Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context
Issue 7, March 2002

Pink Collar Work:
The Café Waitress
in Early Twentieth Century Japan

Elise K. Tipton

  1. Approaching the topic of café waitresses from the point of view of understanding women's work in early twentieth century Japan finds them betwixt and between in more than one way. Firstly, the café waitress or jokyû worked in an environment—the café—that was in between the home and the workplace, both literally and figuratively. Literally and spatially, it was a place where men and women might stop on their way from the office to their homes in the suburbs. Figuratively, café waitressing represented an extension of women's work in the home into the paid workplace. It required women to perform traditional domestic roles as nurturers and entertainers of men in a workplace outside the home. However, while contemporary observers viewed café waitressing as a new, modern occupation for women, they disagreed in attitudes toward it.
  2. Secondly, looking at Japanese historical developments broadly and at Japanese women's history more specifically, the café waitress emerged in-between the Yoshiwara courtesans and geishas of the premodern Tokugawa period (1600-1868) and the club hostess of the post-Second World War decades. The café waitress shared certain characteristics with her Tokugawa predecessor and postwar descendant, derived from their 'pink collar' or eroticised work in the entertainment industry and ultimately from their subordinated status as women.[1] At the same time she was also significantly different from them in a number of ways, which reflects a particular stage in Japan's modernisation experience and the development of corporate capitalism.
  3. In this paper I will be examining the emergence and significance of café waitresses in these various ways—as an occupation for women, but more broadly, as a reflection of the role and position of women in Japanese society during the first half of the twentieth century and as a reflection of general social developments during those decades.

