Wearing jeans and a casual jacket, Tamiko quietly holds three bunches of flowers under the flashing neon lights of Tokyo’s upscale Ginza district. She is one of the last independent flower vendors in this area known for its swank hostess clubs and bars.
“There aren’t that many classy customers who buy flowers anymore,” the 73-year-old tells Shukan Post (Oct. 28).
Tamiko is like a walking encyclopedia for Ginza, having experienced the area’s booms and busts. “There are only three Japanese ladies left selling flowers like this,” she says. “There is also one Korean girl but I haven’t even spoken to her.”
With the other two Japanese ladies not working due to health problems, Shukan Post believes that these flower girls are on the verge of extinction.
Tamiko remembers back to the early days. “In the 1940s, there were 100 girls selling flowers,” she explains. “They would buy flowers from the Shimbashi and Ginza areas and then hit the shops and clubs one by one. It was a really busy time.”
The conventional flower shops appear to be on the same path as the independent girls.
“In the summer, we had the push for energy conservation, so people bought flowers to lighten up,” says a flower shop owner. “But shops and businesses started to close in September.”
Some flower arrangements made especially for the birthday of mama-san at a hostess club or club anniversaries can be priced as high as 100,000 yen. Most of these flowers are actually purchased by other shops and clubs, not the customers who frequent them. But the market is not as it once was.
“Many flowers come from Tohoku,” the same owner says. “The flower farmers are starting to close down their businesses as the demand has declined.”
After World War II, the emergence of fashionable kids who gathered along the district’s Miyuki Street in 1964 — termed the miyuki-zoku — and the opening of the first McDonald’s in 1971 made Ginza the center of hipster culture. It then became the hallmark for high-end night life in the ’90s.
But Japan has faced a prolonged recession after the burst of the bubble economy, and conditions have only worsened since the Great East Japan Earthquake in March.
“Today things are more dead than ever,” Tamiko says. (A.T.)
Source: “Mukashi hyakunin, ima sannin: saigo no hanauri musume,” Shukan Post (Oct. 28, page 134)