Former Foreign Hostess Tells All to Neomarxisme


I have a Canadian female friend who used to work at a foreign hostess club in Roppongi, and I invited her to write something about her experience. (I edited for grammar and length.)

I was backpacking through either Thailand or Cambodia — it’s a blur at this point — when some British girl mentioned to me that I could make a lot of money being blond in Japan. Japan sounded equally Asian as Thailand (or Cambodia or Laos), so I booked a ticket for Tokyo Airport and then figured out how to get from the airport to Tokyo, which took me like three hours or something.

I ended up crashing on my college roommate’s cousin’s floor for a week before I finally got an interview with the club. My college roommate’s cousin had mentioned that this whole “water business” of foreign hostessing was sketchy and sometimes dangerous. So I was a bit on edge during the interview. The manager’s English and breath were terrible, and there was something very dark and depressing about the whole bar. When not trying to look down or up my dress (he had this kind of Galileo telescope thing), he kept staring at my roots to make sure I was really blond. He reached for something in his jacket and suddenly asked me, “You dye now?” and I started to freak out. (Turns out he was just scratching himself.) I explained that I had been naturally blond as a child but that most adult Western women become more brunette as they get older. He ominously told me, “Well, I hope you dye soon” and then handed me my punch-card. I was hired.

The job was boring. I would come in to work at around 8, and then the awful customers would start coming in. First of all, the customers were mostly Japanese men. Second, they were Japanese men without any sort of history with real life women. It was almost as if going to this club was a product of failure with Japanese women. They smelled bad and wore boxy black suits and wanted to talk about golf. The liked to sing John Denver at karaoke, and I don’t like John Denver. I would always want to sing No Doubt or that one Adam Ant song, but they didn’t have these in the karaoke machine.

One guy always came in and wanted to show off by reciting Pi to 6,000 digits. This would take three or four hours — before he finally gave up and went to the bathroom. He would always want us to join in, which was impossible for most of the girls, but this helped me learn to count in Japanese.

Another guy used to come in and recite “e” — the natural log digit or whatever — and he would get in a battle with the Pi guy. This was a big source of stress. The Pi guy was “my guy,” and the e guy was this Russian girl’s guy. This Russian girl hated me, and the e guy started to like me, because he thought I liked to have digits read to me, which I don’t, even to this day. So the Russian girl starts to totally hate on me, because the e guy and the Pi guy are fighting for me very openly. In the end, they both got over me and started to like this bimbo from New Zealand. Once they made amends, they would read off together the 3,000 digits of if you subtracted e from Pi. All I remember is that it starts out 0.4233.

After a while, the whole thing became very tedious. The money was not that great, and Japan had no beaches or anything.

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

57 Responses

  1. Duffy Says:

    The hitotoki effect? Good stuff, Sir Marxalot.

  2. lacadutadegiganti Says:

    Good stuff indeed! That “e” guy vs. the “pi” guy competition was hilarious in a quintessentially surreal Japanese way – as well as a damning indictment of the J-educational system and how it destroys the natural creative enthusiasm of kids with a straitjacketed pi-to-a-hundred-digits way of thinking.

    She should’ve asked both of them what the square root of –1 is. And then she should’ve told the hostile Russian chick that Russian culture has been in decline Muscovy beat out Nizhni Novgorod for hegenomy.

  3. Aceface Says:

    The whole story does sound like coming from someone with blonde.

  4. Rory P. Wavekrest Says:

    “All I remember is that it starts out 0.4233.”
    Can any nerdlingers here confirm this for us?

  5. bryce Says:

    On the perhaps tenuous assumption this isn’t an extremely dead-on piss-take of westerners in Japan, I’d have to say that my estimation of you has fallen substantially.

    I mean, I know that a lot of the people who end up as (semi-)permanent expats in Japan are those who would be much less successful in their native countries than they are in a nation where they are in demand simply because of their foreignness, but these aren’t exactly the people I would expect you to be friends with.

    I can only imagine how roughly this must have read before your edits; presumably she has moved on to become an English teacher (though in a country with more beaches, of course).

    Of course, this is why I hope that this is nothing more than a brilliantly subversive satire indicting westerners in Japan, but I’m somehow afraid that it’s not.

  6. marxy Says:

    “I’m somehow afraid that it’s not.”

    Wait, so I lose points if this is real but win points if this is fake?

  7. Don Says:


  8. bryce Says:

    “Wait, so I lose points if this is real but win points if this is fake?”

    Sure… it’s kind of like those “Lance” posts. You know, the kind of entries so atypical that some of us have to wonder that you’d let them appear on your blog at all; shallow, uninspired, and woefully ignorant (or perhaps merely oblivious) meanderings are not exactly what I’ve come to expect to see here. As Aceface has noted, the impression of your friend is so unappealing that you’ve got to suspect that you intended the passage to be read on multiple levels. Anyway, that’s my take on it.

    Salon also had an interesting series about being a hostess a few years ago. You can still find it here:

  9. Aceface Says:

    I’ve read in one of shukanshi last year, that Aum-Shinrkyo’s guru Asahara’s right hand man,Kiyohide Hayakawa had a Canadian mistress.