    The emergence of jokyû
  4. Many new occupations and job opportunities opened up to women with economic expansion during the First World War. Café waitressing was one of these. The fact that it did not fit easily into any of the categories for women's occupations at the time indicates the ambivalence in social attitudes toward jokyû during the interwar and prewar years. Examining the problem of categorisation will highlight the distinctive nature of the jokyû as a new occupation for women in the early twentieth century and suggest the often contradictory reactions that she evoked among social commentators, moral reformers and government officials.
  5. To begin with, the jokyû was not a rôdô fujin or labouring woman, the term generally used for female industrial workers, who until the early 1930s were mostly employed in the silk and cotton industries. But although obviously not a factory worker, mine worker or manual worker, a number of jokyû felt that they had common interests with industrial workers, for during the 1920s there were a number of attempts to form jokyû unions in conjunction with the mainstream labour union movement. One of the earliest jokyû unions was organised in Osaka in 1922. It began under the influence of young labour union activists who gathered in cafés in the western Osaka factory district. At its inaugural meeting this Osaka Café Waitresses League [Ôsaka Jokyû Dômei] declared its aims to 'destroy the old morality which subordinates women to men' and to 'extricate ourselves from the victimising slavery that hides in the shadow of pleasure ... to rebuild a life filled with liberty and love'.[2] The founding members decided on a campaign to make café owners bear their laundry costs and on a plan to hold seminars and meetings for women. Subsequently, union activists gave speeches and distributed flyers in the streets of Osaka, and held a meeting in Ten'ôji community hall. This first lecture meeting drew a full house of 1700 paying attendees. The Ôsaka shinpô reported that the rousing speeches by jokyû and other union leaders met with jeers and cheers from members of the audience who were enjoying themselves as if they were in a café. The audience obviously paid no attention to the feelings of exploitation and revulsion toward the tawdriness of their jobs that were expressed in the League's declaration of goals.
  6. Nevertheless, as part of the Japan Confederation of Labour [Nihon Rôdô Sôdômei], the jokyû union showed a sense of solidarity with other workers, joining them in rallies and disputes with employers. Jokyû marched in the May Day demonstrations of 1922, resulting in the arrest of one waitress, and in June raised more than ą1000 in support of a strike at the Osaka Iron Works when they appeared at a rally wearing their aprons. Like its inaugural lecture meeting, the union's meeting in support of the iron workers attracted a full house of people willing to pay 50 sen for entry, with another 500 people left outside because there was no more room in the hall. When the jokyû gave their speeches, the people outside pushed their way into the hall, and the clapping and cheering of the audience nearly drowned out the speakers.[3]
  7. Despite its activism, this first organisational attempt proved short lived. In August the union lost its director, Kobori Chiyoko, when her family discovered her plans to marry a Sôdômei activist and sent her back to her father's home. Two days later the Osaka branch of the Sôdômei decided to remove the jokyû union from its membership because of the 'lack of seriousness in both its spirit and the style of its activities'. It further characterised the jokyû union as something that was 'eating away the pure labour movement from within'.[4] The jokyû union was the only female union among labour unions in the Kansai region, and it is clear from the expulsion statement that the male-dominated Sôdômei leadership did not take jokyû issues to be real labour issues. Nor did it appreciate the jokyû union's support for other workers.
  8. But while the Sôdômei in Osaka was expelling jokyû from its membership, fifteen jokyû in Kobe were organising a branch in the Kobe Takufûkai Restaurant Workers Union. Like their Osaka counterparts, they wanted respect as women and as human beings and aimed to 'escape from the tyranny of men and the fetters of capitalism'.[5] The influence of feminist and socialist rhetoric is clear in this statement of goals. Besides giving speeches and distributing thousands of flyers in the streets, union activists visited newspaper publishers to promote their demands and to rally other jokyû to the organisation. The fate of the Kobe union is unclear, but newspaper accounts indicate other efforts to establish jokyû unions during the mid and late 1920s and again during the early 1930s in Tokyo and Hiroshima as well as Osaka. None, however, seem to have been long-lived. As suggested by the case of the Osaka Sôdômei, they were unlikely to have received support from leaders in the labour union federations. Although women's divisions were established within the main unions, neither socialist nor conservative union leaders of this era viewed women as permanent workers, hence did not take women's issues seriously.[6]
  9. If jokyû were not rôdô fujin, neither were they shokugyô fujin, a term variously translated as 'working women' and 'professional women'. The term was used for women in the many new occupations opened up during and after the First World War, including nurses, teachers, department store sales women, switchboard operators, bus conductors, office clerks and receptionists.[7] One might expect that café waitresses would fall into this category of service and white collar occupations, since cafe waitressing also emerged as a new occupation at the same time. However, both contemporary and postwar observers disagreed. One of the most prominent investigators of jokyû issues during the interwar years, Ôbayashi Munetsugu, was very concerned with this question. Because jokyû did not do physical work like rôdô fujin, he noted that they might be regarded as shokugyô fujin, but in the end he concluded that they did not quite fit this category because many engaged in prostitution.[8]
  10. However, while it is generally acknowledged that many jokyû did engage in prostitution, prostitution was not part of their job, so they did not fit neatly into this category of occupations either. Until 1956 an official licensing system existed for prostitution. In the early seventeenth century the Tokugawa shogunate had designated certain walled-off quarters of major cities as licensed brothel areas to which registered prostitutes were confined. The most famous area was Yoshiwara in the shogunal capital of Edo (present-day Tokyo). Even with the state-led modernisation programs during the Meiji period (1868-1912) the system of officially licensed brothel areas continued, and in Tokyo a few new areas were designated for this purpose. Private moral reform groups attempted to abolish the licensed prostitution system but were unsuccessful. With support from Western advisers and Christian missionaries, they were able to pressure the government to pass a law enabling a prostitute to quit prostitution, but in practice this proved extremely difficult given almost prison-like conditions in the brothels and the condition that all debts to the brothel owner had to be paid off before leaving.
  11. A jokyû did not fit into this licensed prostitution system. Prostitution was something jokyû did after hours, and illegally. Consequently, when included in discussions of prostitutes, it was as unlicensed prostitutes (literally, private prostitute or shishô, as opposed to public prostitute or kôshô). Moreover, not all jokyû engaged in prostitution, nor did those who did constitute all unlicensed prostitutes. Nevertheless, it was due to their association with prostitution, that is, pink collar work, that jokyû attracted negative social commentary and could not be included with the more respectable women in the new service occupations.

    The transformation of cafés during the interwar years
  12. The difficulties of placing jokyû into conventional categories of women's work reflect the ambivalent moral evaluations of her work in a workplace that corresponded neither to traditional workplaces for women—the home, the farm, the family business, the brothel—nor to modern workplaces considered suitable for women—the factory, the office, the department store, the school. To understand what being a jokyû entailed and why many engaged in prostitution, we therefore need to look more closely at the site of her work—the café—and its development during the 1920s.
  13. Japanese cafés had begun in the early 1910s as European-style salons for artists,
    writers and other intellectuals. They attracted this clientele with their Western food, Western drinks (cocktails as well as coffee), Western architecture and decor, and by providing a place for conversation and free discussion. The names of the first cafés in Tokyo, such as Café Printemps [Kafê Purantan] and Café Lion [Kafê Raion], reveal their European inspiration. Dressed demurely in traditional kimonos and white aprons, the jokyû in these early cafés simply served food, and in the words of one commentator in the 1930s, were 'noble, virgin types'.[9]

    Figure 1: Café Lion waitresses and patrons. Source: Hatsuda Tohru, Kafé to kissaten, Tokyo: INAX Shuppan, 1993, p. 16.

