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 10
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Bet Me" by Jennifer Crusie

    A contemporary romantic comedy set to Elvis Costello and lots of luxurious and sinful sugary treats.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Welcome to Temptation" by Jennifer Crusie

    Another of Crusie's romantic comedies, this one in the shadow of an ostentatiously phallic water tower.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "A Gentleman Undone" by Cecilia Grant

    A Regency romance with beautifully broken people and some seriously steamy sex.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Black Silk" by Judith Ivory

    A beautifully written, exquisitely slow-building Regency; the plot is centered on a box with some very curious images, as Edward Gorey might say.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "For My Lady's Heart" by Laura Kinsale

    A medieval romance, the period piece functions much like a dystopia, with the courageous lady and noble knight struggling to find happiness despite the authoritarian society.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Sweet Disorder" by Rose Lerner

    A Regency that uses the limitations on women of the time to good effect; the main character is poor and needs to sell her vote ... or rather her husband's vote. But to sell it, she needs to get a husband first ...   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Frenemy of the People" by Nora Olsen

    Clarissa is sitting at an awards banquet when she suddenly realizes she likes pictures of Kimye for both Kim and Kanye and she is totally bi. So she texts to all her friends, "I am totally bi!" Drama and romance ensue ... but not quite with who she expects. I got an advanced copy of this YA lesbian romance, and I’d urge folks to reserve a copy; it’s a delight.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "The Slightest Provocation" by Pam Rosenthal

    A separated couple works to reconcile against a background of political intrigue; sort of "His Gal Friday" as a spy novel set in the Regency.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Again" by Kathleen Gilles Seidel

    Set among workers on a period soap opera, it manages to be contemporary and historical both at the same time.   Read the whole essay.

  • 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>