My brother is in Japan at the moment (when I started writing the post, he’s now in Nepal). When he was initially planning his trip he had explored the option of a 90-day cultural visa. Now, I don’t know if other countries offer this, but it seems like a good way to boost tourism and get people to understand your country’s culture.
A few weeks ago, I came across this book – The 90 Day Geisha: My Time as a Tokyo Hostess – at the library. I was intrigued by the title (which I’m sure was the intention of the publisher/author), having previously read Memoirs of a Geisha. What I discovered was a whole new, previously unknown to me, use of the 90-day cultural visa to Japan. Plus the setting and context of this book, was completely different world from that in the previously referred book. I’m sure the Japanese authorities are aware of this use of the 90-day visa, unofficially, as it seems to be a popular choice of cultural education among young foreigners visiting Japan for an extended time.
The story basically follows the adventures of Chelsea, a former model, and her husband Matt as they navigate the world of Tokyo’s hostess clubs. While Chelsea works as a hostess, her husband sources girls like her on a commission basis for clubs. The author also takes you through different aspects of Japanese culture that the regular tourist to Japan may not even be aware off.
Hostessing in Japan is very different from stripping or prostitution. It’s basically an experience where well-dressed and cultured women entertain men with conversation. It’s like a companionship lounge, with karaoke, which is very popular among local and visiting senior executives of large Japaneses corporations; and is apparently acceptable even for married men.
The author is on a quest to understand why so many internationally traveled and educated women are attracted by hostess clubs, what disillusions them and what makes them come back. She partially finds her answers but enroute learns and experiences a lot more than she bargained for. The readers get glimpses into the (not so) secret lives of the real Japanese, such as underwear vending machines and dohans?!
My recommendation would be read it with no preconceived notions and don’t judge. Treat it as you would view your experiences while traveling to an exotic place. It’s not perfect but it definitely keeps you reading.
I won’t be surprised if this is soon made into a movie, though I’m not so sure if it’ll pass the censor board.
Stay Happy Everyday
Credits: Image 1
Copyright 2013 (c). Please do not reproduce this article in its entirety without permission. Alternatively, a link to this URL would be appreciated.