Wake Up to the Same Coffee at Your Friendly Gigolo

archive3

As far as I know, Suntory comes out with a new coffee product every third or fourth day, but they got my attention with a set of new ads for Boss Begin! — a coffee for morning, no matter what time your morning begins. I am guessing that this may be the first coffee ever to be used for a “morning pickup,” and I wonder how the chemistry has been altered to specifically take away the morning groggies. Caffeine may be involved. According to their website, the coffee beans have seen an especially copious amount of morning sun. And those early rays go straight to your brain, thanks to the process of liquid energy transference. Or something.

But let’s forget hard science for a minute and talk about society. The big red ads on the Ginza Line contain the following copy:

あなたの朝は何時ですか。

「午前3時です。」
朝の番組に出演中のアナウンサーAさん

「6時です。ここ10年ずっと」
丸の内のサラリーマンDさん

「5時です。もちろん夕方の」
歌舞伎町ホストEさん

What time is your morning?

“3 A.M.”
Announcer fron a morning TV show A-san

“Six. Every day for ten years.”
Marunouchi salaryman D-san

“Five. Of course, that’s in the evening.”
Kabukicho Host E-san

So we have three “morning scenarios” — the very early TV-show host, the standard salaryman going in at 9, and the “night worker” host. The first two are a respectable part of society by anybody’s measure — the television celebrity greeting us every morning as we rise and the salaryman white-collar worker putting bread on our table. The inclusion of the host, however, is quite a development.

Hosts are young men with bad fake tans, poofed-up dyed hair, and cheesy suits with open collars, who flee their small villages at 18 for the glamorous world of satisfying women in the big city. (Read more here.) Oddly, the first line of description in “host work” is always that these young men’s main clientele is “bored, rich housewives” — which is cover for the real story. The vast majority of women patronizing host clubs to get their cigarettes lit, drinks poured, and figures endlessly flattered are women from the sex industry. In recent years, there has been a “host boom” and the media likes to report that single women from mainstream society are all going there in gaggles to hang out with men who look like over-browned members of a bad Kansai-area Sharan Q cover band, but I doubt these women make-up a majority.

While hostesses are not supposed to be sleeping with their male clients — unless he basically “buys her” for a very, very large amount of money — hosts are supposed to translate big monetary outlays at the host club into some manner of sexual favor. This makes hosts the prostitutes of prostitutes. But even if you are pro-prostitution from a women’s lib angle, hosts should be your greatest enemy. While prostitutes may be “the world’s oldest profession” and catering to a natural demand, there is no evidence that this is true for hosts. Sex business proprietors invented host clubs to get back the money they have to pay out to their female labor pool. They manufactured a “false need” for this host service and now get their labor expenses back as profit. Either that, or they are capitalizing on the fact that lower-class sex workers have a difficult time meeting men in the mainstream world and have to patronize host clubs for male companionship. Plus the hosts tend to “sooth” sex industry workers and make sure that they do not quit their jobs.

But this Boss coffee ad tends to put this host occupation into the same “normal” context as the other two. I recently talked to someone about how “contemporary Japanese culture worships the host,” and she corrected me that “they are merely tolerated.” As the economy changes from income determined by a strict hierarchy of “proper companies” to a free-for-all where the income result justifies the earning process, of course 23 year-old hosts have as much right to live the upper middle-class lifestyle as a 45 year-old middle manager. Hey, they may get up late for work, but their morning is identical in concept to your morning. They just have to bed way more sex workers than you do.

W. David MARX (Marxy)
September 8, 2006

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

37 Responses

  1. Ken Y-N Says:

    I would say hosts *are* mainstream, and are far more mainstream than hostesses, if we judge by prime-time TV. There’s some new tarento who is an ex-host (no, not Hiroshi!), although I think he started on TV before he retired. He has the perfect suave gentleman image, good conversationalist, can cook very well, sharp dresser, etc, etc. Of course, for every one of him there’s a hundred and one of the ginger-haired gits I see touting outside the station every evening.

    As for coffee, there’s one called Glamorous Body, and another I’ve seen advertised over the last month but not seen in the shops, called “69”!

  2. wakeup! Says:

    There has been a morning coffee around for a lont time. The “Morning Shot” from Asahi, the makers of the Tiger Woods pushed Wonda brand. It’s got high caffeen and is very sweet. Other favs are “Deppresso” and the discontinued “BM” coffee.

  3. Chompsky Says:

    Just wondering…

    “when in actuality the vast majority of women patronizing host clubs … are women from the sex industry.”

    how do you know this?

