Memoirs of a Jewish Geisha

Working in Midtown to give businessmen the girlfriend experience

Kaoru is open Monday through Saturday. The busiest nights are Thursday and Friday, attracting around 20 clients. Most of the customers are Japanese and South Korean men in their forties or fifties. Saturday nights, the bar is virtually empty.

"That's because the men are at home, with their wives and kids," the girls explain. "Only bachelors tonight. Real slow."

One hostess, who had worked there about a month, found the work "kind of weird."

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"My first night, some guy grabbed my boob, and I didn't know if I could get up or do anything," she said. "I told Mama-san. She said I could leave the table if that happens."

This hostess said she came to the U.S. from South Korea to get away from her parents. They were strict. And she was bored in her homeland. Kaoru, she determined, wasn't that bad after all. "I get to drink. I get to drink a lot. And it's free!" she said.

Another hostess, from Japan, said that the work wasn't terrible. She asked me whether I liked the job.

"Just don't leave with the customers," she said. "Dinner, before the club, is safe. But afterwards, not so much. Very dangerous. Don't get into their cars."

She got into a car one time, she said, and it was a "very dangerous" situation. She wouldn't elaborate.

Hostesses generally work as a team. When a customer comes in, a hostess will walk over and begin talking with him. She will ask him to buy her a drink—Mama-san's sales target is one drink per girl per 45 minutes. After 20 minutes to a half-hour, depending on how busy the bar is, another girl will come up and ask to join the conversation. The first girl will excuse herself, then make her way to another client. She'll then ask this next customer to buy her a drink, too. Eventually, another hostess will join this pair, beginning the cycle again.

Kaoru mainly runs on bottle service. Most of the men keep handles of liquor there. The bar, which sells anything from Scotch to shoju, tacks nameplates on the bottles, and will store them in the kitchen for up to a year. Looking at the tickets, it appeared that a bottle typically ran $160. Men usually spend anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to around a thousand for a night of drinking and conversation.

The hostesses also tout each other, but in an endearing manner. A more experienced hostesses will introduce the newer girls to a client by saying, "This is so-and-so. Isn't she cute? She has such a pretty smile and a great body and such a lovely personality. You should get her a drink."

Mama-san said that it takes about three weeks to get into the swing of hostessing work. And she would know: I'd been told she had been in the business a long time, and the place, Kaoru, is a historic institution in itself. Pete Hamill wrote about the bar for New York magazine in 1981. It marked the so-called "Japanning of New York," and was one of the respected cultural institutions that catered to the big wave of immigrants.

"The customers, they have to come in, see you a few times, and get to know you. Then, after a little while, they'll start to call, request to sit with you, and invite you on dohan, the paid dinner," Mama-san said. "And then you make more money."

In the first two weeks, the customers were curious, but kind of cold. Angie had said that they'd be intrigued by the fact that I'm Jewish, and apparently look it. Sometimes they'd straight-up ask: "You're Jewish, aren't you?" and would add that they "could just tell."

Indeed, a lot of the initial conversations began by their musings on my supposedly Ashkenazi characteristics. Their observations had the sound of a lepidopterist commenting on a freak moth.

"Hm. Very pale," they'd say.

"Your hair, it just does that? Is it a perm? Ah, Curly-san," Mama-san called me, petting my head. "Natural?"

"Yep. Look—you can pull it like this," I said, pulling taut a ringlet, so that it was straight. Then I let the tendril go, so that it contracted into a spring-like shape. "And it goes back like this. Like the tail of a pig."

Mama-san looked at me curiously and laughed. The next day I worked, she said she liked it better straight.

Most of the men talked plainly about their 12-hour workdays, and how they wished they'd pursued their romantic dreams instead of lucrative careers. They did everything from renting out karaoke machines to running sushi restaurants to coordinating mergers and acquisitions. Many had apartments in the city, but kept their families upstate. Sometimes their loved ones lived in New Jersey or Connecticut.

"There's a sort of cold war between my wife and me," one said. He was on the board of a textiles concern, but wished he had stuck with his history studies. "We know we exist, but we don't really talk. I have two sons, but they just spend all my money."

Another customer, an executive for a shipping company, complained that he didn't get any sleep.

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27 comments
Swtmst
Swtmst

It is like a strip club with none of the stripping. I thought about hostessing in Japan, but it becomes very taxing on your body and mind. You consistently have to text customers ect. I also find it very sad, because in big clubs, rich men (and women!) will spend 10,000 or more a night, and really think the host/ess is going to marry them one day...bizarre.

Cdaniels56
Cdaniels56

Page me when Lauren Ezersky writes hers..............hehe

Angela Garcia as NeonMosfet
Angela Garcia as NeonMosfet

This is almost Victorian in tone. There's some thing sweet and a little sad about these men living out the weird fantasy of High School Musical, on the rocks and 80 proof. However as Bekiempis should have known, she was supposed to carry a fan. When her customer went for the hooter shot demanding a return favor, she is supposed to take the fan, and whack him on the shoulder blade for getting out of line

Angela Garcia as NeonMosfet.

