Nightwork: Sexuality, Pleasure, and Corporate Masculinity in a Tokyo Hostess Club

Overview

In Nightwork, Anne Allison opens a window onto Japanese corporate culture and gender identities. Allison performed the ritualized tasks of a hostess in one of Tokyo's many "hostess clubs": pouring drinks, lighting cigarettes, and making flattering or titillating conversation with the businessmen who came there on company expense accounts. Her book critically examines how such establishments create bonds among white-collar men and forge a masculine identity that suits the needs ...

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Nightwork: Sexuality, Pleasure, and Corporate Masculinity in a Tokyo Hostess Club

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Overview

In Nightwork, Anne Allison opens a window onto Japanese corporate culture and gender identities. Allison performed the ritualized tasks of a hostess in one of Tokyo's many "hostess clubs": pouring drinks, lighting cigarettes, and making flattering or titillating conversation with the businessmen who came there on company expense accounts. Her book critically examines how such establishments create bonds among white-collar men and forge a masculine identity that suits the needs of their corporations.

Allison describes in detail a typical company outing to such a club—what the men do, how they interact with the hostesses, the role the hostess is expected to play, and the extent to which all of this involves "play" rather than "work." Unlike previous books on Japanese nightlife, Allison's ethnography of one specific hostess club (here referred to as Bijo) views the general phenomenon from the eyes of a woman, hostess, and feminist anthropologist.

Observing that clubs like Bijo further a kind of masculinity dependent on the gestures and labors of women, Allison seeks to uncover connections between such behavior and other social, economic, sexual, and gendered relations. She argues that Japanese corporate nightlife enables and institutionalizes a particular form of ritualized male dominance: in paying for this entertainment, Japanese corporations not only give their male workers a self-image as phallic man, but also develop relationships to work that are unconditional and unbreakable. This is a book that will appeal to anyone interested in gender roles or in contemporary Japanese society.

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Editorial Reviews

Brian McCombie
A fascinating look at the Japanese hostess club culture, where businessmen go to "feel like a man." The clubs are lavish or glitzy, depending on their quality and cost, but the focus is always the same for the men: to be entertained, cajoled, and flirted with by a young, attractive woman. Sex? Not necessarily. While flirting is open and expected, and intimate touching is not unknown, the purpose of these clubs is to offer an atmosphere where masculinity is "collectively realized and ritualized." Allison argues that this activity reinforces certain ideas of male dominance which so define the Japanese corporate world. Scholarly but never pedantic, the book is further bolstered by the author's own experience as a hostess. A penetrating look at a slice of Japanese business life.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226014852
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/1994
  • Pages: 228

Meet the Author

Anne Allison is the Robert O. Keohane Professor of Cultural Anthropology and Professor of Women's Studies at Duke University.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Prelude Introduction
Pt. 1: Ethnography of a Hostess Club
Ch. 1: A Type of Place Ch. 2: A Type of Routine Ch. 3: A Type of Woman
Pt. 2: Mapping the Nightlife within Cultural Categories
Introduction Ch. 4: Social Place and Identity Ch. 5: The Meaning and Place of Work: The Sarariiman Ch. 6: Family and Home Ch. 7: Structure of Japanese Play Ch. 8: Male Play with Money, Women, and Sex
Pt. 3: Male Rituals and Masculinity
Introduction Ch. 9: Male Bonding Ch. 10: The Mizu Shobai Woman: Constructing Dirtiness and Sex Ch. 11: Impotence as a Sign and Symbol of the Sarariiman References Index

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