Diary of a Tokyo hostess

I worked as a modern-style geisha and learned how to fake being in love, but after becoming addicted to the attention, I learned that the money wasn't worth destroying my soul.

Topics: Sex, Love and Sex,

I’m studying Japanese literature in graduate school at Berkeley, and over the past few years I’ve gone back and forth to Tokyo half a dozen times, to study the language, literature or dance. I hostessed for the first time in the summer of 1999, when I was in Tokyo on a fellowship to study Japanese.

Having completed my first year at grad school in the high-rent Bay Area, I needed to make some money, and I wanted to improve my spoken Japanese. But even more than that, I was lured into the job by years spent reading literature set in Tokyo’s “ukiyo,” or floating world — that neon-lit funhouse of desire inhabited by geisha, politicians, business tycoons, entertainers, thwarted lovers who have decided to commit double suicide (a favorite, idealized topic of Japanese literature) and other would-be romantics. During earlier stints in Japan as an exchange student, I had heard stories from friends about the money to be made and the absurdity to be witnessed in the world of the modern geisha.

Series chapters

Part 1: “Love” for hire



Part 2: Starting at the bottom

Part 3: Fictional devotion

Part 4: Believing in fairy tales

Part 5: Special arrangements

Part 6: Flirting with danger

Part 7: Illusory passions

Cynthia Gralla is a Ph.D. student in comparative literature at the University of California at Berkeley. She spent about six months working as a hostess during visits to Japan in 1999 and 2000.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    "Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>