  14. After the Kantô earthquake in 1923, however, the character and function of cafés and jokyû changed greatly. The number of cafés shot up suddenly and rapidly, especially in the elegant and fashionable Ginza district of Tokyo but in other entertainment districts (known as sakariba, literally flourishing places) throughout the city and also in other cities throughout the country. The number of cafés on just the main street of Ginza, for example, increased from 20 in 1922 to 50 in 1929.[10] The number of jokyû also leaped up. Again, to give Tokyo as an example, the number of waitresses more than doubled in just four years, from about 7300 in 1925 to over 15,500 in 1929.[11] The number of cafés and bars reached a peak of 37,065 in 1934, but while the number of cafés thereafter declined, the number of waitresses continued to increase, reaching a height of 111,700 in 1936. Although the number of waitresses then declined too, there were still nearly 92,000 waitresses in the country in 1940.[12]
  15. These statistics are an indication of the changed role of cafés in Japanese urban life, of a new clientele for cafés, and of a transformation in the role of jokyû during the late 1920s and the 1930s. The huge number of cafés no longer provided an eating and drinking place just for intellectuals and artists, but now served a wider clientele. &&&Contemporaries often talked about 'massification' [taishûka] and cafés for 'the masses'. The new patrons were mostly young salaried male employees, members of the gradually expanding new middle class of white collar workers whom the burgeoning mass media and consumer industries were targeting for acquiring the material objects of the 'modern life' [modan seikatsu]. The modern life was a Westernised life and from the late 1920s, increasingly influenced by American more than European models. It extended beyond Western-style homes, fashion, and other material goods to include Western leisure activities (such as tennis and tourism) and entertainments. Cafés appealed to the new urban middle class because they were relatively cheap, an affordable way to participate in the 'modern life'. Moreover, as the social commentator Murobushi K˘shin (Takanobu) declared, the café was the symbol of Japanese modernity.[13] As another put it, 'the fruit of the modern senses' [my emphasis].[14] This association with the modern became even greater in the late 1920s as cafés transformed in their architecture and decor. Rather than small eating and drinking places with tables set with white tablecloths and Parisian or provincial German decor, the leading cafés became huge multistoried buildings glittering with neon lights, coloured glass windows, light-reflective metallic surfaces, and rich furnishings.
    Figure. 2: Ginza Palace.
    Source: Hatsuda Tohru, Kafé to kissaten, Tokyo: INAX Shuppan, 1993, p. 35.
    Figure 3: Ginza Palace interior.
    Source: Hatsuda Tohru, Kafé to kissaten, Tokyo: INAX Shuppan, 1993, p. 33.
    Jazz music played on a gramophone added to the Western ambience and satisfied patrons' desire for a fast 'tempo'—'tempo' and 'speed' being catchwords capturing the spirit and tastes of the modern life.
  16. Not only did the cafés' visual appearance and Western menu appeal to the new clientele of 'modern boys' [modan boi], but also appealing was the transformed role of the jokyû. According to Murobushi, the jokyû was the flower and spirit of the café, and what made a Japanese café distinctive from its European counterpart. What drew young men to cafés was romantic love more than alcohol. Of course it was the jokyû who provided romantic love. An Asahi shinbun journalist agreed that she was 'the greater part of the attraction [of cafés]'.[15] Another commentator, Murashima Yoriyuki, explained why young men went to cafés: 'It is not merely gaudy interior decorations, dark lighting or noisy jazz music, but the jokyû girls' alluring voices, erotic coquetry, glamorous clothes and the charming atmosphere that arises from them'.[16] But Murashima and Murobushi argued that it was an atmosphere of romantic love [ren'ai], not sex, that brought young people to the café.[17] The café was one of the few places where young men and women of the urban middle classes could meet and mingle socially—easily, directly and cheaply. As Murashima noted, 'modern men want a flaming moment of pleasure'.[18] They did not want to go through the time-consuming rituals (aside from the expense) in the closed confines of a traditional teahouse [machiai] that were required for being entertained by a geisha. And the geisha represented the traditional woman, whereas the jokyû was a 'modern girl' [modan gâru].
  17. Although Murashima and others emphasised a 'love feeling' rather than carnal desire that drew young men to the café, the service provided by the jokyû undoubtedly became eroticised in the big new cafés. This is why I refer to it as 'pink' collar work, for in Japan 'pink' connotes sex.[19] Commentators blamed an influx of capital from Osaka for the changes to a flashier style of cafés and the pressure on jokyû to provide erotic or 'ero' service. These café owners had their waitresses take off the customary apron or wear Western dresses so they would look more like women than workers and encouraged them to act in a friendly manner, like a girlfriend, with their customers. '...The waitresses ... hold themselves ready to sit down at the tables or on laps and eat and drink and laugh and talk inanely about anything from ages to literature and social theory with all customers'.[20] Owners employed more jokyû so that they could seat one to a customer, and altered seating arrangements to provide a more intimate atmosphere. Rather than the earlier open arrangements, there were booths or groupings of tables and chairs, often separated from others by partitions. (See Fig. 3) With the depression in the early 1930s, competition among cafés stiffened. In response, café owners employed more jokyû to lure in customers and intensified 'ero' service.
  18. The large cafés of fashionable Ginza could continue to attract customers with their luxurious surroundings and more accomplished, better educated jokyû. Small cafés in the back streets or less fashionable entertainment districts, however, resorted to more crass sexual attractions such as the 'subway service' and 'organ service'. The subway service offered slits in the jokyû's skirt which allowed a patron to insert his hand. The organ service referred to a jokyû lying in a box across the laps of patrons like the keyboard of an organ. When the patron touched parts of her body she would sing different notes. Surveys showing the rising number of cafés, bars and café waitresses during the early 1930s indicate the popularity of such establishments and their 'ero' services during the depression years.
  19. Prostitution still was not part of the jokyû's job, but several factors pushed many jokyû into prostitution after hours. Commentators of all ideological persuasions blamed the tipping system that was the jokyû's sole source of remuneration in the café. The café owner paid her no wages and, in fact, required that she pay for her own meals, for the employment of the cooks, and for the cost of any drinks, food, matches and other items consumed by her patrons. Until 1929 the owner also collected fines to penalise waitresses for lateness or absenteeism. Reliance on tips for their income encouraged jokyû to develop their skills at coquetry and seductive manipulation in order to obtain a larger tip.
  20. Nevertheless, contrary to popular belief, most waitresses did not earn a lot from their tips. Average incomes ranged between 30 and 50 yen per month, similar to that of typists and telephone operators but much lower than the starting salary of 70-75 yen per month for a male clerk working for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.[21] Many still managed to save something each month and gave it to their families. This reflects the fact that the reason most commonly stated for becoming a waitress was financial, in particular to help with the family budget. In Ôbayashi's survey of nearly two thousand waitresses in Osaka in 1930, the largest proportion of jokyû lived with their parents (35.56 per cent). In addition, almost 18 per cent were supporting their divorced or widowed mothers, and another surprisingly large percentage (22.32 per cent) were married.[22]
  21. Although many were married, the majority of jokyû were unmarried and in their late teens. Café waitressing offered young women from poor families with little education and skills an opportunity to earn a living which was not as arduous as farm or factory work, even though the hours were long. Although it usually did not reflect the reality, it was commonly thought that café waitressing paid better than other jobs, and the celebrity status of a few jokyû gave café waitressing a glamorous image which attracted even some well-known actresses to open cafés in Ginza.
  22. After a good income, respondents in Ôbayashi's survey pointed to freedom as one of the good aspects of their job. Like the false image of glamour and high income, this freedom was often constrained in reality by exploitative café owners. Nevertheless, it points to a significant difference between the jokyû and her premodern and contemporary counterparts, the licensed prostitute and the geisha. In contrast to both, a jokyû was not bound like a slave or indentured worker by a contract to the café owner. A high turnover rate indicates that it was quite easy to change jobs, and with the escalating demand for waitresses in the late 1920s and early 1930s, café owners tried to hire experienced waitresses rather than new, inexperienced women. Moreover, although a jokyû might become a prostitute outside the café and sometimes with the encouragement or pressure of the café owner, she did not have to accept just any patron into a sexual relationship like a licensed prostitute. Inquiry into the motives of unlicensed prostitutes, including jokyû, discovered that they sometimes went with men because they liked them.[23]