  4. Rory P. Wavekrest Says:

    I’ve heard that repeated so many times as well… I wonder how true it is.

  5. Duffy Says:

    “when in actuality the vast majority of women patronizing host clubs … are women from the sex industry.”

    how do you know this?

    Last year there was a spate of Japanese TV documentaries on the host club industry. One of the shows actually focused on the host-turned-talent, in his pre-talent days. Dude was clocking some serious cash — seemed like every night he was wearing one of those necklaces make of 10,000 yen notes given by his adoring fans. (as an aside: while he looked fine in the host world, he strikes me as kinda fugly and cheap looking in the talent world. Something’s just a little off.)

    Anyway, the shows usually mentioned, and showed, that many of the clientele were hostesses. It seems they’re a lonely bunch. And with the hours they keep, makes sense to get your Dom P at a host club.

  6. Chompsky Says:

    “Anyway, the shows usually mentioned, and showed, that many of the clientele were hostesses.”

    ‘Many’, no doubt. But ‘vast majority’?

    And I wouldn’t call hostesses part of the sex industry.

  7. fabian Says:

    On a side note, while shopping at Tokyo Hands I saw an entire wall of what I though was Orangutan fur… turns out they were wigs for guys who crave that Kabukicho hairstyle.
    Alas, my Halloween costume search has officially ended.

  8. Mulboyne Says:

    There are exclusive clubs where you’ll find wealthy women, business owners and celebrity wives. These places have been around for much longer but they are smaller in number.

    The growth in the market came from catering for mizu shobai workers. That includes prostitutes, hostesses, dancers and bar/restaurant staff as well as the owners of some of these establishments. For the average club, these are their regular customers.

    The industry’s real trick, though, was to convince the average woman that a trip to a host club was a mainstream night out. They are more numerous than mizu shobai workers but they go less frequently, perhaps only once or twice. They generally don’t know the “deals” so are often more profitable than the regulars but no club could survive purely on that trade since it is unpredictable. Similarly, you can’t rely on regulars alone since they get bored seeing the same faces.

    Some of these occasionals like the idea that they are going to a place that mainly caters for mizu shobai workers. The TBS Saturday lunchtime programme, “King’s Brunch” reported that companies making business cards for hostesses now offer the service to the general public as a kind of glamour photography. A couple of presenters went along and had their hair and make-up done for “Roppongi style” and “Kabukicho style” cards and the implication was that this was a fun identity to try on. A little like how pole dancing has lined up alongside pilates in some fitness gyms in the west.

    This repositioning of hosts and hostesses has been going on for a few years now and I think Marxy has mentioned it before. There have been a few TV dramas which have shown a sincere, good-natured guy/girl in a host/hostess club working hard and getting to “number one”. The job is presented as the character’s last resort which suggests that the work is not well-regarded by society. By the end of the story, however, the payoff isn’t that job is used as a stepping stone to something more respectable, which might have been the angle in years gone by, but rather that the job itself seems to become more respectable.

    This example of a host appearing in a Boss commercial seems like a further step in the same direction. I still can’t recall seeing an advertiser use a hostess in a similar way, though.

  9. Momus Says:

    It has come to my attention that the latest commercial for Chrysler automobiles features not only Ex-Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca, an elderly and respectable white gentleman, but also a thoroughly disagreeable negro called Calvin Broadus, aka notorious ho-slapping gangsta pimp / rapper Snoop Dogg. Yet more proof that the meltdown of contemporary America’s morals really is thermial.

  10. dzima Says:

    >fabian

    Funny coincidence, my friend named Fabian has done an extensive in loco research on host clubs, financed by our very own 文部科学省 (but I never knew he was into Halloween).

    Is that you, Facha?

  11. James Says:

    I have a friend who used to work as a host in a somewhat large city in Saitama prefecture. He said his job mostly consisted of going to hostess bars right before closing time, getting a few drinks and convincing the mama to bring some girls by his host club afterwards. They’d then go back to the host club, drink lots of alcohol, and nothing much would happen. He thinks that the whole image of the host sleeping with lots of clients is a bunch of BS.

    Maybe he just wasn’t cool enough?

  12. marxy Says:

    There has been a morning coffee around for a lont time.

    I will go back and check my extensive notes, but I think I was being sarcastic.

    I have a friend who used to work as a host in a somewhat large city in Saitama prefect.

    Saitama – you answered your own question.

    Yet more proof that the meltdown of contemporary America’s morals really is thermial.

    America has morals?

