never planned on dating a hostess. The way we met is cliche, like the beginning of a light romance novel. I’ll save you the details and just tell you that we met at an art show. We had our first date less than a week later, then our second, and our third. She went to the same school I did but was never around because right after class she had to leave for her translation job. On our fourth date I asked her to be my girlfriend.

It wasn’t until about a month into our relationship that I noticed she always went to work at night. I grew concerned and slightly paranoid. One night, I asked her company’s name. She grew very quiet and asked me not to get mad. She told me she was a hostess. She didn’t want to tell me because she was afraid I wouldn’t like it and would stop seeing her.

Ginza hostesses cater to some of the most influential and powerful men in Japan.

K-ko starts work at 8pm every weekday. Before work she sets her hair at a hair salon in a fashion common among hostesses. She is required to wear a tight fitting dress, jewelry and a brand name clutch. Once a month she must wear a kimono to work. Her nails are designed and embellished and her eyelashes are done professionally two or three times a month. All of this is paid for not by the club, but by K-ko.

She works in Ginza, the top class of the hostess world hierarchy. Hostesses are masters of conversation, using their feminine charm to give momentum to conversations and providing an atmosphere for getting closer to business partners that otherwise would be impossible outside of the club. Ginza hostesses cater to some of the most influential and powerful men in Japan. Should a customer overstep his boundaries, one quick call to his company from the club could end a career.

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The structure in the club is elaborate. The most important factor for a hostess is the client who comes to drink, and how much he/she spends. Clients at these hostess clubs, unlike kyabakura clubs or girls bars, can not switch between other hostesses in the same club. Thus, each hostess has clients that belong to her.

If a hostess brings a customer to the club, that customer becomes the responsible hostess’s client within that club for life. Furthermore, every month hostesses must meet a quota of how much money their respective clients spend at the club. In addition to a quota, they must have dinner, called dohan, outside the club with customers, any customers. They are required to have at least three to four dohan a month. After dinner, the customer normally feels obliged to go to the hostess’s club for drinks.

From my perspective, this means my girlfriend must go to dinner with strange men 3-4 times a month. I often see her answer LINE messages through the day with her clients and customers, filled with hearts and winky faces. This is a 24/7 aspect of the job. Just the other day, her manager asked her to be even more fun and involved with her text messages. I get jealous sometimes, seeing her send cute faces to other men and cancelling plans with me for dohan. But I know it can’t be helped, and it is a slight comfort to see her stone-cold expression as she texts hearts and empty sweet nothings.

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A significant impact on my life is her drinking. Hostesses must drink the same amount and, in most cases, more than their clients. They are trying to gently encourage the client to buy more drinks, more bottles of whisky, wine and champagne. After the club closes, hostesses are often forced into something called “after” where they move to karaoke or a bar. This results in my girlfriend coming home every other night drunk at 2 or 3am.

She goes through all of this not for greed or to make lots of pointless money. K-ko is paying her way through college. She sends money to her grandma in Thailand and her sisters in New York. Sometimes she even treats me to dinner and wine. That kind of strength to pull off this job and still be a full time student while being kind to others makes her one of the most respected, valued and loved people in my life. I’ve learned that being a hostess’s boyfriend requires patience. It requires trust, and for you to be there to help your drunk girlfriend into bed at 3am every other night.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of Japan Partnership Holdings. or its partners and sponsors.