    The jokyû as a 'modern girl'
  23. Though limited, this freedom to change jobs or choose which if any men to sleep with, means that while an entertainer of men like the geisha and a sexual object like a licensed prostitute, the jokyû represented discontinuity from the traditional female entertainer. Her open sexuality and lack of submissiveness made her a transgressive figure which contemporary writers and the mass media as well as government officials and social conservatives found threatening to existing views of proper women's roles.[24] This is the reason for the dilemma over categorising café waitressing as an occupation.
  24. In literature, Tanizaki Jun'ichir˘'s Naomi in Chijin no ai [A Fool's Love],[25] epitomises the jokyû as a threatening figure. Naomi was a café waitress when the narrator, a twenty-eight year old office worker typical of the new middle class patrons of cafés, first met her. He was attracted to her because her name could be written in Roman letters and could be Western. To him, she also looked like the American motion picture actress Mary Pickford. After 'rescuing' her from the café, they start to live happily in a little Western-style house, but Naomi soon starts to go out dancing and takes up with other men. She teases and taunts him, and the narrator J˘ji even kicks her out of the house at one point, but immediately regrets it. His obsession with her not only prevents him from ending the relationship, but also leads him to give in to her conditions of complete independence and a life of Western luxury for returning to him. During this time Naomi becomes even more Western in appearance as well as taking up with Western men.
  25. Similarly, in graphic art, matchbox designs and cartoons of the period, the jokyû was portrayed as a representative of the liberated 'modern girl' or moga (an abbreviation for modan gâru). Typically, she was depicted wearing Western clothes and jewellery, hair relatively short and often permed, cigarette in hand and drinking a Western cocktail. Even in shin-hanga [new woodblock prints], which tended to refashion moga into traditional beauties [bijin] merely dressed in modern clothes and hairstyles, moga are shown in café and cabaret settings, exuding sexuality and suggesting promiscuity.[26]
  26. These contrasts with the traditional entertainer or courtesan were precisely what constituted the jokyû's appeal. The young men who frequented cafés came because they wanted 'modern' entertainment. The Western architecture, interior decoration and menu of the café provided the physical aspects of the modern life, while the jokyû provided its emotional aspect. She satisfied young modern men's desire for romantic love, which was shaped by American movies as well as media discussions of 'free love' and 'companionate marriage'.[27]
  27. The idea of 'free love' came to Japan through translations of writings by Havelock Ellis and other Westerners. As in Western societies, it directly opposed established expectations of approved sexual behaviour and marriage, particularly as applied to women. Prominent contributors to the pioneering feminist literary journal Seitô in the 1910s had attracted media attention and criticism for their rejection of marriage in favour of de facto relationships.[28] The idea of 'companionate marriage' similarly had Western origins. It contrasted with traditional Japanese views and practices of arranged marriages among middle and upper class families based on maintaining and promoting the continuity and welfare of the household rather than the emotional ties between husband and wife.
  28. The accessibility of the café and the jokyû also distinguished them from the teahouses/brothels and prostitutes of the licensed quarters. It enhanced their appeal and reflected the emergence of a mass consumer society in 1920s Japan. Cafés were relatively cheap, especially compared to traditional teahouses. Unlike licensed quarters, they could also be found all over big and small cities throughout the country. In Tokyo, although Ginza became the preeminent entertainment district and centre of high class cafés during the late 1920s, other entertainment districts also thrived around the busy railway terminals ringing the city.[29] The destruction of the great earthquake of 1923 had accelerated the population expansion of the suburbs to the west and south of the central business district.[30] Most of the new suburban dwellers were white collar 'salarymen' who commuted to the central city through the railway transit terminal at Shinjuku. By 1930 there were 108 cafés in Shinjuku, making up more than one-third of the eating and drinking establishments in the area.[31]
  29. Government ordinances in various cities beginning in 1929 attempted to restrict the location of cafés, but did not stop their proliferation. According to a national survey, the number of cafés and bars in the country grew from 27,532 in 1930 to 37,065 in 1934, despite these being the worst years of the depression.[32] Since they ranged in size from small ones in the back streets of big cities like Tokyo and Osaka to the huge, ornate ones in Ginza or Osaka's D˘tonbori, the cost of enjoying a night in a café could fit many budgets. This included the moderate incomes of the young white collar workers (often referred to as 'paupers in Western clothing') and students who comprised the majority of café patrons. This clientele by age, occupation and income differed from the patrons of the earlier Yoshiwara and contemporary licensed quarters. The number of jokyû grew more than proportionately to the number of new cafés, as mentioned earlier, because café owners tried to attract customers by having more waitresses to entertain them. In 1930 the number of jokyû (nearly 67,000) in the country already far exceeded the number of licensed prostitutes (49,477) counted a year later, and almost doubled over the next five years.[33]