    And I wouldn’t call hostesses part of the sex industry.

    They are hardly what you want your own daughter to become.

  13. Momus Says:

    I see Neomarxisme is continuing its tireless campaign to sex up the Japanese countryside’s image.

    Hosts are young men with bad fake tans, poofed-up dyed hair, and cheesy suits with open collars, who flee their small villages at 18 for the glamourous world of satisfying women in the big city.

    You’ve already told us that all AV actresses and prostitutes also come from the countryside. Considering that the rural population of Japan is less than 20% of the entire population, it seems that those farmers squatting in paddy fields in straw hats have lots of energy left to — how you say? — buck demographic trends when they get home.

    Not only are those country folk supplying Japan with its food, they’re making the babies who later populate its entire sex industry. Hats off to them! Ganbatte, farmers!

  14. n Says:

    Nit-picky comment, but here goes:
    I wouldn’t say the BOSS ad is putting the “host occupation into the same “normal” context as the other two”.

    Come on dude. It is an ad. The host part is the 落ち/catch/whatever.

    And another thing… who says the average host beds more sex workers than the average middle manager!?! Give the oyaji some credit!

  15. Momus Says:

    There’s a nice explanation of the host phenomenon from Scott Walker (with a little help from Jacques Brel) here.

  16. marxy Says:

    I just wanted to mention that all of these corrections and tweaks to my original spiel are great. I really like it when the process of dialogue leads us to a better understanding of the phenomenon at hand and not petty ideological differences of whether “hosts can be criticized or not.” Keep up the factual skepticism!

    You’ve already told us that all AV actresses and prostitutes also come from the countryside. Considering that the rural population of Japan is less than 20% of the entire population, it seems that those farmers squatting in paddy fields in straw hats have lots of energy left to — how you say? — buck demographic trends when they get home.

    I will stand by the idea that most Tokyo hostesses and hosts are from outside of Tokyo. Maybe their little cities aren’t “rural” but they are not from metropolitan areas for the most part. Same with AV stars. My friend went to a hostess club in Sendai, and even there, you don’t get Sendai girls: you get girls from Touhoku who think Sendai is the “big city.”

    Anyone have any actual proof that this is or is not the trend?

  17. fabian Says:

    dzima, sorry im not Facha… I wish I was being paid to research hostess clubs. I am equally fascinated and repulsed by their existance and cultural acceptance in Japan.

    I have been taken to about 10 different clubs by clients of mine. Usually they want to flaunt their prowess in collecting phoney name cards from these bouffanted beauties.

    The girls I have spoken to have been mostly from outside Tokyo, with a strange number of them from Hokkaido. Also, about 90% look like a mix between Ginger from Gilligan’s Island, Peg Bundy, and an ashtray.

    Oddly enough since going back to Manhattan after being enlightened to what a “club” or “piano bar” is, I’ve seen many there. (esp. around the Sakagura area near Grand Central)

    -F

  18. nate Says:

    not that it’s proof or anything, but one consideration in host and hostesses coming from out of town is that a host or hostess essentially throws away the possibility of living at home. Parents don’t generally dig their children working these jobs.
    Also, people living at home are much more free to abandon the job and pick up an (at the outset) equally well paying, less demanding job as a waitress. For this reason they’re less likely to be in the job, and more importantly, to make it through the “recruiting” process.
    I doubt that will mean much to momus who has found a point where he insists on literal statistics before he believes something of relatively little consequence. Marxy’s word-choice of countryside does in a sense exclude a city like, say, Aomori, because of it’s 300k population despite the fact that everyone in Japan would consider it perfect inaka. Cities like Aomori and Akita City in the lower 6 digits make up a large portion of japans population, and are home to lots and lots of young people who want to get to tokyo no matter what it takes.

    Also,about what fabian said, I heard somewhere (one of those nhk specials?) that sapporo had the second largest hostess industry, despite being a considerably smaller place than oosaka.

  19. Gavin Says:

    Just wanted to drop in and say thanks Marxy. It’s posts like this (and the comments with it) that make Neomarxisme so awesome.

  20. puyopuyo Says:

    Gavin’s right. This blog is a joy to behold. Tell your friends.

  21. marxy Says:

    At least one of yous is being sarcastic.

  22. Josh McCormick Says:

    I learned something. And I’ll never look at the hosts of Saturday Night Live in the same way again.

  23. check Says:

    Simply that this discussion is moving beyond scuttlebutt, and into the realm of “facts” and “proof” is worthy of applause.