    Hayakawa met this Canadian hostess at Gaijin club in Roppongi and started relationship after series of dohan.The woman now owns ski shop in Calgary(bought mostly with the money Hayakawa for their relationship)and lives happily with her boyfriend, said in the article.”Kiyo was such a shy in bed and normally a gentleman……”

    Hayakawa is the perpeturator of killing of the lawyer’s family and now sentenced to death by the court.Settled to North Korea more than dozen times for still unknown reasons and to Russia to purchase AK assault rifle for future planned coup d’etat.
    Gentleman prefers blonde.

  10. Chris_B Says:

    Well wether this was snark or not, just goes to show that 1) most jobs are dull, 2) not everyone should be in the entertainment or service industries.

  11. lauren Says:

    Can we not judge people just on their ability to ‘get’ Japan? It’s that Gaijin Royale mentality Momus brings up – can’t be friends with ‘those sorts of foreigners’ or you’ll lose cred apparently. Sure it shades the account, but to chastise Marxy for passing it on?

    Maybe I’m just sensetive to the blonde-hatin’… Western guys in Japan are mean to us sometimes, because if they had been into us to begin with they would have stayed home. Not everyone of course, but I’ve run into the type one more than one occasion.

    Rory: my sources (wikipedia + calculator) confirm that she’s right.

  12. Aceface Says:

    “Can we not judge people just on their ability to ‘get’ Japan?”

    Afterall isn’t that this blog is all about,lauren?
    Momus got bushed for his non-ability of the Japanese language and lacking insight on social tention in Japanese society all the time.I thought that was an overkill.

    Don’t know what “Gaijin Royale”is all about,but one thing for sure is criticism on this country should not be oneway traffic.

    Anyway this is a native(non blonde) opinion….

  13. lauren Says:

    “Afterall isn’t that this blog is all about,lauren?”

    I see what you are saying certainly, but still… I mean, *I* don’t equate people’s opinions here with what sort of person they are in the real world. There is some correlation sure, but I don’t think it ought to be a personal thing. Just because a person might agree with me 100% on neomarxisme doesn’t mean they can’t also be a real wanker. Also vice versa. I hear M & m are pals in the real world and that’s how those things ought to work. Same things goes for this Canadian gal – she might not have a viewpoint on Japan that is considered valid by many in this crowd, but that hardly precludes her from being an ace person otherwise.

    The Gaijin Royale thing (I think) has to do with how foreigners treat each other in Japan – the constant fight about who ‘gets it’ more. It makes me feel sad. I agree wholeheartedly with you about criticism though. It would be nice to have even more Japanese voices around these parts.

  14. Chris_B Says:

    hrm, but mr marxy is being all coy if its judgemental or not.

  15. Aceface Says:

    Gaijin Royale happens all the time among Japanese China and Korea watchers.

    Anyway Bryce and I are more demanding to Marxy over the quality of his blog, not denouncing it.
    Although I admit that there is a tendency of forgetting Marxy does all the research and writing for us entirely at his expense.

  16. lauren Says:

    Obviously I’m hoping for a non-ironic use of the word “friend” in the original post. Count me as “you lose points if it’s fake”. marxy?

  17. Ryan Cousineau Says:

    Chris_B: I think marxy thinks the ambiguity and tension are more interesting that knowing the answer.

    I’m betting the story is real, and presented non-ironically, though as the perspective of the friend, not Comrade host.

    Also, the Pi vs. e battle is so dumb it could be true. But impressive nonetheless.

  18. Chuckles Says:

    I resisted the temptation to post the first comment on this post, and I guess it paid off – as others here have said much of what I had in mind. To put it bluntly, my first impression was that this was just another Neomarxisme gaijin-chic style dissing of Japanese masculinity (Oh, how revolutionary) couched in the language of a hostess (Oh! When is an author not an author? Derrida anyone?). My first impression was largely on mark. Note of course, that it is in Japan where women go to hostess clubs because they have problems with Japanese women – and not in the United States – where – gasp! – things like high level State department officers frequenting les madames for the services of Central American women (troubles with white chicks, anyone?) do not happen.
    Let the observant reader invert the stereotypes (Oh! How I love inverting stereotypes. Sometimes I fancy I am inverted stereotype myself. I kill myself with this stuff) – substitute the effete, emasculated Japanese male with his oh, so gauche business suit for the fat, ugly American with quadruple jowls who doubles back and across the border to screw brown mamacitas – or have them delivered to his apartment in DC. (Would you like that latte brown or crispy brown, sir?). A certain lady by the moniker of Jessica Cutler comes to mind: Perish the thought that the mostly white dudes who wanted to bang her were animated by problems with *ahem* American chicks.
    Let Pi = NASCAR, e = Bud and the difference between = a boys night out with a TV set (football anyone?) and one might have a very nice setup for a movie shot in the apartments of the Lacrosse team of a prestigious Southern University.
    You see, the problem with the gaijin-chic style dissings of Japanese masculinity is that they ultimately lack content. For so many blonde haired, blue eyed foreigners – Japan is one gaint hostess club: Why dont we diss white guys who hook up with J-girls for a change? Do *they* do it because they have problems with white girls? (and yes, I am being race specific here: do not even attempt to argue that the emasculated yellow male isnt a trope rooted in years of racial history).