    From the café waitress to the club hostess
  30. In many respects the jokyû paved the way for her postwar counterpart, the club hostess. Just as the jokyû was the chief attraction of the 1930s café, so is the hostess the most important attribute of a club, her beauty and accomplishments determining its ranking compared to other clubs. Both the jokyû and the club hostess primarily work/ed as entertainers of male customers from the stratum of urban white collar salarymen, buttering up their egos with flirtatious behaviour. This did/does not require particular training or education, but use of feminine traits in an extension of the traditional female roles of serving men and being pretty. This they did and do in a setting located between the home and the workplace. The emphasis on their erotic attractions exemplifies the commodification of sex in the leisure and consumer industries of the twentieth century. And although 'host' clubs offering male service for women have emerged as more women work in the paid workforce and have money to spend, until the 1990s entertainment districts at night remained predominantly places for men.[34] In the prewar café or the postwar club, 'men's leisure is work for women and women are leisure for men'.[35]
  31. Nevertheless, although their attraction is sexual, neither the jokyû nor the club hostess was or is required to be a prostitute—there is no sexual activity in the café or the club, although it may occur outside and after hours. As earlier discussed, the café was attractive for the 'love feeling' of its atmosphere, not to fulfil lust. Jokyû's physical closeness to patrons was one aspect which differentiated cafés from bars—there was no bar between the jokyû and her customer. Clubs with hostesses in the postwar period continued the café's physical arrangement to provide a sense of intimacy and the 'love feeling'. Despite the increase in 'love marriages' since the end of the Second World War, the club hostess's attentions seem to fill an emotional void in her customer's marriage, a desire for affection experienced through physical closeness. If not, at least they provide the illusion of fulfilling a romantic fantasy. According to the 'mama' of a high class club, 'we supply the material for a man's dreams and desires'.[36] The hostess's job involves convincing her male customers of the possibility of sexual or romantic intimacy with her, but her service stops at implication.[37] In fact, the more convincing and personalised the service, as provided in top-ranked clubs, the less likely the hostess is to form sexual liaisons with customers outside the club.[38] That, at least, is the case in top-ranked clubs, but as with cafés, there is a range of hostess clubs, and those lesser in elegance and expense are more likely to have hostesses offering more sex. Within the broader industry, the types of pink collar work have proliferated during the postwar period, ranging from the 'high-class' hostess clubs offering sexual/romantic fantasies but not sex, to places like 'soaplands' that offer sex but few if any fantasies.[39]
  32. At the same time there are some significant differences between the roles of the interwar café and the postwar club in Japanese social and economic life. The café was a place were people went in their leisure hours, not as an extension of their workplace. It was a place separate from their work and therefore a place for pursuing their private pleasure. But the postwar hostess club is supported by corporate capitalism whereas the café was not. Large enterprises use clubs to entertain clients or to subsidise their employees' entertainment in the bar as a means of binding them closer to each other and to the company. The hostess facilitates this bonding by putting everyone at ease, entertaining and keeping conversation going. A jokyû had to develop similar skills as an entertainer, but to earn her own income rather than to further the goals of corporate customers.
  33. The salarymen thus entertained are the privileged regular or 'core' workers who until recently enjoyed job security and regular promotions as well as recreational fringe benefits like club entertainment. The club outings are a sign of their elitism, for hostess clubs are extremely expensive, again a contrast with prewar cafés, so they are most frequently patronised by big companies which can afford them. The large amounts of money spent on purchasing women's company symbolise the men's high status, and the amount spent directly reflects the degree of status purchased.
  34. The link between hostess clubs and corporate culture has meant that the stigma attached to hostesses in the 1950s and 1960s gradually softened by the 1980s, so that they no longer face as much discrimination when they want to get married or find other kinds of work. Hostesses also earn a good income. Consequently, in contrast to women who became jokyû, women from 'respectable' families often take up jobs as hostesses.[40]
  35. In contrast to the salaryman patrons of hostess clubs, the salarymen patrons of cafés in the 1920s and 1930s were mostly 'paupers in Western clothing', though they aspired to the 'modern' lifestyle. They went to cafés as a relatively inexpensive way to participate in 'modern life'. It was also a cheap way to enjoy entertainment by women—cheaper than geishas and easier since it required no introduction or prescribed behaviour. Equally important, the café provided rare and immediate opportunities for social interaction with modern girls, satisfying modern desires for speed and romantic love.
  36. Consequently, in contrast to the postwar club, the café was seen as threatening to values of the existing socioeconomic and political elites, an environment which undermined public morals. This was the justification for increasing restrictions on cafés and on the appearance and behaviour of jokyû during the 1930s. Government regulations attempted to curb 'ero' service by placing restrictions on hours of opening, lighting, and the height of partitions. They prohibited stage performances, dancing, loud music and movies. They specifically disapproved of jokyû 'coquettish' behaviour and prohibited waitresses from hailing in customers, acting like geishas, or going out with patrons.[41] A 1933 regulation permitted only one waitress for each four square metres of lounge space. Condemning students' 'self-indulgence and dissolution', and their being 'infected by the evil of decadence and corruption', the Tokyo Metropolitan Police enforced a ban on students and minors in cafés, which was soon replicated nationwide.[42] During the 1930s numerous students and waitresses were arrested.