    We’ll see where this goes.

  24. porandojin Says:

    i like their hea … what’s wrong with it? for me it’s so exciting that low class people care about such stuff … in my country they just wear tracksuits …

  25. puyopuyo Says:

    > At least one of yous is being sarcastic.

    You must be talking about Sarcastic Gav.
    I really honestly do enjoy reading this blog. Maybe too much sometimes.

  26. alin Says:

    They manufactured a “false need” for this host service and now get their labor expenses back as profit.

    this is , well, would be, an interesting take. it seems to be lacking something. is it too ‘european’ to ask where does sex, where does desire fit into the equation ?? so the poor girls already financially ‘castrated’ (the content of marxy’s analysis) are also castrated of their jouissance. (marxy’s method)

    But this BOSS ad tends to put this host occupation into the same “normal” context as the other two.

    the reverse is also true which is rather interesting.

  27. Casanova Says:

    Is Nate the new Chris? (aka the janitor of neomarxisme) Opinions from Aomori don’t even count do they?

  28. nate Says:

    opinions from Ueno now! (mostly formed in aomori)

    (and they’ll be from some awful place like kashiwa by the end of october)

  29. dzima Says:

    is it too ‘european’ to ask where does sex, where does desire fit into the equation ??

    I think Marxy should ask Tsujiko Noriko her opinion on this issue.

  30. YoungJamesy Says:

    “when in actuality the vast majority of women patronizing host clubs … are women from the sex industry.”

    The 70% figure was definatley reported in Jane Magazine (in america) about a month ago, I’m not sure if she cited her source, or was simply hearsay, but the author was/is being paid by the 文部省 to study the sex indsutry…

    equally well paying, less demanding job as a waitress. For this reason they’re less likely to be in the job,

    i dont see how in a society without tipping wait-staff can make anywhere near as as much as hosts. Most wait/バイト style work rarely pays more than 1000 yen an hour and i imagine most starting jobs pay less even in the city. whereas several girls i know in sapporo made 1000-1100 yen an hour even working the register at the low-level hostess clubs they work/ed at, as an aside the hostess being from the countryside and not being able to live at home may infact be merely two sides of the same coin, girls who are from the city are probably more likely to have better contacts and more of a safety net so real work is easier to get/and at the same time the family is closer and so can more readily enforce morality, whereas girls who move to the city from the countryside are less ‘supervised’ by their families… the other half of this equation too is that many hosts/hostess do not host or hostess as their full time employment especially if they work at a lower-level club, many work full time and then go to the club to earn extra money for travel/clothing/or other things… and yes Susukino in sapporo is probably second only to tokyo for its population of host/hostess and sex industry workers…

  31. youngJamesy Says:

    sorry the article is in this months jane (september), with eva longoria on the cover
    i dont have the magazine in front of me, but janemag.com lists the article as-

    [pg]146- Boyfriends for Sale Inattentive date? Buy a new one who’ll keep your cigarettes lit and your martini glass full.

  32. marxy Says:

    I would say hosts *are* mainstream, and are far more mainstream than hostesses

    Interesting sexual bias here: hostess are “victims” in a sense (hey, even I claim as much) and hosts are “playboys of their own volition – even though both groups are clearly acting upon economic pressures. And hosts can “be famous” because you are not a slut if you are a man, right?

  33. Chris_B Says:

    Janitor? WTF?

  34. Momus Says:

    “Schoolwide Systems Maintainance Co-ordinator”, then.

  35. Chris_B Says:

    hey I dont care if the title is Vice President of Mop & Bucket Operations as long as I know why

  36. pamutron Says:

    i have the joan sinclair Jane article in front of me, and the 70% figure is mentioned but isn’t cited anywhere. but just in general the article is quite heavy on finger-shaking towards the woman (a host club patronizing hostess) sinclair trails on her expedition, and pretty void of anything actually interesting or informative. at first i thought this reaction might just be my bitterness of feeling scooped. but after looking at sinclair’s website, http://www.pinkboxjapan.com/, which just screams “ooh look at the crazy things those freaky japanese are up to”, i feel much more justified in my distaste for the article.

  37. SIGN Says:

    ive been told by all my friends, the HOSTO and KABAJO(HOSTESS) clubs, are owned by the yakuza, i find this to be true. the yakuza owns anything it wants in japan. i also read in another article that many of the woman clammering to host clubs, are in fact hostesses depressed about their current lives. currently in my area of sapporo. Im surrounded by Yakuza, Hosto and Hostesses, oh and Pachinko fiends.