    Look pals, this post doesnt have anything to do with Marxys friend. Regardless of whatever his Canadian friend may have told him; Marxy is the author of that post and the views in it are his: they jibe so very closely with what he has written in the past – I thought this commentariat was a haven for Pomo connoisseurs.

    […Second, they were Japanese men without any sort of history with real life women. It was almost as if going to this club was a product of failure with Japanese women….]

    This one above, so original my friends. So original. The insight – it stings, I tell you! Who would have thought that for some, seeking enclaves of Japanese girls is proof of failure with fat white girls – thats what she wrote, aint it – No, wait…God, I kill myself!

  19. bryce Says:

    My comments had nothing to do with “blonde-hatin’.” They had more to do with the number of eminently untalented and unskilled westerners who come to Japan and find themselves making a lot more money than they ever could at home simply because they are foreigners. This isn’t an exclusively Japanese phenomenon, as you see the same sort of expats in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, etc.

    I think this phenomenon can perhaps be identified as a form of neo-colonialism, as it allows those who would operate at the margins of a western society to operate at an elevated status in their adopted local. This ranges from the legions of backpackers traveling around SE Asia and living much more richly than they would in their home countries to those foreigners who establish themselves in countries like Japan and prosper simply because they speak English or have blonde hair or otherwise seem exotic. In my opinion these neo-colonialists tend to reflect badly on their home countries, as many of them behave with wild excess while others are simply astonishingly incompetent.

    Anyway, I’m surprised that this hostess is marxy’s friend not because they might have divergent opinions about Japan (though I honestly doubt she has any opinions at all about any of the things normally discussed here), but because she comes across as a willfully ignorant individual who probably has few ideas about anything in the world. If marxy were to discuss Canada’s notwithstanding clause or the ins and outs of calling Quebec a nation, do you think she’d have anything interesting to say?

  20. marxy Says:

    Wow, great points on both sides of the aisle.

  21. Don Says:


    Please tell me you’re chuckling away to yourself right now like the author of this:

  22. marxy Says:

    “Marxy is the author of that post and the views in it are his”

    Chuckles is down with the P.E.R.S.P.I.C.A.C.I.T.Y.

    I wrote this piece aiming for very obvious satire/parody, and I am sorry that it’s been read as a real testimonial (and an indictment of my social scene.) The only person I have known to work at one of these places did it solely to write an article, and this is not an indictment of her either. In general, I did not mean this as a “is it real or not?” (I thought the Pi/e plus Galileo plus “dye/die” jokes would give it away), because then it becomes a joke on the reader. I am glad it lead to some discussion about our perceptions of these women who take these jobs. Or at least, my biases. But no, I meant this as a lighthearted joke on that Japan Times piece.

    Some points:

    1) First, these gaijin hostess clubs are so minor and only hold interest to the media in a “white slavery” kind of moral panic. Nobody prints testimonials from Filipina, Chinese, or Korean hostesses – just the First World drop-outs who end up here and then get disappointed that money is not so free after all. The Blackman case adds a layer of mystery, but only in a sensationalist way.

    2) “They had more to do with the number of eminently untalented and unskilled westerners who come to Japan and find themselves making a lot more money than they ever could at home simply because they are foreigners.”

    As someone who has spent a decade learning Japanese and trying to give myself marketable skills, I think it’s hot hard to imagine that I am not very keen on this kind of neo-Colonialist plunge into Japan (or other foreign countries) hoping for an easy handout.

    3) “Can we not judge people just on their ability to ‘get’ Japan?”

    I don’t think this was my point.

    4) “Western guys in Japan are mean to us [blond girls] sometimes”

    Hey, some of my friends are blond! I don’t think I have to mention that there is something going with the racial marketing of “blondness” in Japan and other places. Dave Spector doesn’t dye his hair red to become “more foreign.”

    5) “I hear M & m are pals in the real world and that’s how those things ought to work. ”

    I disagree. I think you should show at least a modicum of civility and respect in the online world to people you count as your “friends.” You can disagree with constantly demonizing, but some people don’t.

    6) “Derrida anyone?”

    Oh like Pomo isn’t at the base of our culture these days…

    7) “Note of course, that it is in Japan where women go to hostess clubs because they have problems with Japanese women – and not in the United States – where – gasp! – things like high level State department officers frequenting les madames for the services of Central American women (troubles with white chicks, anyone?) do not happen.”

    I don’t think it matters to this discussion that some Americans do the same thing, because I dislike those Americans equally as I dislike the hostess club set in Japan.

