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First, a disclaimer…

Neither I nor sayochan have ever been to a host club. Ever. Don’t look at me like that, it’s true. Therefore, we are not experts on the subject. However, with over 18 years of Japanese language and cultural study between the two of us, we feel reasonably qualified to write these cultural notes…Enjoy! If you have questions don’t be afraid to comment!

Notes of Doom

GiraGira – This, the title of the series, is actually pretty hard to translate…it is a Japanese "onomatopoeia" for a visual phenomenon. It's close to "kirakira" which means "sparkle," like stars. "giragira" is the same word with voiced consonants which means that the overall effect is stronger, more like "shine" or "flash" or “dazzle.” It’s also implied that it is both a repeated and continuous event, again, like the stars sparkling. Nothing we came up with in English really captured everything you need for the title so we just decided to leave it "GiraGira" for now. ^_^

Host Clubs – Host clubs are a relatively recent invention based on hostess clubs. Contrary to popular belief, such clubs are not about sex. Women pay for companionship and the attentions of attractive men, which sounds a lot shadier than it really is. The whole host/hostess club culture probably started as a modernized version of geisha. There are a lot of similarities. For example, the hosts and hostesses are supposed to be good at conversation, both at telling interesting stories and at listening. The good ones also have other skills like magic tricks, or a beautiful singing voice. This hearkens back to the services geisha provided. Geisha were trained not only to have perfect deportment and fashion sense, but also to be charming, witty, and accomplished often learning multiple instruments in addition to dance and singing. While hosts and hostesses are not trained in this way, it is not unreasonable to see the echoes of the geisha in their modern counterparts

For in-depth info on host clubs go here:

Suffixes – You may have noticed that we have chosen to keep the suffixes on the names instead of translating them to “Mr.” or “Miss” or leaving them off altogether. This is because we feel that they are an essential peek into the mindset of the Japanese. Suffixes denote respect and can indicate the atmosphere of a situation. They can also show how a person feels about another person. Most textbooks will tell you that the suffixes go in the following order: -sama, -san, -kun, -chan. (Don’t even ask about –dono or –himegimi. That’s a whole other note, not to mention stuff like –tan and –pyon) The suffix “-sama” is at the top, it indicates not only respect and subservience, but also distance. You will never be able to reach someone you call “-sama.” Your all purpose, general suffix of respect is “-san.” This should be used for anyone who as been doing something longer than you have (see senpai/kouhai) and anyone who ranks higher than you do. “-kun” is tricky. It is used by teachers when they refer to their students, by school kids when they refer to each other, and, despite what people may tell you, it is not restricted to use with boys’ names. You can use it for girls in certain situations, for example, sports teams. It is, however, only used for someone on the same social level or lower than you. The suffix “-chan” is a diminutive and implies that you think the person you’re using it on is cute in a fluffy bunnies and puppies sort of way. In this sense, it can also denote affection. Although, you should be careful since it also implies that you think you are far above the person you’re using it for.

Yobi-sute – Now that we’ve had a brief overview of suffixes you should be ready for the concept of yobi-sute. This is the practice of using someone’s name without a suffix attached. *gasp!* It’s sort of odd because yobi-sute can be perceived as either the ultimate in rudeness or the most romantically intimate thing you can do. This can only be explained by understanding that getting rid of a suffix erases all lines between you and the person you’re talking to. It makes you perfectly equal. In a society where rank and respect and distance and the concept of in vs. out are of such vital importance, to be perfectly equal is an incredible thing. That is also why, depending on the circumstances, it can be seen as rude, impudent, brash, cocky, a sign of camaraderie, a sign of trust, a sign of intimacy…

Episode 1:

Kokoro wo iyasu – In our translations, Kohei often talks about “soothing a woman’s hurts” or “rejuvenating/relaxing” her. In the actual dialogue, he generally uses the same expression: onna no kokoro wo iyasu. This literally means “to heal a woman’s heart.” The word “kokoro” in Japanese carries all the connotations of the English word “heart” and more. In addition to implying the center of feeling, the place where love and hate and sadness come from, it also implies the spirit of a person, the mind and “soul” (although, the Japanese idea of a soul is completely different than the Christian-European one and warrants a note of its own, and kokoro vs tamashii would give you enough material for a doctoral thesis). “Iyasu” means “to heal, to ease pain.” So what Kohei really think hosts should do is do their best to ease/soothe/heal any emotional or psychological trauma/burden/issue a woman who comes to them might have.

