Japanese women fall prey to male host clubs, Latest World News - The New Paper

Japanese women fall prey to male host clubs

TOKYO – Growing up, Ms Mirai Kisaragi fled her abusive parents, survived homelessness and contemplated suicide. At 18, she met her “saviour” at one of Tokyo’s hundreds of host clubs, where men entertain women.

Except he, too, was no good.

Before long, Ms Kisaragi became one of a growing number of victims of financial and sexual exploitation linked to these establishments, which have dotted Tokyo’s red-light district Kabukicho for decades.

Just like in hostess clubs, where the clients are men, hosts spruced up with make-up and immaculate hairstyles regale female customers with sweet talk and expensive alcohol.

Lured by the promise of romance, women can find themselves tricked into abusive relationships, towering debt and even prostitution, activists say.

When she was 18, Ms Kisaragi met a male host who actually seemed to care.

“Whenever I opened the door of the host club to see him, he would say ‘welcome home’ – something no one had ever said to me at home,” Ms Kisaragi, now 23, told AFP.

But he installed her in one of Tokyo’s ubiquitous “net cafes”, where she was made to work as a prostitute, dispatched on demand.

He collected all her profits, and as she continued to visit the club, she piled up debts.

“What the host was really doing was to manage me as a prostitute. But I naively thought back then that he had given me a job and a smartphone on the spot,” she said.

“He looked like a saviour to me then.”

Women like Ms Kisaragi are drawn into clubs in different ways. Some are chatted up on Kabukicho’s streets while others are persuaded by hosts they interact with on TikTok.

They can accumulate debts of hundreds of dollars a night ordering overpriced drinks, while hosts dangle everything from sex to assurances of love and marriage to manipulate them, activists say.

Hosts sometimes even move in with women who are lonely or experiencing poverty, and then browbeat them into sex work, in what resembles “domestic violence”, said Ms Kazuna Kanajiri, head of Tokyo-based advocacy group PAPS.

“Young and poor women from single-parent families, for example, make the most lucrative targets for them,” she told AFP.

Indebted women are sent to “scouts” to find jobs in the sex trade.

The industry has begun soul-searching, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida urging action and the police conducting widespread raids on establishments.

Host club operators in Kabukicho in December pledged to stop allowing clients to run up massive debts, and eradicate ties with the criminal underworld. – AFP