BAR FLOWER by Lea Jacobson


My Decadently Destructive Days and Nights as a Tokyo Nightclub Hostess
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The exotic, delicately erotic world of Japanese nightclubs, as seen by an American employee.

Jacobson wound up as a hostess in Tokyo’s Ginza strip after she was fired from her post-college job teaching kindergarteners at the “Happy Learning English School.” Outgoing and fluent in Japanese, she had a distinct advantage over the other hostesses, many from Eastern Europe, all hired for their looks, youth and personality. Her Japanese clients loved Americans, and Jacobson dyed her hair platinum blonde to boost business. The hostesses’ job was to entice Japanese businessmen into fantasy dates; conversation and expensive drinking were the primary goals. The more money the hostess convinced her date to spend, the more money she made—and the more praise she got from her “mama-san,” usually an older former hostess. Strict “no-touch” rules were enforced; subtle manipulation and ego boosting, at which Jacobson excelled, were the order of the day. Self-absorbed even by the standards of this genre, her debut memoir intrigues because it opens a window into a little-seen portion of Japanese culture: “the floating world” of transience and personal gratification, in notable contrast to the salaryman’s unchanging world of duty and service. Colorful portraits of her adopted culture and the men she dated eventually bring Jacobson’s tell-all to life. The young feminist was especially horrified that Japanese society expected women to be subservient, while men sought out a brash contrast at night. Less interesting are tiresome hints that Jacobson was on a path of self-destruction and overwrought descriptions of a hostess “selling her soul.” Presumably that’s why the author finally hightailed it back to New York for grad school.

A juicy read for anyone interested in the intriguingly lascivious underworld of a purportedly straight-laced culture.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-312-36897-5
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2008