  37. For a short time, the café provided a space for both men and women to pursue individual pleasure and to develop informal romantic relationships with the other sex. For women it opened a small space for agency. Café owners were often exploitative, but they also became increasingly dependent on jokyû to attract customers and yet could not tie waitresses to them by a contract. A jokyû had to rely on traditional feminine traits to secure her income and to put up with sometimes objectionable behaviour and advances from customers, but at the same time to some extent she could decide whether to limit or to extend familiarity and her sexual favours. Moreover, the café allowed her to express her sexuality more openly. This is one reason that Murobushi K˘shin celebrated the café.[43] In these respects, café waitressing was a departure from the role of traditional female entertainers and a new, modern occupation opened up to women. However, it remained an occupation between the bound courtesan and wage-earning club hostess, between dependence and autonomy.
  38. Moreover, the café waitress's potential for liberation proved short-lived. Almost at the same time as it was emerging, the café was being turned into a modern version of a male-dominated, male-oriented space of erotic pleasure-seeking. For most jokyû, café waitressing was not a means to financial independence or respected social status as it was to become for some high-class hostesses in the postwar period. As pointed out by many contemporary writers, the tipping system and café owners' pressure led to eroticisation of the job, to increasing commodification of sex, and to prostitution after hours. The emergence of large cafés promoted these trends, reinforcing the sexual division of labour and a view of sexuality that commodified and degraded women. In the words of the prominent social critic Gonda Yasunosuke, most jokyû were simply workers in the 'modern life industry'.[44] This reflected the beginnings of a mass consumption society which developed even further with the affluence of the postwar economy and corporate culture's patronage of the club hostess. Some women may now profit, but it continues to be by pandering to men's egos and sexual desires.


