At night, in Tokyo, every exit of the train station is surrounded by handsome young men, dressed in sharp, expensive suits, usually with dyed hair and manicured nails. They stand around looking pretty, texting on cell phones and watching the people who leave the station. It took me awhile to figure out who these men were and why they seemed to hang around in droves at the station.
I figured it out in Shinjuku. On the walls around Shinjuku Station in Tokyo there were posters of these very same men, huge model-style headshots. Each one listed the man’s first name, a phone number, and an “English name.” The English names were hilarious. Most of them were things like “Romance,” “Treasure,” “Intense,” and my personal favorite, “Slow.” The male foreign teachers I worked with found this so hilarious that they changed all of their email and texting handles to similar things, so I was constantly getting texts about staff meeting from my manager, “Hot Lips.”
Anyway, these men are “hosts,” which is a sly way of indicating that they are gigolos. They are trained to be sparkling conversationalists. If you hire them for a date or function, and if you are taken with them and have enough money that they are taken with you, you can have “a passionate encounter.” Technically, prostitution is against the law, but there’s a loophole. There’s a theory that you met this man, had some lovely conversation and drinks, and were so overtaken with passion that it “just happened.” If you were so impressed by that passion that you just so happened to give him a tip, well, he was just that good. Thus they can operate in full view as “dates,” no harm no foul.
You’re more likely to find “hostesses” in so-called hostess bars, where man go to drink and basically feel the waitress up. Hostesses can make extra money on the side as “tips” in the same way, although not all do. Often these bars are run by the yakuza, the Japanese mafia. I was actually approached by a man on a train who was in the yakuza–you can tell by the white suit, sunglasses and tattoos–who offered me a job as a hostess, telling me I could make far more money there than I could teaching. I asked if they sponsored visas, and he said no. Given that I had no desire for such a job anyway, I said no but wished him luck in his pimping endeavors. He give me a box of Pocky so it wasn’t a complete waste of my time.
(As an aside, I had several encounters with yakuza, all very nice, actually, as well as a friend who used to be one, but that will be a different post.)
I’ve since heard that they’ve taken the posters down, which is sad, but I hear the men are still there, should you have need of one.