By now you've probably heard about Japanese venues where women cater to male customers. But it's a two-way street, and in Tokyo, female tourists can head to the red light district and one of the city's many "Host Clubs."

The practice of men paying to make women feel good is not new, but it's gone increasingly mainstream in recent years. The latest dispatch comes via the Huffington Post. Host clubs are popular, says the owner of one booming chain, with "ladies dissatisfied with relationships...the hosts entertain them. They listen, and make them feel special." And it doesn't come cheap: a popular host cited in the article nets some 300,000 yen a month. According to some reports, some women have gone broke sustaining the illusion of romance. And as the documentary The Great Happiness Space (excerpted above) explores, many of the women are sex workers themselves, looking for a break from reality. Host clubs, like their female counterparts, don't explicitly involve sex, although often "paid dates" can be arranged. It's an obvious evolution of the geisha concept — 21st century style.

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But it's not always show: a host tells the HuffPo that one regular client "ended up leaving her boyfriend to marry him."

Manabu Numata: Chronicling Tokyo's Host Clubs [CNNGo]

Rent Boys [Time]
The World's Gaudiest Japanese Host Club: Shinjuku Ai [Huffington Post]

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DISCUSSION

I went to two host bars in Tokyo and one in Shanghai— I had more fun in Shanghai, but only because I speak Mandarin much better than Japanese.

Overall it was a fun and positive experience. It's amusing and flattering to have a bunch of guys BS you, light your cig, pour your drink, hold a towel outside the bathroom door... much like I imagine it feels for straight, white, wealthy males every day.

I've seriously considered starting one in the US, probably recruiting guys with a more intellectual bent. I envision a club where smart, powerful women come to look and flirt with eyecandy that can hold a conversation. Yes? Yes?