    The thing is, there is something that can be said about Japanese masculinity in the vast numbers of non-foreign hostess clubs across Japan. There are two kinds of men who frequent hostess clubs, and only two: the inept and the misogynistic. (I guess you can be both as well.) If you are too inept to meet women on your own accord, there is value in paying 7000 an hour to receive doting from the market. If you are a sleezebag womanizer with a wife and kids at home, there may also be value. There are plenty of men in Japan who just don’t go to hostess clubs or pink salons etc. If someone wants to defend hostess clubs, go ahead, but they strike me as a symbol of mismatched sexualities in society rather than serving some kind of productive purpose. Sex services in Japan are inversely proportional to the amount of “real life” sex and the birth rate. It doesn’t look good for adult men to be obsessed with 12 year-old girls in thong bikinis or Morning Musume, but hey, it doesn’t get them laid either.

    The foreign hostesses just add a weird racial and national angle to an already problematic system.

    8) “Jessica Cutler”

    I think you are stretching it to compare an individual actor with a massive commercial market system.

    9) “Why dont we diss white guys who hook up with J-girls for a change?”

    I have!

    “Do *they* do it because they have problems with white girls?”


    “The insight – it stings, I tell you!”

    This wasn’t an insight as much as a part of the characterization.


  23. TJJ Says:

    Oh dear, people are having trouble deciding if it’s a true story??

    I loved it – “you dye now!” = oh my lolz!

    But you had me at “natural log digit or whatever”

  24. Chris_B Says:

    LOTS of bitterness there marxy. May I however disagree with the following:

    “There are two kinds of men who frequent hostess clubs, and only two: the inept and the misogynistic.”

    Had you not added “and only two” you would have left wiggle room as a blanket stereotype, but since you did, I must call you out. I have known a fair number of men at various levels of the corporate stratum who have been patrons of hostess clubs who are neither inept nor misogynistic by my observation.

    For a very long time I myself wondered what the appeal might be in paying for someone to talk to you, but it was recently explained to me that in fact the appeal is someone who will treat you respectfully or flatter you. This may seem equally odd, but reflecting upon the lives of many salarymen I’ve known who get no respect at work or at home, I begin to understand the appeal. Not on a visceral level but at least theoretically. I can certainly understand not wanting to pay for recreational sex (for any number of reasons) yet wanting to be treated well by a woman without any of the pressure or obligation involved in an emotional relationship. Think of it as pure masculine escapism for what thats worth. There was much more to the explanation but for various reasons I wont go into the whole thing here.

    NB this isnt written as a “defence” so much as an explanation in context to a question I had for years. I write this trying not to get into the issue of gender identity or relations.

    NB2 I actually have alot of respect for any professional who can do their job very well, regardless of my personal feelings about that profession.

  25. hex Says:

    Bryce’s comments are elitist and idiotic. ‘Neo-colonialism’ indeed. Might I remind you whose money is paying for whose affective labor in this case?

    I was once in a sushi bar in Washington, DC with my partner. It was a truly awkward situation, with at least three of the restaurant’s waiters watching us eat the entire time (got anything better to do with your time?). During our meal I noticed a white guy at the bar with incredible Japanese talking up this girl that he probably brought there. He really was exceptionally good at the language so as we paid and left I walked over to the bar and told him that I thought his Japanese was excellent, and then I asked where he had studied. I’ll never forget his reaction. He looked at me for about 10 seconds and then turned around and started talking to his girlfriend again. Maybe it was because my clothes were your average threads, I’ll never know, but I’ll never forget the absolute arrogance of that asshole. That he couldn’t even stoop down to give a person like me some hints on where to go with the language.

    2 years later I’m a professional translator, and I’m happy to give out advice to anyone trying to have a go at living in Japan. There will always be women and men like Marxy’s hostess friend, and they are almost invariably stuck in piss-boring wage labor like English teaching if not working in hotels, factories or what have you. I find the accusation that they (or we) are living in some neo-colonialist bubble to be absurd and insulting.

  26. Yago Says:

    The thing is you are paying for the good treatment. And you know it. How these guys deceive themselves to think they deserve it is beyond my comprehension.
    But again, acting is such an integral part of japanese society.

  27. neogeisha Says:

    marxy, the only way to resolve these issues is to read my novel, I LOVE LORD BUDDHA. may i send you a copy?

  28. jasong Says:

    Anybody who’s read Marxy’s funny one act plays should’ve known this was “fiction” by the middle of the second paragraph (“Galileo telescope thing”). If you still didn’t get it by “The Pi guy was ‘my guy'”…

    There are two kinds of men who frequent hostess clubs, and only two: the inept and the misogynistic.

    Slightly OTT. There’s a third type which make up a good portion of the men I’ve known who frequent the clubs — the ones who are obligated to bring clients of theirs who want to go to these places. They’re bored sh*tless most of the time, end up drinking more alcohol than they’d like to and miss their last trains.

  29. lauren Says:

    One year, my mom wrote this Christmas letter about how we had had this big drunken party and had accidentally released our cats into a weather balloon and they floated away. Then, oops!, we let our birds out to “go get them”, but they never came back. We thought it was an obvious lie, but very, very few of our friends and family picked up on that. There were a couple of awkward conversations that resulted. It was all ok in the end though.

