Nightwork Sexuality, Pleasure, and Corporate Masculinity in a Tokyo Hostess Club
by Anne Allison
University of Chicago Press, 1994
Cloth: 978-0-226-01485-2 | Paper: 978-0-226-01487-6 | Electronic: 978-0-226-01488-3
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226014883.001.0001


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.





Part One. Ethnography of a Hostess Club

Chapter One. A Type of Place

Chapter Two. A Type of Routine

Chapter Three. A Type of Woman

Part Two. Mapping the Nightlife within Cultural Categories


Chapter Four. Social Place and Identity

Chapter Five. The Meaning and Place of Work: The Sarariiman

Chapter Six. Family and Home

Chapter Seven. Structure of Japanese Play

Chapter Eight. Male Play with Money, Women, and Sex

Part Three. Male Rituals and Masculinity


Chapter Nine. Male Bonding

Chapter Ten. The Mizu Shōbai Woman: Constructing Dirtiness and Sex

Chapter Eleven. Impotence as a Sign and Symbol of the Sarariiman