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Wanderlust: Japan hugs it out, uneasily

More Japanese men are learning to display affection. Meet the "hug mat."

Other companies have figured out different ways to capitalize on a woman’s ever-increasing desire to be loved and appreciated and men’s inability to appropriately show it.

Satoshi Fujita became a minor celebrity in Tokyo for starting the Pickup School for Men Who Can’t Get Any. The key to the formula he spent two decades researching in the streets of Tokyo led him to several conclusions. He finally bought himself a wig. Aside from a full head of hair, he figured that contrary to the popular belief, women are quite simple in what they want: being entertained and complimented.

Compliments, it seems, are the most popular affection display tool around. Local women will even pay a lot of money to hear them. At the Player’s Club Dios in Tokyo’s Roppongi area, they know the trick all too well. The host club is one of dozens of such establishments in Tokyo, a gender reversal of the traditional geisha-hosted clubs for men.

Even before visiting the club, women can choose online from a plethora of conspicuously feminine-looking men — based on facial features, blood group, height, among other things — to be their hosts for the night. Aside from pouring drinks, lighting cigarettes and escorting women to the ladies’ room, being a successful host means being able to master two essential tasks: deliver a constant stream of compliments to your clients and be able to listen to whatever they have to say.

A pretty young woman, who goes by the nickname Yukiko and comes to the club regularly, said that she didn’t come here because she couldn’t find a boyfriend or lover any other way. “I have a boyfriend. But he never listens to me,” she said. “In Japan, we are used to good service.”

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