A host is the perfect Tokyo gentleman. He pours your drinks. Lights your cigarettes. Laughs at your jokes. He's beautiful, flirtatious, and devoted to your every need. He's also very, very expensive.

As darkness falls, the array of host clubs scattered within Tokyo’s hub prepare for a night of conspicuous consumption. Inside, a cluster of suave young Japanese men quickly assume their roles as ‘women pleasers’. The spacious arena is stylishly adorned with mirrored panels and white leather couches which curve around the edges of the room. A long way from the prevailing image of a sleazy, dim host club in which men fawn over women.

Fawn they do, but in a very elegant and carefully choreographed manner. As the female customers take their positions, the polished hosts are careful not to deflect their eyes away from the object of their gaze, even for a moment. Their attention is 100% focused on the female client who has recently entered the ‘flattery zone’.

The host's role is simple: pour drinks, light cigarettes, chat, flirt, and smile handsomely, all on cue. The host is attentive and ready to listen, while being keen to generate conversation. It's likely that many of the female clientele here believe their host represents the perfect male counterpart. He is attractive, generous, gentle and totally devoted to their every need. If they attempt humour, he willingly laughs and praises their efforts.

But Japanese host bars aren't about simply providing women with a male doormat. Host bars exist in order to create a comfortable, yet chic environment in which females and males can engage with each other - and all the while, the males supply an illusion of romance and possibility.

The half-time entertainment at one particular host bar is testimony to the enjoyable and lively energy emanating from within the arena. (See images, left - click to enlarge.) Instead of a sexy strip show performed by the customer's favourite hosts (which is what happens in a raunchy hostess bar), the amused clients are instead treated to a quasi-talent show, in which skillful male dancers perform various routines.

The dynamic dancing is accompanied by catchy, well-known dance tunes and flamboyant costumes. There is also a love ballad soloist and a cross-dressing comedian to add to the fun and games. The audience is captivated and appears to thoroughly enjoy the ensemble.

Afterwards, the lead entertainer introduces each performer as he takes a bow and does a lap around the room to collect tips from adoring female fans. Following this, the lights come up a little and the ‘bar’ reverts back to its former state as a flirtatious forum.

Evidently, the role of the host is to cater to the woman’s whims and desires. This in itself represents an interesting and timely shift in the traditional role of Japanese women.

While hostess bars have long supplied the Japanese male with a tantalizing outlet in which they can forget their stress and relax, the female equivalent has taken more time to cultivate and grow into the sophisticated business it is today.

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