In Japan, drinking establishments where male patrons receive special attention from female workers tend to be described with one of two labels: mizu shōbai, which means "water trade," and fūzoku eigyō, which means "business associated with public morals." The latter designation is partly judgmental, and is used in a generic fashion to describe everything from pachinko parlors to massage parlors. Mizu shōbai refers to places that serve alcohol and provide entertainment.

At the intersection of these two worlds is the "cabaret club," or kyaba-kura, a sub-genre of the more well-known "hostess club." Essentially, a patron comes in and drinks in the company of a female employee. The difference is in the way of payment. In a classic hostess club — sometimes called a "snack" or "pub" — the patron orders drinks and pays for them. He will buy drinks for the female employees who sit and chat with him, but while it may be expected, it isn't required. The added value of the female company is reflected in the higher cost of the drinks or the "keep bottle" — liquor that the regular patron keeps on the premises for his own consumption.

In a kyaba-kura, this transaction is formalized. The patron not only pays for his drinks and those of his hostess, but also for the time he spends in the club. The going rate for the basic "table charge" is between ¥5,000 and ¥10,000 an hour, not including drinks and food. Since this practice is rather ill-defined and not codified by any sort of industry rules, many clubs take advantage of it and gouge unsuspecting customers, charging them huge fees for just sitting down, a practice called bottakuri.