The Japanese host. You can see them on the streets of Tokyo's Kabukicho: the dapper thin men with colored, blown-dry hair, fake suntans, snazzy suits and charming smiles, chatting up passing females and trying to get them to come and have drinks. They've been the subject of documentaries, television series and popular manga such as "Shinjuku Swan."
Host clubs are the male version of a hostess club. The office ladies, college students, housewives and women involved in the "water trade" (hostesses, cabaret girls, strippers, sex workers) come to them, and the male hosts give them a "boyfriend experience." They flirt with them, pour drinks, light their cigarettes, sometimes dance with them. Part of the game is to convince the women to open an expensive bottle of Champagne, for which they get a drink back (or a percentage of the charge). If the women become fans of a particular host, they try to spend more so that their man can become the No. 1 host — the Shorty Award of host life.
It's all fun and games — but not really. The bills the female customers rack up can amount to tens of thousands of yen and when it comes time to pay, suddenly the hosts aren't so charming anymore. In fact, some host clubs use the debt racked up by the women to subtly — and sometimes forcefully — make them work as prostitutes. It's a business.