  30. marxy Says:

    “the ones who are obligated to bring clients of theirs who want to go to these places. ”

    This is true. Interesting idea though that hostess clubs play such a fundamental role in commercial relations. It basically assumes that no women are in senior positions.

  31. Aceface Says:

    The high class hostess clubs in Ginza are all run by Mamas and Madames.

  32. bryce Says:


    I’d argue that what is truly elitist and idiotic are those westerners who whose sole experience with the foreign countries in which they find themselves is one of exploitation — be it financial, sexual, or otherwise.

    Unless you are seriously suggesting that not many western men head to Asia in search of girls, or that a lot of English teachers (especially the long termers) have comparable career prospects back in their home countries, or that a most backpackers display even a modicum of cultural sensitivity (let alone are seriously interested in learning about the culture through which they’re traveling), I don’t see how you can deny that there’s a neo-colonial mindset at work. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Japanese paying for a teacher’s wages today or the harvesting of Burmese teak a hundred years ago, there’s still a clear exploitation of resources, an exploitation that exists because of the relative merits of the exploiter but simply because of where he/she comes from. When you combine this with a widespread tendency for these exploiters to live in a decidedly western style while demonstrating little or no cultural sensitivity, I don’t think it’s too big a stretch to call it neo-colonialism.

  33. marxy Says:

    “The high class hostess clubs in Ginza are all run by Mamas and Madames.”

    I meant senior positions in the companies that haunt hostess clubs. If Tokyo Gas has to take its clients out, it can choose a hostess club only under the assumption that there are not women who will be included in the settai group.

  34. lacadutadegiganti Says:

    Mon dieu, I’ve been had! Should’ve been tipped off by the recitation of “e” thing. Pi and the square root of 2 are in the school-exam repertoire, but not, as far as I know, “e”.

    The 12-year-old son of a friend in Karuizawa last week regaled us with pi to a hundred. It depressed me. This kid, who had once been so full of intellectual enthusiasm, had been lobotomized by the school-exam system.

  35. marxy Says:

    I didn’t really mean the “Pi” thing to be an indictment of the Japanese education system, but I understand why people see the satire directed there. I just was trying to think of something really boring.

    I do often use the following metaphor for the way the Japanese education system teaches English:

    Okay, students, here’s a deck of cards. I want you to memorize the order of the cards.

    (Students work hard)

    Q: Hey, I heard you work hard with playing cards?
    A: Yes.

    Q: So you must be really good at poker!
    A: …

  36. jasong Says:

    This is true. Interesting idea though that hostess clubs play such a fundamental role in commercial relations. It basically assumes that no women are in senior positions.

    Companies that do have women in positions of power (or at the top) are probably progressive enough to think of other settai options. Though I have heard of female shacho bringing male clients to maiko-san in Kyoto.

    I just had a flashback to the hostess club scene in Ridley Scott’s Black Rain, with Kate Capshaw as an old Japan hand. Does it hold up?!

  37. hex Says:

    Doesn’t the poker metaphor go for everything the Japanese educational system teaches?

  38. Adamu Says:

    Maiko-san in Kyoto– I think most of the high-scale hostess places are a world apart from the seedy Kabuki-cho type establishments. Once I had the odd opportunity to go to a hostess club in Gion to was nothing like I imagined — it was mixed groups sitting with middle-aged women in kimono. No touching/flirting, it was brightly lit and very classy. The woman acted as a conversation facilitator/drink pourer and it was a very pleasant time — we talked about her kids, Kyoto geography, where I learned Japanese etc. The independent businessman who took me there was reluctant to take me because he thought I could appreciate it when I could actually afford to go there myself.

    It wouldn’t be hard for a woman in a senior position to go there, at least, though that in no way negates the point that the business culture in Japan assumes an absence of women in career positions.

    Hex – was that guy kind of tall thin and blond? Was the sushi place Sushi Taro? I think I might know that guy.

    Bryce – your attitude about “neo-colonialists” in Japan reminds me of white American hip hop fans who think they really get hip hop and hate all the poseur frat boys who mock Lil Jon.

    Arguing that westerners who come to Japan have to act like you do is just replacing one elitist attitude for another. And the amazing thing is that white men seem to between a rock in a hard place – they’re either exploiting Japan by being culturally insensitive or complete losers with no careers for staying in Japan?

    Why not just let these people be? Labeling these people colonists is a convenient way to look down on them and make you feel better about yourself, but it has little to do with them.

    There might be issues with the western hostesses who work in Japan (though they almost always enter the business under much better conditions than Filipinas or Russians), but as with eikaiwa (or even the US military) the issue has less to do with the westerners’ outlooks on Japan than it does with the systems they enter. Do we accuse soldiers of murder when they’re sent off to war? No we don’t.

    For example, NOVA wasn’t started by westerners, it was started by an entrepeneur from Osaka who saw he could make a buck by selling lump-sum contracts and refusing to refund customers’ money. There are of course lingering issues of inferiority/envy of the West that make businesses like that possible, but it’s overwhelmingly Japanese people themselves who perpetuate and exploit those sentiments than Westerners (with many exceptions like fast food and movies), especially individual Westerners who tend to be pretty much at the mercy of the Japanese while they’re here just like everyone else.

