Hostess club 'Apalon' catered to Japan's elite
First in a five-part series
TOKYO — Nightclub hostesses have a long tradition in Japan that is originally born from the world of the geisha house — a richly colorful social institution, ages old, where graceful kimono-clad women, trained from childhood in art of music, dance and subtle praise entertained well-to-do men of high social standing behind closed doors. The hostess club has evolved as a more egalitarian and westernized form of nighttime amusement — one that did not demand the hard apprenticeship and unyielding servitude that characterized the geisha world and were also more accessible for the common man.
Hostess bars have flourished in Japan primarily because of the highly demanding Japanese business culture, which, especially in the postwar era, required salarymen to work brutally long hours and display strict obeisance to authoritarian bosses. Japanese employees needed to work off stress before heading home on long crowded commutes to the wife and kids and a tiny cramped apartment. What better way to do it, the reasoning goes, than in the company of a friendly attractive young lady skilled in the art of flattery. Moreover, corporate executives also needed a venue with which to impress their clients, which is where the higher end clubs with their finely coiffed hostesses came in.
It is a modus operandi that distinguishes Japan from the U.S. Whereas in the West, it has largely been the quality of the product and its price that are important in sales and marketing, in Japan it has long been the case that personal relationships, or ningen kankei, are equally vital, if not paramount. Indeed, that is why the majority of bar tabs have been put on company expense accounts and, at least until the great recession of the 90's with its onslaught of bankruptcies and rising unemployment, why Japanese business have spent more on "entertainment" than the entire national defense budget. All in all, it was a lot of money just to relax.