My husband and I recently spotted the above billboard in the Shinsaibashi area of Osaka. You might think that the picture promotes Korean lessons or cookery classes, but it is actually a hostess club.
If you are not Japanese, you might wonder what a ‘hostess club’ is. In short, it’s a club where beautiful young women entertain (salary) men, mainly by pouring their drinks, lighting their cigarettes and having (flirtatious) conversations with them. If you currently have an image in your head of Bada Bing (the strip club from the Sopranos) erase it and replace it with something that does not involve nudity or pole dancing or bazookas. At Japanese hostess clubs, the hostesses usually behave in a more ladylike manner than the girls at Bada Bing, and unlike Tony Soprano’s gang, salarymen do not carry bazookas. You might see a hostess on a podium singing Karaoke to entertain the client, but you will not find Bada Bing style shoving of notes down hostesses’ knickers, and there is usually no expectation of sexual interaction. In fact, the girls do not receive money from the customers directly, instead, the club pays hostesses a share of the drink sales.
However, client-hostess relationships are not unheard off. If a particular client visits the same club frequently, he might start seeing his regular hostess outside the club as well. This can result in stronger commitment, so much so that the man might treat the hostess similarly to that of a lover, i.e. see her on a regular basis and expect favours that are not limited to her only pouring his drinks and lighting cigarettes. He might even buy her an apartment! Usually his wife (if he has one) is aware of this and she gives her husband a monthly ‘allowance’ for the lover.
You are probably thinking the same as me – Japanese marriage, in particular when it comes to monogamy, somewhat differs from Western conventions. I’m of course not saying that there wouldn’t be people in Europe or elsewhere who have extramarital relations, but I can’t see many European wives allotting some of their household budget to pay for their husband’s lover (at least not before they’ve filed a divorce and dipped their husband’s condoms in hot chilli powder).
I’ve never visited a hostess club, partly because I have no real desire to visit one and partly because many hostess clubs will not accept Westerners as clients, but it seems rather commonplace for groups of Japanese salarymen to visit these types of clubs. Apparently many important government meetings are also held in hostess clubs. Maybe Japanese politicians tell their wives that it would not be wise to have meetings in their offices, which are potentially bugged left right and centre by North Korean spies. I suppose one might say that in the name of national security all important government meetings absolutely must take place in drinking establishments where beautiful women flirt with the government officials.
Anyway, the interesting thing about the hostess club in the picture above is that it is (in my opinion) in rather bad taste.
First, the club is called La Potcha Potcha ‘Chubby’.
Second, the billboard and the club’s web-page (you can find the address on the bottom right hand corner of the billboard) state that their hostesses have the following qualities:
- a healthy appetite
- a bodyweight that is nearly twice that of an average Japanese man
- chubby cheeks (so much so that you can lose your index finger in them)
- bingo wings
- large breasts (unusually for Japan, you can find big bazookas in this club)
- Romanian weightlifter’s thighs
Third, in the club, the hostesses apparently entertain the clients, for instance, by telling them that they are hungry, disclosing their weight and fighting over food.
So, with reference to La Potcha’s hostesses’ size and behaviour, they are not quite your typical Japanese hostess clubs’ ladies, or actually your typical Japanese ladies full stop.
If you have visited Japan or have been reading my blog you know that most Japanese women are extremely slim and petite. To convince you that I am not only saying that to belittle the fact that I could do with losing a stone or two (5-10kg), check out these stats:
In 2014, a 20-year old Japanese woman’s average weight was 50kg. A woman closer to my age is not much heavier: a 40-year old Japanese woman’s average weight is 52kg.
Considering these stats, La Potcha Potcha’s girls probably represent something unusual and interesting for Japanese men whose stereotypical image of a woman’s (and a man’s!) body considerably differs from that of La Potcha’s hostesses’ bodies. Maybe this novelty factor contributes to the fact that La Potcha Potcha and other similar clubs are (currently) relatively trendy and popular in Osaka.
Also, considering the above stats, you can probably understand why (similarly to La Potcha’s girls) I feel like a hippo over here. Or a tank. Or maybe a hippo driving a tank when I squeeze into the 8am commuter train and park my tank in between the gazelle and a stick insect.
But ha-haa! Maybe from hereafter I can just think to myself that the reason why Japanese men or women practically never make eye contact with me is because, instead of my eyes, they are admiring my Romanian weightlifter tights.