    People who come to work/live in Japan largely provide valuable services to the country, economy and society. Even the backpackers might be an occasional nuisance but they nonetheless bring in valuable tourism revenue and it’s up to Japan or whatever country you want to use as an example to make sure things don’t get out of control. It would be nice if everyone could have a once-in-a-lifetime cultural awakening, but most people have connections back home they don’t want to give up and their own interests that don’t include tackling an extremely difficult language like Japanese.

    And really, isn’t it more interesting to be friendly to people at first and find out they’re complete jerks later?

  39. Adamu Says:

    Marxy: I am impressed at how much discussion your cryptic story has generated. It reminds me of the art class I took in college — we spent half the time painting and half the time criticizing each other’s work. It was probably the best class I took in college except for maybe water aerobics. It was a little like this except in art class people were a lot more polite.

  40. Aceface Says:

    Wasn’t Mrs.Spielberg also had a role as a Shanghai bar singer in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”?Kate Capshaw=Hollywood icon for westrern Geisha?

    “Doesn’t the poker metaphor go for everything the Japanese educational system teaches?”

    I disagree.One thing I’m always feeling uncomfortable is the tendency of certain foreign teachers who want to treat their students as some kind of von Trappesque minors who are seeking liberation by Julie Andrews-like intruders.Pure illusion in my opinion.

    See,I was in one of highschool where specially built for the retunees from overseas in the late ’80’s.They hired a buntch of foreign teachers for English conversation class,once a week.Understandably,because most of us had living experience in English speaking country,Japanese English teachers were no match for us.One of the teacher who happened to in charge of my class was a Yugoslav woman who married to Japanese.She wanted to have us into discussion about current events.and she asked me whether any of us want Doi Takako as the next prime minister,and I happened to be the only guy in the class who was against that.Then the Yugoslav lady gave me an evil eye and told me,”You are SO Japanese,even you had lived abroad for long time.I don’t want to marry a guy like you.”
    The whole class just froze,but I didn’t say anything against that since my objection was for not supporting SPJ at the time,not the gender of the politician,but since the teacher was from a socialist country(at the time it was)I thought it would lead all of us into a fruitless discussion.

    From certain stage of their teaching,foreign teachers in the school decided to show us videos jointly in the auditorium.Movies like”The One Who Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”,We all detected the irony over this,but some of us felt lucky spending whole classhour watching videos.But others thought gaijin teachers are not doing what they are supposed to be paid for.I mean all of them put students in the auditorium and let them watch videos and getting paid for it?The school however did fired all of them the next year.

    Learning from these experience,I kept silence couple years later in university English class,when Gaijin teacher tried to persuade the class into debate after series of sarcastic criticism toward crown prince and Owada Masako marriage.”Tommorow is the national holiday just because THEY get married,any of you have anything against about that?”.We were all just sat there smiling,probably thinking “just give us grades that’s all we are here for and not for your speeches.”Not that I disagree with what the teacher think about the royal marriage,mind you.But by this time,I have little doubt whether these “teachers” have enough extended knowledge of what they want to debate, considering their limited linguistic level and lack of literacy.

    For above reasons I agree with most of what Bryce had said while I would not use the term “neo-colonialis” for it might derail the course of the disputed point.

  41. Chris_B Says:


    Sounds to me like a failure of management which was later dealt with. Whereas I do personally like the idea of engaging students in debating current events, it sounds like you had some non qualified teachers, or at least people who couldnt separate their personal ideas from their work.

  42. bryce Says:


    I think we have to remember that westerners chose to come to Japan. They come from nations at least as rich as Japan and can’t be compared to economic migrants like Brazilian labourers or Russian hostesses. The majority of them have University degrees in the liberal arts and prone to the supposition that they are well rounded individuals from the upper-middle sections of the social strata (and I think it is clearly on these assumptions that Japan grants them work visas).

    So why do people come to Japan? Some of the more honest answers to this question might include the women or the (easy) money. I don’t suppose there is anything inherently bad in either of these responses (though both involve a certain level of exploitation), provided the westerner conducts him/herself with a certain level of cultural sensitivity. And given that a lot of westerners would profess culture as one of their main reasons for coming to Japan, you wouldn’t imagine that cultural sensitivity would be too difficult to achieve. In reality, though, it seems that what you often get are a bunch of aimless young westerners who may be living on their own for the first time in their life and who are apparently interested in nothing more than partying it up — hardly model behaviour even in their home country.

    I suspect that the problem is that many of these people who travel in search of a cultural experience believe that simply by inserting themselves into a foreign culture they’ll achieve “cultural enlightenment,” without thinking that they have any responsibility to the foreign culture in question. They want to just pick and chose the various aspects of different cultures that are convenient for themselves, while ignoring the disagreeable aspects. An extreme but surprisingly prevalent example of this would be the number of backpackers who go to the Golden Triangle in search of opium, and justify this by saying that smoking opium is a part of traditional hill-tribe culture (and it is — if you’re elderly, ill, or otherwise weak).

