20-year-old woman forced into prostitution by host club debts

The moral panic over host clubs and prostitution in Japan continues unabated with a story yesterday in the Tokyo Shimbun about a 20-year-old woman whose whopping ¥10 million debt to a club prompted her to begin doing sex work.

While still a high school student in Kanagawa, she went to a host club in Yokohama in autumn 2021. The chandeliers and attention of the hosts seduced her, and she was hooked.

She ended up with a debt of ¥10 million, forcing her into prostitution at Okubo Park, Kabukicho, to pay it off. The club was demanding she pay back as much as ¥300,000 a day. Even after she has stopped going to host clubs since October, she is still ¥1.6 million in debt.

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Because clubs offer a pay-later “urikakekin” system, women can end up racking up debts that they struggle to pay.

Social media is awash with videos and reports of hosts physically abusing young women in the streets or forcibly escorting them to ATM machines to collect their fees (we saw one viral video in which a host prevented a woman from escaping in a taxi and took away her purse). For all their glamor and gentlemanly manners, the image of hosts is now shifting to something more exploitative and abusive.

Many of the women who go to host clubs are themselves hostesses with a lot of cash to spend, but others are young, vulnerable women who enjoy the attention of the hosts. This is quite different from the typical demographic of patrons at hostess clubs, who tend to be older men on expense accounts.

Barkers will entice young women in by offering them an initial visit for as low as ¥1,000. But once inside, a host will work his charm on the customer so she stays longer or returns for a more expensive visit.

Fueled by such stories and rising instances of streetwalkers in places like Okubo Park, where some 40% of detained women said they were doing sex work to pay for host clubs or underground idols, the current moral panic over host clubs may end in stricter regulation. Lawmakers are currently mulling what they can do.

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  • jack from downunder November 29, 2023

    Was she really “forced” into working the night life? or did she do it because it was easy money and the quickest way to pay off the debt – not that I’m saying having unlimited credit at a host bar should be an option either.

  • シン November 29, 2023

    @jack from downunder
    It’s the second one, but you’re not supposed to say that out loud because that would be expecting her to take responsibility for her own actions.

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