers are offered all-they-can-drink beer, shochu, and wine for a flat fee of 5,000 yen, with no time limit. So all the drinks our reporter had downed had come at no marginal cost.

Granted, the host’s drinks are pricey (about 1,500 yen each), and there’s a 27-percent service charge and 10-percent sales tax added on at the end, but even then Mr. Sato’s leisurely four-hour host club stay had been within his budget. He even got change back, since the total came to 23,000 yen (US$210), which isn’t bad considering he’d also been buying drinks for almost a half-dozen other guys, plus a special kind of friendly, relaxed atmosphere completely unlike what he’d find at a hostess club.

Related: Vanps
Photos ©SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]