    [1] For discussions of the wide range of contemporary pink collar work, see Nicholas Bornhoff, Pink Samurai: The Pursuit and Politics of Sex in Japan, London: Grafton, 1992; Lisa Louis, Butterflies of the Night: Mama-sans, Geisha, Strippers, and the Japanese Men They Serve, New York and Tokyo: Tengu Books, 1992.

    [2]Nihon rôdô nenkan, 1923, in Suzuki Yűko (ed.), Nihon josei undô shiryô shûsei 7, Seikatsu, rôdô IV, Tokyo: Fuji Shuppan, 1995.

    [3] Ôsaka mainichi shinbun, 28 June 1922, in Suzuki (ed.), Nihon josei undô, pp. 165-6.

    [4] Ôsaka mainichi shinbun, 5 August 1922, in Suzuki (ed.), Nihon josei undô, p. 167.

    [5] Kôbe mata shinnippô, 5 August 1922, in Suzuki (ed.), Nihon josei undô, p. 168.

    [6] Vera Mackie, Creating Socialist Women in Japan: Gender, Labour and Activism, 1900-1937, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997, pp. 108-116.

    [7] For more on these new occupations, see Margit Nagy, 'Middle-Class Working Women During the Interwar Years' in Gail Bernstein (ed.), Recreating Japanese Women, 1600-1945, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Oxford: University of California Press, 1991, pp. 199-216; Susan Newell, 'Women Primary School Teachers and the State in Interwar Japan' in Elise K. Tipton (ed.), Society and the State in Interwar Japan, London and New York: Routledge, 1997, pp. 17-41.

    [8] Ôbayashi Munetsugu, '"Jokyû" no shakaiteki kôsatsu', Chûô kôron, April 1932, p. 156. Jokyû are not included in the study of hokugyô fujin made by Murakami Nobuhiko, Taishôki no shokugyô fujin, Tokyo: Domesu Shuppan, 1983.

    [9] Ishikado Harunosuke, Ginza kaibôzu: Dai 1-pen Ginza hensenshi, in Minami Hiroshi (ed.), Kindai shomin seikatsushi 2, Sakariba to uramachi, Tokyo, San'ichi Shobô, 1984, p. 311.

    [10] Murashima Yoriyuki, 'Kanraku no ôkyû—kafê (originally 1929) in Minami Hiroshi (ed.), Kindai shomin seikatsushi 10, Tokyo: San'ichi Shobô, 1988, p. 373.

    [11] Dôke Saiichirô, 'Baishunfu ronkô' (originally 1928) in Minami (ed.), Kindai shomin seikatsushi 10, p. 279.