    Now, is it the host country’s responsibility “to make sure things don’t get out of control?” I have my doubts. The reliance of many SE Asian economies on tourism, along with the (stereo)typical Asian aversion to explicit conflict makes it difficult for them to keep things in hand. Look at the recent publicity over the conviction of a Swiss man in Thailand for lese-majeste, or the blocking of YouTube for videos insulting the king. It’s difficult for the government to win in cases such as this – even though it would be difficult to overstate the respect that Thai people have for their king – as it creates such a huge amount of bad press on the international scene (and shakes investor confidence in a free and transparent Thailand). If it’s that difficult to take action on an action that’s both officially illegal as well as almost universally despised in Thailand, you have to wonder what can be done to countermand the 90% of tourists who go to temples wearing shorts and/or tank-tops.

    Thus far I’ve largely disregarded the economic implications associated with the term “neo-colonialism,” as I feel that globalisation has largely allowed for colonialistic exploitation (with corporations serving as an obvious replacement for the colonial powers) in the absence of boots on the ground. The remnants of colonialism can clearly be see, however, in the prevailing ethos of exploitation and the oft callous disregard of cultural mores on the part of westerners (who are now more likely to appear as tourists, representatives of western corporations, or as individual businessmen/workers).

  43. Mulboyne Says:

    Thank for for your comments, Bryce. I must remember not to have a good time in Japan.

  44. bryce Says:

    “I must remember not to have a good time in Japan.”

    Thanks. I appreciate it.

  45. marxy Says:

    Here’s a bonus question: which is more colonialist – Gas Panic/Heartland Brewery or Le Baron?

  46. Aceface Says:


  47. bryce Says:

    I’m guessing Gas Panic.

  48. marxy Says:

    Maybe, different imperial outposts – some with better taste and high-quality local contacts.

  49. Carl F Says:

    I can’t imagine La Baron being called an imperial outpost, The 4 or 5 times i’ve been there I’ve only seen a few other Gaijin. (of course these were all for Japanese fashion events/brands/stores) so perhapses I just don’t go at the right time. Whereas Gaspanic and heartland don’t think this would happen.

    Bryce – How does this compare to other countries even ones where we can’t be accused of being colonists? The same types of back-packers long-term tourists are talking just as much about European women being easy in Europe as they are in Japan.

    The only thing I can think of as being different about Japan is you have the very strange aspect that as long as you are a native English speaker and have a degree you don’t have to really have any talents to come over and stay a longer time and make a wage. These folks, besides in money, are not exploiting your everyday Japanese but a weird subgroup that seems to want to be exploited(on the money front, considering how much money Japanese corporations like Nova and other Eikawa places are making I think in a round-about way this is a very strange position to call exploition, like saying illegal immigrants are exploiting the people of America by coming to America, living in Mexican communities, and working on houses and making more money then they’d make in Mexico where they have no talents).

    See these culturally-insensitive exploiter types thrown into a social situation that isn’t catered to them, where you have to follow some type of cultural norms to do your exploiting and most of them fail incredibly, as they would in any other country with comparable wealth to Japan).

  50. bryce Says:

    As for the experience of westerners in Europe, I think that some of the behaviour there is rather exploitative, especially in eastern Europe… you certainly don’t see perpetual backpacker drunkenness in Switzerland as you do in the Czech Republic. There is also a much smaller cultural gap which reduces the opportunities for exploitation or manifestations of cultural insensitivity (which may nevertheless exist). So far as the issue of women is concerned, I would suggest that European and Japanese women have very different roles in society (in terms of empowerment, etc.) and that westerners in Japan exploit these differences in ways that they can’t in Europe.

    I don’t think we can really compare eikaiwa teachers in Japan with Mexican economic migrants in the US for a few reasons. The biggest would be that there is nothing even approaching economic parity between their Mexico and the US. Another would be that Mexicans tend to start off with low-paying jobs that Americans don’t want to take, and then they work their way up from there (their economic mobility being greatly hindered if they are illegal, though). Eikaiwa workers find themselves parachuted into relatively well paying jobs and tend not to advance much from there — though it is debatable to what extent this is due to lack of opportunity versus lack of desire. (Interestingly, legal immigrants in Canada start off making substantially less than the average Canadian, but after 20 years in Canada they actually tend to make more money than the average Canadian.) A better comparison to Mexicans in the US would probably be with Brazilians working in one of the three-k jobs in Japan.

    As for eikaiwa teachers exploiting a segment of Japanese society that wants to be exploited, we could also note that the granting of timber concessions, for example, in Asian colonies was extremely profitable to certain segments of the colonised nations, though few would doubt that this was exploitation nevertheless.

    That notwithstanding, I do agree that it’s a bit strange to think of eikaiwa workers as colonial, but when viewed through the greater prism of western behaviour in Asia, I think it’s possible to to identify similar motivations and mindsets at work.

