If some establishments have self-explanatory names, oppai pubs for instance, snacks are a lot more mysterious. I always wondered what was really going on in there, but I never expected I would end up spending an evening in one. But what about snacks?
Unlike the name suggests, snacks, short for snack bars, have nothing to do with edamame or dried squid. Usually found in your nearest seedy neighborhood, a snack is basically the toned down version of a hostess club. They are smaller and easier on the wallet. Snacks are mostly frequented by chain-smoking salarymen in crumpled suits, looking for a bit of female company.
Unlike strip clubs, there is no nudity involved and no sex — at least officially. A few years ago, my friend Raymond, who was new to Japan, told me about this really fun place his friend was working at, a bar called Antoinette.
We agreed to go the next evening. The place looked like a small cigar bar. There was a long mahogany counter where a dozen clients could sit comfortably and a leather couch.
The only thing that seemed out of place was a young woman behind the counter. She was dressed in a long emerald gown that would have been more appropriate at a fancy cocktail party.
The plunging neckline was also something I had never expected to see a Japanese woman wear. It was then that it finally hit me. Antoinette was not just any bar. It was a snack! And my friend was completely oblivious to the situation! We were introduced to Miki, the girl in the fancy dress. She was a university student and was working at Antoinette part-time. Her job was to pour drinks, light cigarettes and make conversation. She was not as confident as the head hostess, a mature woman in her late forties. Their looks may be fading, but they know how to run the business and keep their clients happy.
She was really good at telling stories and when we asked her what she did during the day, she said she woke up late and watched adult videos all afternoon while her husband was at work. As we left the place, I glanced one last time at Miki. She was flirting with a customer old enough to be her father, laughing shyly at his jokes. There was no way she was having a good time and I wondered if the money was really worth it. She was probably making a lot more than her classmates, but at what cost? Recently I was lucky enough to meet a woman who used to work at a snack when she was in college.
She accepted to answer a few questions about her former job. These places are also often owned by the yakuza, so I would not encourage anyone to work there. Sayaka: I had to drink a lot. Every girl has a role to play: the cute girl, the tough girl, the nice girl, etc. I was the clown. I always had to be genki and fun.
Sayaka: Clients often offer to take girls on dates outside work. We were not forced to accept, but our Mama-san would strongly encourage us to go. But, she would always tell us to never sleep with them, so they would keep coming back. I never slept with a client, but I guess it can happen. Sayaka: Never. We just pretend to like them so they keep coming. All our clients were old and they wanted to feel important and show-off. Snacks are expensive, but some men would bring hostesses from other bars to our snack on a date, just because they wanted to look important.
Most of our regular clients knew our Mama-san well and would come to spend time with her. If they brought customers to our snack, she would go on dates with them. They were mostly salarymen working in finance and real estate, so they would often bring clients and their company would even pick up the tab.
Sayaka: Some would try to show off by talking about art, but they mostly wanted to talk about sex and ask embarrassing questions. Some were really mean as well. They would complain about our looks all the time. Once, one guy tried to look down my dress by pulling down my neckline and said I had breasts like grapes. Sayaka: Yeah, it does. Sayaka: You have to be really cunning to survive in that kind of world and you have to outsmart the system.
Snacks are not the worst place where you can end up. Some hostesses end up prostituting themselves. Intercultural explorer, matchmaking choreographer, dating in Tokyo since More articles by Sara Who. Every Monday we post our picks of upcoming events in Tokyo.
If you would like your event listed here, contact the editor of GaijinPot. Come learn about all the cool things to do in Tottori while enjoying some local food and drink at our Tottori Travel Evening. If you love monkeys, Japan is a great place to see them both in the wild and in captivity. For a unique monkey experience, I would head to Inuyama in Aichi. By Quincy B. How much money did you make on average? What was the hardest thing about your job?
Have you actually ever felt attracted to or liked a client? Why do you think guys come to these places? What kind of topics would you talk about with the clients? Does working in a place like this make it hard to have a regular boyfriend? What did you learn about human behavior from working there? Topics: Love and Dating. Sara Who Intercultural explorer, matchmaking choreographer, dating in Tokyo since June 12, at am. Explore Going Ape for the Japan Monkey Centre If you love monkeys, Japan is a great place to see them both in the wild and in captivity.