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Nightwork: Sexuality, Pleasure, and Corporate Masculinity in a Tokyo Hostess Club Hardcover – May 28, 1994

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 228 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; First Edition edition (May 28, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226014851
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226014852
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,140,345 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Japanese companies pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to hostess clubs that provide certain employees a release from job tensions. Here hostesses perform ritualized tasks--lighting cigarettes, pouring drinks, conversing in a stylized flirtatious manner--and while there is an erotic charge, the sex is implied, not performed. Duke University cultural anthropologist Allison's account of the four months she spent as a hostess at Bijo, a high-class Tokyo hostess club, is the first written description, in English or Japanese, devoted wholly to these after-work hangouts for corporate, white-collar sarariiman ("salaryman," an English/Japanese linguistic concoction). Allison has not written a voyeur's account, but a soundly researched study that provides substantial insights into the meanings of work and play for the Japanese. Whatever else they may do, the hostesses' first duty is to emphasize the client's strengths and his status as a desirable male, which, Allison argues, helps create the ideal sarariiman , one committed first and foremost to his job. Allison interviewed not only the hostesses and other Bijo staffers, but also wives of the men who frequent the club, club neophytes, managers of other hostess clubs, Japanese sociologists, journalists and others. Unlike previous books on Japanese nightlife, Allison's ethnography views Japanese night life from the eyes of a woman and feminist anthropologist. If the writing is occasionally dryly academic, Nightwork nonetheless provides valuable, thought-provoking reading for those interested in Japan, contemporary society or in gender roles.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

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. Brian McCombie

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on September 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
For many years, Japan's hardworking salarymen (men working in middle and large size companies engaged in various businesses) have repaired to special clubs after hours to drink and be entertained by women of a demi-monde. Geishas worked in this way in their day, but now, the traditional aspects of Japanese culture that were personified in the geisha are outmoded. The salarymen want ( or at least get) a more modern style woman. What goes on in such clubs ? What is the relationship of businesses to the clubs ? How do such clubs fit into the overall picture of Japanese culture ? Anne Allison became a hostess in one club for some months back in the 1980s. She didn't hide the fact that she was an anthropologist, but was accepted as a hostess anyway. The result is this most interesting and well-written book which answers all three questions very ably. Not only is the description of the research engrossing, but the author contests or agrees with the views of Japanese sociologists very capably. It is a very good idea to discuss what Japanese intellectuals think about hostess clubs, though most such people disparaged her research plan and thought that she would learn nothing. People like myself, who have not read such Japanese academics as Aida, Tada, Minami, Nakane, Ishikawa, Wagatsuma, or Yoda, but are interested in their arguments, will find the subsequent discussion most fascinating. Allison also weaves in some arguments from such theoreticians as Barthes and Lacan, but does not engage in the jargon which mars their work.

Hostess clubs, while seeming an innocuous, if titillating part of Japanese culture, turn out to be a nexus where attitudes and expectations about work, play, sex, gender roles, identity and money come together.
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30 of 45 people found the following review helpful By DCpostdoc on June 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
I read this book during research for an anthropology paper on women's labor in Japan, and was very un-impressed for the following reasons:
1)The description of the role of hostess clubs is not particularly accurate. Having been dragged to hostess clubs by Japanese (and American) colleagues, I know that Allison's attempt to generalize based on her experiences is deceptive. (I am not defending the hostess club- I did not think much of the establishments I attended.)
2) Allison remarkably seems to pretend in her writing that the fact that she was a western anthropology student in a previously all-Japanese club (before Westerners became common in hostess bars) did not affect the club, or the validity of her observations.
3) Much of the theorizing in the book is downright demeaning to the Japanese, suggesting that they engage only in play to simulate work, or that many marriages are simply a wife replacing the mother.
I don't think this book has aged well, and I think there are much better starting points for learning about Japan, Japanese sexuality, or the sex industry in Japan.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By N. Gastelum-Daley on July 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
The book does a great job showing the ways that Japanese businessmen spend their time. The greatest aspect of this book is it's intimacy. Allison unpacks what is truly taking place in these hostess clubs-corporate masculinity, fascinating relationships, and complex gender roles. The book is a "must read" and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading rich ethnographic work.
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