Raito Yagami, 22, has been working as a host in Tokyo’s Club Air for three years. His job is to entertain paying female guests, and to drink with them. At the moment, he is fifth in the club’s in-house rankings. Yagami is from Osaka, where he worked in a clothes shop after finishing school, and later in a bar. Then he moved to Tokyo and became a commodity himself: a nightclub host offering paid-for companionship. He is single.
Raito Yagami does not have a regular income, but he estimates that he makes an average of €7,000 a month gross (€6,440 after tax, or $7,200). He works six evenings a week, from 7pm until midnight, but often ends up staying longer. Yagami receives a fixed basic salary of €700, but the more popular the host, the more he earns: guests give him gifts and he receives a commission on what his clients drink. A bottle of champagne can cost more than €2,000 at Club Air. Yagami rents a room in a hostel run by his employer, which costs him €210 a month. He pays the same again for statutory health insurance. He is not putting aside any money for old age, because he spends up to €350 a month at the hairdresser and €700 a month on clothes.
What does your work mean to you?
It is what drives me. I meet new people every day. They are under a lot of pressure at work, and they just want to relax. I’m gratified when clients come in regularly, wanting to be served by me. It also makes me work on my personal development. My alcohol tolerance isn’t high, but I have to drink every day here. That is a challenge.
What is the most important thing in your life?
My job is my life. And at the moment, it gives me more pleasure than my leisure time. I have turned my hobby into my profession.
What would you change about your life?
Nothing. I have enough money. I don’t need a steady girlfriend. I see my family once or twice a year, that’s enough. I enjoy my life.
What are your biggest problems and how do you deal with them?
In my job, you sometimes drink too much and are sick. That is the toughest part of the job: carrying on drinking every night. You have to be able to cope with that. And I have hardly any free time. When my friends have a party, I am at work. But that’s OK; you just have to deal with it.
How do you give yourself a treat?
I go shopping and buy myself something nice. If I really want to relax, I take a long bath. Normally, I just shower.
What do you want from the future, and what are you doing to achieve it?
I want to go on working as a host. Within the next year, I would like to become the No 1 here in the club, the man who sells himself best. Men who manage that usually become famous, often working as models or actors.
Why are host and hostess clubs so popular in Japan?
Personally, I would never go to that kind of club, because I don’t want to drink in my free time. But lots of people love the clubs because they allow them to dive into a different world: there is luxury, chic furnishings, nothing but beautiful people. And they look after you, they are friendly, even to guests who behave inappropriately, who make bad jokes or use bad language.
Population: 127 million
Currency: yen (115 JPY = €1)
GDP per capita: €29,000
GDP per capita PPP €33,000
Human development index: 10th place
(Germany: 5th out of 187 countries)
Current average costs
1 salmon sushi: €0.80 ($0.89)
1 litre milk: €1.30 ($1.45)
1 can of beer: €2.10 ($2.34)
1 train ticket across Tokyo, one-way: €4.50 ($5)
1 entrance fee for public open-air swimming pool: €3.50 ($3.90)
1 conversation with Raito Yagami: €35 ($39)