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Ginza blues: Sister, can you spare a hostess?

Shukan Shincho Jan. 26
Shukan Shincho Jan. 26

“Tonight we’re having a shinnen-kai (first party of the New Year), and we haven’t got enough gals to go around. Would you mind lending us Rei-chan and Tomo-chan?”

“Tonight is quiet here, so no problem. Tell you what: take three and I’ll send them over.”

The above exchange, relates Shukan Shincho (Jan. 26), took place not long ago between two bar “mamas” while getting their hair done at a beauty salon in Ginza 7-chome.

“I’d never heard of the renting out of hostesses,” said another mama, who overheard the negotiations. “Clubs are all rivals. Aren’t they worried the girls will steal their customers?”

But according to a Ginza veteran, business at the clubs slumped badly following last March’s earthquake and tsunami, and as personnel costs (stipends to the hostesses) make up 55 to 60 percent of operating costs, the clubs would have trouble staying afloat even if they extracted penalties from the hostesses who fail to make their sales quotas.

Of course clubs could lay off regulars, but would then have to worry about how to apportion their hostesses on the rare occasions when things get busy.

“If the ratio of customers to hostesses exceeds three to one more, it’s common wisdom that customers will feel neglected and never come back,” the mama at a medium-size club tells the magazine. “In the past there were services that would dispatch hostesses to join customers at hot springs resorts, but from the year-end and New Year, and then in March and April, when companies typically engage in personnel changes, things get busy and it’s not easy to get enough gals,” says the manager of one club. “And there are lots of girls who for whatever reason aren’t suitable to work at Ginza.”

To deal with any shortfalls, the mamas have come up with a system of hostess rental, where the girls are dispatched for a straight 3,000 yen per hour. The rules are strict: a hostess may not give out her cell phone number to the customer of another club, nor may she accompany him outside the establishment.

Still, the system is not without occasional stumbling blocks.

“Once I went to another club and the hostesses were all decked out in long dresses with revealing décolletages,” recalls one hostess. “I came wearing a pants suit, and some customers suspected I was on hire from another place. But the regular hostesses came to my rescue by telling them, ‘She’s a newbie and doesn’t know any better.'”

It also seems at least some hostesses for hire fully justify the outlay.

“This girl in her mid-20s had an incredible capacity for booze,” recalls the aforementioned manager. “She kept ordering small bottles of beer, emptying 20 bottles and leaving our customers gaping in amazement. After that, I wasted no time going to her club when her services are needed, and personally escorted her to our place.”

Source: “Hosutesu no kashikiri ga hajimatta himasugiru Ginza kurabu-gai,” Shukan Shincho (Jan. 26, page 45)