The Help – this is a position in a host club. Generally, the newer or less popular hosts take this role. It is the Help’s job to handle the details: make sure there’s always fresh ice, make sure the lighter has lighter fuel in it, bring the drinks, etc. They are also there as a foil to make the main host look good. They turn the customer’s attention toward the main host and make sure she feels lucky to have been allowed to be with him. Then, if they’re good, they fade away without leaving a ripple in the conversation.

Number Class – If you can understand a little Japanese, you might have heard the characters talking about a “Number Class.” This is sort of like a Top Ten for a host/hostess club. It’s based on the amount of money you bring in, not necessarily how popular you are. They refer to anyone who is in the top ten as being in the “Number Class.”

Habatsu – It means faction, and that’s how we translated it, but it implies a sort of military devotion. As you may know, Japan was feudal for a very long time, and until very recently historically speaking, so some of the same sense of devotion and loyalty to feudal lords and leaders has trickled down and transformed in modern Japanese society into connections like this. The hosts find one among them who they think is the best, the most suited to represent them and make them the best in the district, the city, the country, and support him. I suppose it’s a little like gang rivalry as well…

Shimei – In our translations, we talk about “requesting” a certain host for an extended period of time. The word they use in Japanese is “shimei,” which means to “designate” or “name.” It implies that the person doing the shimei-ing ranks above the person getting shimei-ed. In the host club system, a customer is generally expected to pick a certain host that she sees on a regular basis – a designated host. This host then takes on the responsibility of keeping her happy while also receiving a percentage of any money she spends in the club, whether she spends it with him or not. The money gets added to his totals and he has a better chance of reaching the “Number Class.”

Senpai/Kohai – This concept is completely untranslatable. I believe that it is a hold over from the days of feudalism and from the apprenticeship system. A “senpai’ is someone who has been doing something longer than you have whether that be in the basketball team at school or the in marketing department at work. They are immediately seen as objects of respect and admiration. They are a standard to live up to, a model to emulate, and a source of knowledge when you are in doubt. It also doesn’t matter how far apart in years you are. If a man graduates from the same school as you, even if it’s 50 years before you, he is still your senpai. And in Japan, people graduate on time, there’s none of this college for 5, 6, 7 years before you get your BA business, so your senpais are generally older than you and have both entered and left the program before you. The compliment to this is “kohai.” They are the rookies, the new guys. It is the senpai’s job to take care of them, show them the ropes, and make sure that what needs to get done gets done. Even if a kohai becomes a senpai to a new guy, he or she will always be kohai to his or her senpai. You will never catch up with your senpai, no matter how hard you work, how successful you become, or how respected you are by your own kohai. Your senpai will always be a figure you should treat with respect.

Japanese love – You may have noticed that there are many ways to say “I love you” in Japanese. They each carry slightly different connotations which I will attempt to explain here. In a broad sense, “suki” is "I love you," “ai shite iru” is "you are my one true love and there will never be another," and “horeru” is "I think I've fallen for you/I've got a crush on you.” The feeling one gets from the word “suki” is that what the people are experiencing is like the beginning of love, all new and fresh, like a budding blossom. (lol I can't believe I just wrote that!) “Ai shite iru,” on the other hand, is that rock-solid foundation type of love that everything else is built upon, that nothing can erase. It is the most serious and profound way to say you love someone and should never be used lightly. There are some married couples in Japan who probably haven’t said it to each other yet even though they may feel that way. “Horeru” has a more emotional connotation to it, a sort of head-over-heels, can't-tell-up-from-down sort of tumultuous feel. The word “horeru” is also used by “tough guys” the ones who are supposed to be emotionally challenged (for example, Domyouji in HanaDan), and the girls who are more on the wild side. This could be because “ai shite iru” is too serious/straight for their image, and the use of “horeru” implies passionate, untamed emotion which, in Japan, is edgy and dangerous.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 15th, 2008 12:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this!! It's extremely interesting to read about the intricacies of Japanese culture, and in this case, the host subculture ^^ The tamashii vs kokoro things sounds intriguing, I think I'll go check it out sometime.
Nov. 15th, 2008 10:14 pm (UTC)
I am really delighted and grateful to you for subbing 'Gira Gira'. It is a highly enjoyable series but even more so with this in-depths explanation of Japanese culture and the business of host clubs. Highly interesting. Thank you very much! Will come back here and read this again!
Nov. 16th, 2008 11:54 pm (UTC)
omg, i´ve never heard it explained with that much details. thx a lot for making all that effort :)
may i suggest to ad the phrases "upper-classman"/"lower-classman" to the sempai/kohai part? since this is used mostly in school and the princip can easily be transfered to companies and such as u explained. it help me remeber the difference between them.^^