    [12] Tôkyô Hyakunenshi Henshû Iinkai (ed.), Tôkyô hyakunenshi 5, Tokyo: Tôkyô Hyakunenshi Henshû Iinkai, 1979, p. 271.

    [13] Murobushi Kôshin (Takanobu), 'Kafe shakaigaku', Chûô kôron, Sept. 1929, p. 189.

    [14] Murashima, 'Kanraku no ôkyû', p. 321.

    [15] Kendall Brown, Light in Darkness: Women in Japanese Prints of Early Shôwa (1926-1945) , Los Angeles: Fisher Gallery, University of Southern California, 1996, p. 68.

    [16] Murashima, 'Kanraku no ôkyû', p. 320.

    [17] Murobushi, 'Kafe shakaigaku', p. 191.

    [18] Murashima, 'Kanraku no ôkyû', p. 321.

    [19] This connotation is most obvious in the 'pink salons' which appeared in the 1970s. See Bornhoff, Pink Samurai, pp. 430-7.

    [20] Quoted in Brown, Light in Darkness, p. 68.

    [21] Tôkyô Hyakunenshi Henshű Iinkai (ed.), Tôkyô hyakunenshi 5, p. 327. Ôbayashi Munetsugu conducted a survey of Osaka jokyû in 1930 and found the most common average monthly income to be 30-35 yen. Only a few waitresses in the big cafÚs made 150-200 yen. Ôbayashi Munetsugu, Jokyû seikatsu no shin kenkyû in the series Kindai fujin mondai meichô senshû, Shakai mondai hen 3, Tokyo: Nihon Tosho Sentâ, pp. 97-8.

    [22] Ôbayashi, Jokyû seikatsu, p. 64.

    [23] '"Shôfu no genzai oyobi shôrai" zadankai', Shakai jigyô 11, 4 (July 1927):74.

    [24] Miriam Silverberg, 'The Modern Girl as Militant' in Gail Bernstein (ed.), Recreating Japanese Women, 1600-1945, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Oxford: University of California Press, 1991, pp. 239-66.

    [25] Translated as Naomi by Anthony Chambers, Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1985.

    [26] Brown, Light in Darkness, pp. 11, 70.

    [27] For socialist views, see Mackie, Creating Socialist Women, p. 52.

    [28] On the Seitô (Bluestocking) feminists, see Sharon Sievers, Flowers in Salt: The Beginnings of Feminist Consciousness in Modern Japan, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1983, pp. 163-88.

    [29] See Katô Hidetoshi, 'The Growth and Development of "Terminal Culture"', The Japan Interpreter VII, 3-4 (1972):376-82.

    [30] See Shun'ichi Watanabe, 'Metropolitanism as a Way of Life: the Case of Tokyo, 1968-1930' in Anthony Sutcliffe (ed.), Metropolis, 1890-1940, London: Mansell, 1984, pp. 422-3.

    [31] Mori Hideto, Taishû bunkashi, Nihonjin no sei to seikatsu, Tokyo: Sanpô, 1964, p. 192.

    [32] Tôkyô Hyakunenshi Henshû Iinkai (eds), Tôkyô hyakunenshi 5, p. 271.

    [33] Ibid.

    [34] Sepp Linhart, 'Sakariba: Zone of "Evaporation" Between Work and Home?' in Joy Hendry and Jonathan Webber (ed.), Interpreting Japan Society: Anthropological Approaches, Oxford: Jaso, 1986, p. 203.

    [35] An apt commentary by C. Griffin,, 'Women and Leisure' in J. Hargreaves (ed.), Sport, Culture and Ideology, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982, pp. 113-14.

    [36] Louis, Butterflies of the Night, p. 50.

    [37] Ibid.; Anne Allison, Nightwork: Sexuality, Pleasure, and Corporate Masculinity in a Tokyo Hostess Club, Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1994, p. 20.

    [38] Allison, Nightwork, p. 19.

    [39] See Louis, Butterflies of the Night; Bornhoff, Pink Samurai.

    [40] Allison, Nightwork, p. 135; Louis, Butterflies of the Night , pp. 90-1.

    [41] Keishichôshi Hensan Iinkai (ed.), Keishichôshi, Shôwa zenpen, Tokyo: Keishichôshi Hensan Iinkai, 1962, p. 811.

    [42] Ibid., p. 829.

    [43] Murobushi, 'Kafe shakaigaku', pp. 189-90.

    [44] Gonda Yasunosuke, 'Modan seikatsu to hentai shikôsei', Kaizô 11, 6 (June 1929), p. 34.


This paper was originally published in Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context, with the assistance of Murdoch University.

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