I was working in the automotive advertising biz on a Japanese car account. One of the best times occurred when a co-worker and I were informed that we were being sent to Tokyo to visit our client’s headquarters and to attend the Tokyo Motor Show.
After a long flight, we landed in Tokyo and were transported to our hotel. While I was checking in, I saw the two reps from Car & Driver Magazine, walking toward me. Many magazines carrying import advertising sent senior staff to cover the Tokyo Show. They came over and asked me to dinner.
Outside the restaurant, I saw a lot of nearby bars and clubs. My hosts told me that there were many “hostess” bars here. They had been to one the night before, and made the offer to take me with them tomorrow. For those who don’t know, Japanese hostess bars are establishments where one can go for a drink and have a hostess assigned to you who will drink with you, flirt with you, sing karaoke, and listen attentively to your blather. There is no sex…Tokyo has lots of places for that. I should point out that these places are obscenely expensive.
Spending a day at the auto show takes its toll. I went back to the hotel for a nap. I woke refreshed and I decided to take up Car & Driver’s offer to visit a hostess bar.
I knew of a hostess bar that my clients visited when they travelled home to Tokyo. They said that I should go. And, the folks at Car & Driver were going to host me. I called them and said that we could meet there at 8:00. The cab driver dropped me off in front of the place. As I entered the club, the mama-san (yes, they’re called that) approached me and said “members only.” She spoke English, so I began rattling off the names of the American car executives who frequented the place. Her face lit up. “Welcome! Are you by yourself?” I told her that I was meeting two other people. She hustled me to a large table in the corner, barking orders in Japanese. As I got to the table, I was joined by three hostesses and three small trays full of wasabi peas.
My hostess sat down next to me. She asked my name in English. I told her, and asked hers. She said, “Tiffany.” I had a good hunch that Tiffany was her “nom de hostess.” I ordered a beer. I figured that I could nurse it until my friends arrived.
Tiffany kept filling my glass. It was late and I was starting to get a queasy feeling that I was on my own. I could hear the meter running…cha-ching. The manager wanted to know where my friends were. She asked because I was taking up a table for three. She came back. “It’s raining outside, maybe your friends are delayed.” She put another beer in front of me. The other two hostesses were already gone. I finally arrived at the terrifying truth. I was on my own in the quicksand of overpriced booze!
A waiter walked by and I frantically asked for my bill. It arrived. $190 for a beer and some wasabi peas! I left the amount in yen. Whispering “Sayonara” to Tiffany I bolted toward the door. Behind me, Tiffany was yelling, “Stop! Stop!” It was then that I noticed that she was carrying an umbrella. We ran out onto the street. It was pouring! She held the umbrella over me while I tried, unsuccessfully, to hail a taxi. Tiffany handed me the umbrella and jumped in front of a moving cab. I heard what I guess was Japanese profanity coming from the driver as Tiffany motioned for me to get in. I made my escape.
I got back to the hotel and spotted my friends. “What happened?” I asked. They informed me that they had been at the auto show and meeting me completely slipped their minds. I told them about my terror. They laughed and asked if I wanted a drink. I said yes.