question: "the person doing the shimei-ing ranks above the person getting shimei-ed."
the shimei-ing person = the guest ?
the shimei-ed person = the host ?
so the guest is above the host, did i get this right?

ohohoh, i loved epi.3 it´s getting more and more interessting. can´t wait for epi.4
*so thankful u bring this to us* :)

oh, in your next (i hope there will be another - for each epi maybe?^^- i love learning new infos and so many details^^) Notes of Doom *rofl* *what a tite*^^ - can u please tell a little why momoko and kohei even though they are married ... well ... they never kiss or something. i´ve seen this in other doramas too (well, dorama is not real life, but i think a little bit of truth is in it, and considering that a dorama is most likely more romantic than the truth ... ) i mean, i quite understand that japanese r not so freely with showing their feelings, (and i heard kissing in public is like foreplay in plublic, so they r also a little reserved with kissing) and they show their love to each other by always being faithful and support each other and such, but i think at least when u r married and so much in love like momoko and kohei ... not even a little kiss when he gets home? XD
THX a lot for all your answears.^^

can´t wait for epi.4 :))) c u there.^^
Nov. 17th, 2008 04:14 am (UTC)
We will eventually be putting up notes for each episode of GiraGira. Please watch for them. ♥

Thank you for the suggestion for the senpai/kohai explanation. Since they are terms that can be applied in a variety of different situations (school, work, etc), we purposefully went for more of the concept of the senpai/kohai relationship than a direct translation.

The shimei-ing person = the guest/customer
The shimei-ed person = the host

Since the club of the business, the customer always ranks above the employee. (You have to be nice to them in order for them to come back)

Kohei is always hugging Momoko, and is very demonstrative of his feelings towards her and Orie, which is rare for Japanese men. So, they actually have a very affectionate marriage, even if they aren't shown kissing on screen.
Jun. 27th, 2009 08:18 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for a more in-depth understanding of Japanese language/culture, particularly about love. I've always been confused how different Japanese expressions were translated to "I love you." I questioned the translation but now I see that unlike English there are different variations of saying it.

One question though, I've also seen "ske-desu" translated to say "I love you" and sometimes "I like you" - which is more correct?
Jun. 28th, 2009 06:22 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! Glad you're finding the notes useful. ^_^

Hmm...technically, "suki desu" means "to like." It's the same phrase you'd use when you say something like "I like chocolate," "chocolate ga suki desu." If you wanted to say, emphatically, that you liked something, you'd use "daisuki desu." Thus, "chocolate ga daisuki desu" becomes something closer to "I really like chocolate," or "I love chocolate."

However, when people use it for other people, "suki desu" can be translated as "I love you" because it is often used as a confession of one's feelings. It's sort of the same in English. If a girl says "I think I like him," a friend might say, "Wait...do you like him? Or do you LIKE like him, like love him?"

So "suki desu" can be accurately translated as either "I love you" or "I like you" depending on the situation... I hope that makes sense... ^^;;
Jun. 28th, 2009 11:19 pm (UTC)
Yes, it does clear up a lot!
(Deleted comment)
May. 2nd, 2010 03:40 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! Glad you enjoyed them. And thank you! ^_^
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )