Never say, “Never.”
I never thought I would see the day when a major U.S. newspaper would do a feature story on the hostess profession in Japanese nightclubs.
Well, in a recent edition, the New York Times did just that. The title of the story was, “The Well-Paid Flirt.”
It tells the story of young Japanese women seeking jobs as hostesses in night clubs because as in the U.S., the Job market is hard pressed these days.
The job as a hostess was once shunned because their duties were considered immodest, lavishing attention on men for a hefty fee.
Not any more, according to the Times’ story.
The job is gaining, in the eyes of Japanese society, respectability and in some cases, acclaim.
For those women with no college education, employment opportunities are there as hostesses. Wages? A hostess can easily make $100,000 a year. For the more popular ones, as much as $300,000 annually.
While they are called night clubs, it’s more like a swanky bar where the hostesses drink and chat with the male patrons.
Contrary to popular belief, hostessing does not include prostitution.
The most popular and expensive “night club” in Japan, was located in the Ginza District of Toykyo under the name, “Club Hime.” Ordinary guys couldn’t patronize the Hime because of its high cost.
Mostly, it was frequented by high-ranking politicians, sports and entertainment celebrities.
I’m not talking tabs in the high three figures but more like the mid-four figures calculated by the U.S. dollar.
The owner and operator of the Hime was a woman named Yoko Yamaguchi. Since she was a woman owner, she was referred to by the patrons as “Mama-san.”
However, Yamaguchi didn’t gain fame as the owner of Club Hime. She was the manager and wrote the lyrics for the then-popular singer Hiroshi Itsuki, often referred to as the Frank Sinatra of Japan.
That’s how I met her. She wanted to book Itsuki for a show on the main stage of a Las Vegas Strip hotel.
Someone suggested that since I was a gaijin living in Los Angeles, she should contact me.
After we talked, I jumped in my car and drove up to Vegas to see what I could accomplish on her request. I went from one hotel to another but couldn’t even meet the entertainment directors at the hotels, who book the shows.
The secretaries would all comment, “You gotta be kidding. Put a Japanese on our main stage?”
I was down to the next to last hotel, which was the Las Vegas Hilton. The secretary there was about to point to the door when the entertainment director, a chap named Dick King, came out of his office to go to lunch.
At last, I thought, at least I’ll get rejected by the head man, not the secretary.
King listened to what I had to say and he also chuckled. However, he said “One of my shows next month had to be canceled. If your singer can get here by then, I’ll give him a try.”
He added, “Itsuki, or whatever you say his name is, will have to bring his own musicians and stage crew.”
There was no discussion about compensation. I was just happy to get his approval to have Itsuki perform on the main stage at the Hilton. When I called Yamaguchi, she was elated.
And, Itsuki became the first non-English speaking and Japanese entertainer to be booked in Vegas.
As the old saying goes, “The rest is history.”
That is, except for Yamaguchi telling me, “Whenever you come to Tokyo, you can be my guest at the Club Hime.” So even though I was “just a gaijin,” I was able to frequent the most expensive night club in Japan and just signed the tab after the visit.
Of course, my friends in Japan were impressed that I could invite them to spend an evening at the Hime. Perhaps some of them thought I owned a few oil wells in the U.S.
I never told them the story I related here.
I thought to myself, “Let them think I’m filthy rich,” when I, in reality, was just a filthy newspaper columnist.
That’s her next to me. The person on the left is Osamu Noguchi, a prominent sports and entertainment promoter. The guy next to him is the head man of a Japanese (you guess what).
When I began writing this segment of today’s column, I remembered I had a photo taken with Yamaguchi on a visit after the Itsuki show in Vegas.
She took me to a swanky restaurant and because she was rather famous, the manager of the eatery had one of his staff take the photo.
End of story.
A little tidbit with a slight “Japanese angle.”
It’s an e-mail from a reader, Shoji Takahashi, who wrote:
“I remember reading your article regarding illegal immigrants and you said that you don’t know the term in Japanese. The word I used to hear among the Issei was ‘mikkou,’ which literally means secret passage by boat. It means a stowaway. Many years ago, some people hid themselves in ships and swam ashore after dark when they reached their destination. I used to hear them say, ‘So and so is a mikkou.’ Check your Japanese dictionary.”
Thanks, Shoji. Will do after I type today’s column.
Another short note. This one from George Wakiji, who is really a helpful reader, sending me tidbits of information that I can use in my column.
What would I do without friends like George?
Here’s his missive: “In your Saturday column you make reference to yourself as a ‘stout’ Republican. Did you really mean that since stout means bulky in figure, corpulent? I think ‘staunch’ would have been a better choice since that means trustworthy, loyal.”
My definition of “stout” is “determined” or “strong in substance.”
Which, I suppose, can describe my Republican status.
However, since I know you’re a lot smarter than I, I’ll use “staunch” the next time I have the occasion to use the word.
Still another short note Gee, what would I do if readers weren’t nice enough to contact me?
This one (the writer asked not to be identified) said: “My sister e-mailed me regarding your interest of Japanese Americans moving to and living in Las Vegas. I believe my sister is interested too… is why she asked me to respond to your inquiries on retirees moving to Las Vegas.
“I’m a 73-year-old Sansei born and raised in East Los Angeles and went to Roosevelt High School. My thoughts on moving to Vegas was in the year 1992. My wife and I moved to Vegas in April 1999 from Monterey Park and am enjoying every day.
“I have many reasons for taking this change for our ‘golden years.’ Not in any particular order: political, economics (cost of living), climate (yes, weather), health, a new home in a planned community and many more. If you have further interest of my thoughts and reasons for making this change, I will be happy to go into details for you.”
Thanks to, “I want to remain anonymous” reader. Since he gave me his e-mail address, I will contact him for an interview on this highly interesting topic.