  51. jamie Says:

    granted, i dislike eikaiwa teachers as much as the next guy, but i fail to see how making 25,000 dollars a year is “good pay” that they couldnt make in the united states, especially when you realize that the 25,000 dollars is un-bonused and never increases.

    starting teachers in New York make something like 42,000 dollars a year (granted teaching in say florida will only pull you like 25,000, but the requirements are basically the same), Office workers at major universities can make 30,000 easily, these are jobs whose basic requirements are not that different from teaching english in japan (college degree, basic non-worthlessnes)

    I’m here on JET and even if you consider JET good pay, i made similar (and on busy months better) money working as a sous chef at a restaurant.

    as much as i enjoy hating on eikaiwa teachers the money element doesnt fit. Now Investor Relations, accountants, IT workers, who come here… screw those rich imperialists.

  52. bryce Says:

    I believe that teachers in the US have to be qualified professionals with a degree in education. I believe they are generally expected to take their jobs seriously and to display some dedication to it. None of these hold true for English teachers in Japan, and I don’t think even the “non-worthlessness” criteria applies to them.

    I do understand what you’re saying about the opportunities to find similar paying jobs in the US, but I disagree inasmuch as employees filling these jobs in the US are simple commodities and are easily replaced. Eikaiwa workers face much less competition and their utter ineptitude is rarely, if ever, called into question.

    I agree that $25,000 (though the figure varies with the exchange rate and was considerably higher a couple of years ago) isn’t a lot of money, but it’s not a bad figure considering the nature of the job and the effort it requires. Cost of living, inflation vs. deflation, tax levels, and all sorts of things probably should to be taken into account if you want to compare salaries, as well.

    Anyway, I don’t really disagree with you over the money issue (even though you do almost certainly make more than your similarly aged JTE counterparts); nobody becomes an eikaiwa teacher in hopes of striking it rich. But the easy work and inordinately high compensation provides a great opportunity to lead a dissolute lifestyle.

  53. Brown Says:

    “inordinately high compensation provides a great opportunity to lead a dissolute lifestyle.”

    Hey, the conversation about Zino and its readership demographic is on the other thread!

  54. M-Bone Says:

    Here is one contrast that I like to make between the eikaiwa crowd in Japan and the Japanese working holiday types in NZ, Australia, Canada, etc. –

    Why do so many of the eikaiwa crew assert some kind of special knowledge of Japan, Japanese, culture, etc. ? Most Japanese who have been in Australia, for example, for a few months will not claim to have this type of special understanding. Take the six month eikaiwa type however, and they are giving you sweeping theories about Japanese behavior. I`ve even heard clowns who could not make level 4 on the Japanese test saying things like `Japanese don`t even know how to speak their own language.` I`ve heard people who don`t know article 9 from a hole in the wall talk about how Japan would stomp China in a war. I think that there is a certain assumption of `international elite` status among eikaiwa teachers that does not meet with reality. There are also vague similarities with past colonial attitudes at work here so I agree largely with what Bryce and Aceface have written. .

    There are exceptions of course, but with JET, Monbusho scholarships, university exchange programs, and the like, the people who end up working for regular eikaiwa places are far from the elite that many of them think that they are.

    Anyone who does not see the colonialism parallel should think about these common assertions of the eikaiwa crowd –

    – We are contributing to the internationalization of a `backward` country.
    – We understand things about Japan that `Japanese` do not. We see the truth while `they` only see what their government / media tell them.
    – We don`t need to understand Japanese to understand this place better than the natives.
    – Japanese novels/movies/television/manga/trains/cars/sports, etc. are garbage.

    Can anyone who has met Japan ex-pats really say that they have not heard these types of things (or felt that they were assumed) time and again?

    Of course, there is also a real elite – the type of person who is in Japan to translate, study, write etc. and has the language skills to at least have the potential to participate in Japan`s public space in the same way that Japanese can.

  55. marxy Says:

    I basically agree, but whether or not you speak/read Japanese, Japanese TV – at least the variety show majority – is pretty much garbage. All the other categories you mentioned can be more easily defended.

  56. M-Bone Says:

    Is there a place where the majority of TV is not garbage? Japanese TV has some real high points – NHK docos, Asahi`s domestic news, a great deal of anime (especially on cable lately – Ghost in the Shell SAC and Paranoia Agent come to mind as well as some superior older titles like Evangelion, I`d argue that this stuff is to Japan what `The Wire` and `The Sopranos` are to the USA). There have also been some interesting dramas like `Trick` in the past few years.

    In any case, with you, I can have some give and take debate about Japanese TV because we can both understand it. The main problem that I have with the eikaiwa interpretation is that the majority of them don`t understand enough Japanese and just assume that it is inferior to such American classics as Home Improvement, The View, Idol, the wonders of The Bold and the Beautiful, etc. And Canadian, Aussie, NZ, UK TV is even worse on average.

  57. Earnest Dodge Says:

    “But the easy work and inordinately high compensation provides a great opportunity to lead a dissolute lifestyle.”

    Wow, I had never actually thought about moving to Japan before, but you make it sound like a good idea!