Cassidy
Cassidy

By Jewish girls? I love Jewish girls the most.

Isaiah
Isaiah

This was THE most self-indulgent article published by the Voice in a long time. It was a waste of time to go out of my way, (as I usually do) to read the paper this week. I am personally insulted by this masturbatory piece...

Erika
Erika

The article basically read like "those Japanese people are so weird and exotic" (accentuated by the Orientalist photos). Which is pretty much every article written by non-Japanese folk, ever. Honestly as a Japanese-American, it depresses me. Did you know that we're actually pretty normal people? And yes, we're *individuals* with independent thoughts and feelings.

mg
mg

What an inane article. I especially like the line "Then came some mystery fish, which tasted so richly of the ocean, they were undoubtedly endangered." How would you know? Is there anything about life in general that you enjoy, or are you simply the "PC Police" for everyone else's existence. Sad. Sad. Woman.

ET
ET

The Voice is no longer relevant.

Sad demise

zqxz
zqxz

Finally (48 hours) time limit to buy.

LV Muffler $ 5.99LV Bags $ 19.9 LV Wallet $ 6.55Armani Glasses $ 5.99LV Belt $ 6.9

Buy addresses---- tntn.usTips (48 hours after the special product is invalid)

zqxz
zqxz

Finally (48 hours) time limit to buy.

LV Muffler $ 5.99LV Bags $ 19.9 LV Wallet $ 6.55Armani Glasses $ 5.99LV Belt $ 6.9

Buy addresses---- tntn.usTips (48 hours after the special product is invalid)

Bbradley
Bbradley

BORING. This was very West-meets-East and offered nothing but a one-dimensional report of the job, which is a very common form of entertainment in Asia. And like any customer service job, it has your good and bad customers. Hooters waitresses are far more demeaned than hostesses.

Theplaceforjunk
Theplaceforjunk

I learned that there is a bar where women are paid to increase drink orders. And everyone there was dumb or weird (expect the writer and maybe some of the other workers). And that is it.

NightOwl
NightOwl

Sad and funny illustration of Human Condition, Arigato Victoria-san.

elcalato
elcalato

I read this story expecting to be titillated or at least get a cheap thrill from reading about the sexual escapades of a working girl in the escort business. Girlfriend experience? Please, this is more like...I dont even know how I would even describe this. Im sure there is more that goes on in here then the writer lets on. This is more like an advertisement for this establishment....I think Im actually going to check it out. The writer didnt even mention if the the girls working there are pretty or not.

Qwitzach
Qwitzach

korea is not in southeast asia. it is in east asia.

Sakara
Sakara

soon to be a cable tv movie, no doubt.

Without Pie
Without Pie

Who Else Wants To Get A $829 iPad.2 3G For $121.37. Or a $1799.00 Macbook-Pro For Under $217.81? Forget Retail Stores With Their Jacked Up Prices. I Already Sold A Bunch Of Stuff For Half Of What People Would Have Paid At Retail Stores, But I Am Getting Stuff For Much Cheaper Than That. I Use Two Sites, Both Are Good, BidsGo.cömAnd BidsWave.cöm

Clint
Clint

I was in Naganno Japan and for fifty bucks extra they give you a blow job at the end. For real

Cassidy
Cassidy

It was a real tease of an article! I guess the only reason the title mentioned a Jewish geisha was due to the author's self-indulgence. I was half expecting Daphne Rosen or somebody! Instead, it was just another broke whitegirl making money off of some easy Asian marks.

Cassidy
Cassidy

Kept waiting for the "Jewish stuff," given the title of the article, but aside from hairy legs (and no one every commented on her nose??) I don't see what was the point of calling herself a Jewish geisha.

Kept thinking there was going to be a Russian connection somehow, since "Jewesses" in czarist Russia staffed the brothels.

elcalato
elcalato

Im not a professional writer or for that matter any type of writer. I think whoever wrote this article was using the reference to the endangered fish to give a sense of the forbidden....like something sort of dangerous. I mean to be going out with a stranger under her circumstances could have all sorts of outcomes....

Cassidy
Cassidy

Well, I did rather enjoy this article, even though I was hoping for more (like those lonely losers profiled?), but I agree with you in general: the Voice is no longer relevant.

Msue
Msue

There is no "sexual thing" whatsoever you idiot.Girls are prretier than your sister. And please don't come if you don't have enough money to buy a bottle + cover charge.We don't have coors light.-ex geisha

Cassidy
Cassidy

By Jewish girls? I like Jewish girls the most.

Cassidy
Cassidy

Yeah, I thought it was rather fine writing on her part.

elcalato
elcalato

I think you didnt get what I was trying to say. The article itself was presented in a way to make it seem like it was about someone working in the escort business.

 
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