On the way to dinner the other night we passed by some peculiar businesses. Luckily, Mari was able to alleviate my confusion.
Elliott. What are all these shops? And why do they have women in skimpy school girl outfits out in front of them?
Mari. They aren’t stores, they’re host clubs. All of these side streets have host clubs on them.
Elliott. Hosts clubs?
Mari. A host club is a place where either a man or woman can go and pay for someone of the opposite sex to talk to them for a while.
Elliott. What? Like, about personal issues or something? Like therapy?
Mari. No no it’s generally more sexual. For example, a guy goes to a host club and pays to chat with a girl, although the guy does nothing at all, the woman does all the work. She acts like she’s fascinated by his life and his hobbies. She pretends to fish him.
Elliott. Fish him? Do you mean flirt with him?
Mari. Yes! You guys don’t say fishing?
Elliott. Not really. Anyway, you’re telling me that at all of these places guys come to pay for a girl to talk to them and pretend like she’s into them? Don’t they know they don’t have to pay women to talk to them anywhere else?
Mari. It’s not just guys. There are female host clubs too, where girls pay for guys to talk to them.
Elliott. That’s so sad. Why is this a thing here?
Mari. Japanese men and women are lonely. They have no confidence. Of course some of us do, but I would say there are still many more Japanese people who feel more comfortable paying for conversation than trying to initiate it themselves for free.
Elliott. But why do they have no confidence?
Mari. I don’t know. This is just how it is.
Elliott. Have you ever been to one of these?
Mari. No. I think they’re sad, too. You don’t have host clubs in the US?
Elliott. No, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have lonely institutions. The strip club, for example, still miraculously exists in the United States, but I think they’re going extinct.
Mari. They’re being shut down?
Elliott. Not exactly shut down, more of a going out of business sort of thing.
Elliott. Internet porn.
Elliott. That, and I think younger generations aren’t as interested in the gross exploitation that goes on in places like strip clubs, although I can’t speak for everyone when I say that.
Mari. I think strip clubs are sadder than host clubs. At host clubs you just talk. Strip clubs, on the other hand, are much more humiliating for everyone involved.
Elliott. I don’t know how I can decide between what’s sadder: paying women to talk to you or paying women to dance naked in front of you. I guess it depends on if you think sadness can exist in degrees.
Mari. No tetsugaku. We’re here.