The Outline of Kabukicho
I would like to call the actual people that make up the Kabukicho city “Kabukicho Citizen”. This must not be confused with the actual residents of Kabukicho, Shinjuku who are registered in the Basic Resident Registration with a current residential address, maintained by local government. So who are these “Kabukicho Citizens”? They are the “hosts” that specialize in entertaining female guests, “owners and staffs” of the host clubs, rojo-catch (路上キャッチ, meaning pullers-in for the host clubs) and annaijo-staff (案内所スタッフ, meaning information desk staff for the nightlife scene). But out of all the “Kabukicho Citizens” the inundate number of citizens must be the female guests.
The world of Kabukicho has it own morals and rules that is very different from anywhere else, but one of the most surprising differences is the sense of the value of money. The price for a drink is about 10 times as much as the market price, and on top of that, a tax of average 40% is added on. Then there’s also shimei-ryo (指名料, meaning designation fee), and cover charge that would be added too. Therefore the cost to drink at a host club one night will cost at least 30,000 yen. A principal customer would use more than 1million yen per month, and the amount they seems limitless. A lot of people actually use more than 1million yen per night. But when it become time to pay the bill, most of the female guests do not pay the amount every night. The amount is reported as accounts receivable, and they pay it all once a month. So, when closing the check for the night, they only receive an ao-denpyo (青伝票, meaning blue slip), and on it, the amount receivable is written. I guess you can call it somewhat like a credit-money.
There is a big factor here to determine if the person will become a Kabukicho citizen. That is accepting this bill. Anyone with a common sense from the normal world would think “this price is outrageous”. But the people that thinks this is the normal price for Kabukicho, immerse themselves into this extraordinary world. When you take a look at the young female guest that are principal guests, they usually have jobs in the night-time entertainment business such as the sex industry, and hostesses from hostess clubs. If your current job doesn’t make enough money to pay that kind of bills, they tend to make money by fuochi (風落ち, coined word for dropping=“ochi 落ち” to “fu 風”zoku俗, meaning working in the sex industry) or mizuochi (水落ち, coined word for dropping=“ochi 落ち” to “mizu 水”shobai商売, meaning working as a hostess at a hostess club). People that has high income or high level of savings come to host clubs very rarely nowadays. People do not come to Kabukicho because they have money. The come to Kabukicho after making money.
So do the female guest that fuochi, and mizuochi intend to do so from the beginning? That is slightly not true. Or do only people that have the intention to do so, only come to Kabukicho? That is also not true. The host clubs of Kabukicho welcomes first time customers. The first time customers get incredible discounts when they come to the host club for the first time. One night out will only cost about 2000 to 3000 yen, and in some cases it is even free. The host clubs call this shokai-system(初回システム, meaning system for the first timers). You can enjoy 1.5 to 2 hours of all you can drink of shochu such as Kyogetsu (鏡月), tea and juice to mix the drink, and beer. During that time the many hosts of that club (they are called “casts” in the club) come and greet you with a meishi(名刺, meaning business card) and serve you. In some host clubs, they bring the file called otoko-bon(男本, coined word for male=“otoko 男” book=“本 bon/hon”) or otoko-menu(男メニュー, coined word for male=“otoko 男” menu) which has the photos of the hosts that are working there and you can choose who to bring the to the table. This act is called shasin-shimei(写真指名, meaning designation by photo). You can also bring back a host to the table that you had fun with, and that is called jonai-shimei (場内指名, meaning designation within the venue). These services can be enjoyed for free for the first timers.
For the first timers, Kabukicho seems like a great place with great service. It almost seems like it a city that is “open” and welcoming. That is wrong. The host city Kabukicho is a very closed community. The shokai-system makes it easy for the guests to see a glimpse of this closed community, and as explained before, for a cheap price with no regulations. But this is the only experience you can get if you are not a citizen. There are two types of guests at Kabukicho. One is the consistent guests, and the other is the first time guests. They are two completely different guests, and the experience is quite different.
If you go back to the host club that you used the shokai-system, you no longer become a first timer, and have to pay at least 10 times of much from what you paid last time. Therefore you can say that Kabukicho is a city where they “welcome first timers, but don’t welcome second timers”. The fine line between the visitor and the citizen of Kabukicho is drawn between first timers and repeaters, not by the non experienced and experienced. From now on when I say Kabukicho citizens, I will only talk about the repeaters, the first timers will be exempted.
When getting deeply involved with host clubs, you need at least 1million yen per month. This is an outrageous amount and even for the high earning person, it sound a bit extreme. That is why 90% of the guests at host clubs work in the the sex industry, or as a hostesses at hostess clubs. When a student or an office worker wants to become a citizen, they get introduced to these kind of jobs through a scout man (スカウトマン). Most of the citizens consist of people like them, only just a few are the really wealthy ones. Only the people that can accept this spending habit can get the key to becoming a citizen. The people that thinks “Well, the first timer deal for 2000 yen was fun, but the second time is too expensive” loses their key to join.
Now these host are recruited through a system that seems like wide open doors too. There are a couple hundred host clubs in Kabukicho, and they are experiencing shortage of casts. They have very good deals called taiken-nyuten (体験入店), and hosho-kikan(保証期間), so the beginners can try out a couple of host clubs as a one day host before deciding on which host club to work for. This does not apply to hosts that are changing host clubs within Kabukicho or famous hosts from other cities. When the beginners try the taiken-nyuten, they get a salary of 10,000 yen to 20,000 yen per day. All they do is go around the table of guests with senior hosts. But once they decide to join the host club, they must do the cleaning before and after the club’s opening hours, and work long hours. The salary depend deeply on how many shimei-kyaku (指名客, meaning designated guests) you have. Even on the hosts side, the Kabukicho host clubs “welcome first timers, but don’t welcome second timers”.
Kabukicho is made of host and the guest that came through the widely welcoming looking open doors, and then going though a very narrow second door. Only the people that made it through the second door will literally give all they have towards Kabukicho, whether that is time-wise or money-wise. They eventually decide to live and work in Kabukicho or around it, and that makes them a real citizen of Kabukicho.