Almost daily now we read in the print media or see on TV news about traffic accidents in which there are multiple victims. Since they are so frequent these days, most don’t even get that much attention.
Well, there was an accident in Carson last year in which a Japanese American woman named Mikasa, was one of the victims. And, her 4-year-old son was also killed.
The sad part of this story is that the driver who hit her car was speeding and ran a red light and also drove off after the accident.
Fortunately, the police was able to obtain his identity. He has a long history of traffic violations so when he is caught, he faces a lot of charges.
Unfortunately, this won’t bring back the JA lady, whose husband and other son were also in the car but they escaped with non-life endangering injuries.
The reason I make mention of this is that the California penal system is talking about releasing 4,500 prisoners because of over-crowded prisons.
Isn’t that disgusting? The hit and run driver in this accident should have still been behind bars.
How many more of these convicts will soon be on our streets and cause the death of innocent citizens like Mrs. Mikasa?
It’s nice to sit in the comfort of our living room to watch Dodger baseball on TV but it’s even nicer to get out to the ballpark to watch the game live. That’s what my wife and I did Tuesday night.
And it was quite a night. We saw Japanese pitcher Hiroki Kuroda get a win on the mound.
Saw Manny hit a home run.
Saw the Dodgers score 176 runs, the most at their home ballpark in 20 years.
Heck, I was so elated I bought my wife a hot dog. Of course, she had to split it with me. That would make the $5 dog only $2.50.
I’m always amazed how fans gobble dogs during the nine innings.
Four people sitting in the row of seats in front of us, ate three dogs a piece during the game. That comes to $60. That’s not including drinks which they purchased with each hot dog.
There were 45,000 fans on hand Tuesday and if we assumed that 20,000 of them brought hot dogs at 5 bucks a piece, that comes to $100,000. So if we are to conclude that they make a 50 percent profit, that’s a net of $50,000.
Doing a little more math, I would assume that at least 15,000 cars park at the stadium.
Again, at $15 a car, that comes to $225,000.
On another baseball note, Little League baseball doesn’t get any media attention.
However, I was following the Torrance All-Stars in their play-off in the Western Regional, hoping they would make it to the finals. Unfortunately, they lost in the finals, so their season is over.
My reason for following the Torrance kids?
The star of the team was Sansei Masata Okawa, the power-hitter who collected a couple of home runs in the play-off.
So there went the “Japanese angle” in the Little League play-offs.
Well, when the regional finals get underway in San Bernardino, we’ll still see a few “Japanese faces” on the field. That’s because Maui will represent the State of Hawaii in San Bernardino.
I can’t imagine a Little League team coming from Maui without a single Sansei on the roster.
Perhaps we shouldn’t put a lot of pressure on pre-teenagers in sports but there’s a 3-year-old named Kailey Masaoka, who will be competing in the Ice Skating Institute World Recreation Team Championship.
The meet is for youngsters from age 3 to 16.
I can’t image a 3-year-old like Kailey facing the pressure of competing in sports but that’s how it is these days.
Heck, when my granddaughter was 5 and began ice skating in Palos Verdes, I thought, “Gee, she’s kind of young to be skating on ice.”
Now that I read about youngsters like Kailey Masaoka, maybe I should encourage my granddaughter to take ice skating more seriously than just giggling when she slips and falls.
Gee, when I was 3 (if I can remember that far back), I don’t think I could even play marbles.
It’s only the first week of August but as I glance on the wall and look at my schedule, I shudder. It will probably be the busiest month of the year 2009.
My wife says, “Slow down.”
I agree with her and then something else comes up that I have to add to the calendar. Just consider the last nine days.
I have already set my plans to attend the Heart Mountain Reunion at The Cal starting Aug. 31 through Sept. 3.
Then my in-laws from Maui called to say they are coming over on Aug. 23 through Aug. 26.
Needless to say, I had to add that to my Vegas schedule, which means within a week, I’ll be driving up there twice.
Oh well, I thought to myself, I’ll just stop doing everything until then and maybe my senior citizen body can be rested enough.
Then Em Yamada called to remind me about the former Nisei Week Queen’s reunion luncheon on the same day as the Festival parade.
Which means I’ll have to get down to J-Town early because parking is a mess even on “regular” days. With the parade scheduled on the same day, it’s going to be mess.
There are some things I just can’t cannel.
For one, Supervisor Mike Antonovich’s birthday party. Mike has been a good friend for so many years so this is a must.
Then I received an invitation to the swearing-in ceremony for Gary Tanaka, who has been appointed to the L.A. County Superior Court. Another event I just can’t scratch off.
These are activities that are personal and have nothing to do with my being a newspaper columnist.
After all, I watched Gary grow up from his childhood days and being able to be on hand when he is sworn in as a Judge is a rare event.
Yeah, I know when I told some friends about my schedule, most of them said, “Why don’t you just forget Vegas?”
Perhaps I may end up doing just that.
The question is which trip should I cancel? The visit with my in-laws or joining many of the friends I made during my stay in Heart Mountain.
Usually I wind up my column on a humorous note. However, today I close with a bit of sadness.
That would be over the passing of another friend. Vi Omatsu, the wife of Frank Omatsu passed away last week and I was quite depressed when Frank’s sister, Grace Ogawa, called to inform me of Vi’s passing.
I’ve known Frank and Vi for many years. Vi was a charming and personable lady.
Frank and I were practically neighbors when I lived in the Uptown Area (now Koreatown) many years ago.
I still remember the Omatsu family inviting me over for lunch on Sundays because I was living alone in an apartment a block from where they lived.
So, to Frank and his family, my deepest condolence.
And to Vi, a very sorrowful Sayonara.
George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via e-mail at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.