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Host club pioneer Takeshi Aida dies at 78

TOKYO (TR) – After an extended illness that included multiple strokes, Takeshi Aida, a legendary figure in the “host club” trade passed away in a hospital on October 25, reports Fuji News Network (Oct. 25). He was 78.

On November 3, more than 400 mourners gathered at a hall in Yoyogi, Shibuya Ward to pay tribute to the man known as the “King of Hosts.” Red flowers positioned in the shape of the character “Ai” were placed in front of a tower of roughly 600 champagne glasses.

In 1971, Aida opened his first club in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward. Located in the gay quarter of 2-chome, the club employed men to entertain women. Aida eventually went on to establish a highly successful empire: The management company of the Club Ai chain at one point boasted an annual revenue of 2.7 billion yen and 400 Casanovas on staff.

Takeshi Aida
Takeshi Aida (Twitter)

Night Tokyo

Aida got his start in entertainment at Night Tokyo in the 1960s. Positioned near the Yaesu Exit of Tokyo Station, the establishment was generally considered to be Japan’s first host club. A few years later, Aida went on to establish that first club, simply named Ai, in 2-chome.

Sensing that he had a hit on his hands, Aida, always seen immaculately attired in a crisp suit, spectacles and numerous gem-studded rings, subsequently opened a series of outlets under the Club Ai brand in the nearby Kabukicho red-light district. Though most were standard host clubs, a couple featured female bartenders dressed as men, known by the term onabe.

In addition to his success, Aida became known for his anti-gang stance, saying in interviews that he turns away gangsters who approach him to collect mikajimeryo, or “protection money.”

Befallen by a stroke

In 2011, Aida was befallen by his first stroke. Three years later, he suffered his third stroke and handed over ownership of the chain to his wife’s daughter from a previous marriage.

Suffering from a slight cognitive impairment, Aida marked his 78th birthday with about 20 friends in July. When one of the celebrants shouted for a toast, Aida used what remained of his strength to slowly raise a paper cup. Three months later, he was gone.