An American citizen living in Japan says that she was nearly sold into indentured slavery when she went on a Tinder date with someone who claimed to work as a club host.
Abi (@abikuru), a digital creator who has lived in Japan for 10 years and is fluent in Japanese, recounts the scary story on TikTok.
@abikuru Ever heard of Japanese “host clubs”? Youre gonna wanna hear this one. I’m here to burst your Ouran High School Host Club bubble. #japan #japaneseculture #tinder #dating #traveltips #japantiktok #truestory #storytime ♬ original sound – アビー
Abi explains she matched with an “incredibly hot guy” on Tinder, who she calls Ren. After chatting for a while, she says Ren asked her, “I’m a host, is that OK with you?”
Clubs staffed by entirely male or female employees who attend to customers, entertain them with conversation, share drinks, and socialize are extremely common in Japan. The International Institute for Asian Studies describes the clubs as a means of “selling intimacy” and further defines these establishments: “There are over 15,000 hosts in Japan, who bring millions of yen a year into the ailing economy by providing emotional and physical (but not sexual) intimacy to women – you can feel like a princess for the night, if you have the means.”
Abi, however, did not know much about the clubs. As she says in her video, “And I, knowing absolutely nothing, thinking we’re not gonna judge someone because of their occupation … say, ‘Oh, what an interesting job you have.'” Having gotten past his occupation, Abi says Ren asked her on a date at a specific date and time two months later.
She says the fact that the date was two months out wasn’t unusual because people in Japan are generally very busy, and two months later she had forgotten about the meeting. Coincidently, she had a plan with a friend fall through the same night that she received a text from Ren asking if their date was still on. The TikToker says she decided to go for it.
She continues, saying he took her to a “fast food chain restaurant where the classiest thing on the menu is microwavable hot dogs.” During the date, which began at 7 p.m., Ren also told her that he had work as a host at 7:30 p.m., which Abi says she found puzzling.
At around 7:29 p.m., Ren started behaving strangely. When the TikToker asked him what was wrong, he said that he was worried about a $300 fine he was going to get at work for being late.
“Ren is starting to smell real fishy,” Abi says in her clip, before continuing, “Then Ren … says he has an amazing idea. I should go with him. If I accompany him to the club, then it will be considered that he was with a customer and the fee will be waived.”
Abi says she politely declined, but the host insisted, saying the club was “super fun” and that she’d be “doing him a huge favor.”
“At this point in time, he is way too happy,” Abi tells viewers. “This man practically jumps out of his seat and is like great, fantastic, perfect. I’m gonna go and call my boss and let him know that you’re coming.” However, Abi says, alarm bells were ringing when Ren left the table to make the call from a locked bathroom where she couldn’t overhear the conversation.
At this point, Abi finally texted a Japanese friend and gave her a run-down of the situation.
“And she says, ‘Abi. Run.'”
Abi says she booked it out of the restaurant, abandoning her umbrella even though it was raining. She says she ran down the street and ducked into a clothing store where she hid for the next 30 minutes.
It wasn’t until Abi spoke with her Japanese friend again that she figured out what was going on. According to her friend, a lot of host clubs are owned by the Yakuza, and some of the shadier spots will “bring girls in, drug or sedate them, rack their bill up like crazy so that when they wake up they have a bill that they cannot possibly pay, and then pull a classic ‘You have to work for us now.'”
She says that while it’s “hilarious” to talk about the situation now, she’s horrified to think what could’ve happened had she not listened to her friend. Abi adds that while a lot of influencers online talk about how they view host clubs as a “quirky” and “fun” thing, they’re actually quite scary.
One commenter said that this type of con sounded like something straight out of a video game: “This is literally the ‘plot’ of every Host club side quest in every Yakuza game. Glad you got advised to leave in a timely fashion!”
Another commenter responded, “I have a friend who went to a host club because she innocently thought it was gonna be like OHSHC and she was fed alcohol and SAd”
Someone else wrote, “When I stayed in shinjuku there were literally announcements playing on repeat in the hotel warning tourists about host clubs.”
The Daily Dot has reached out to Abi via email for further comment.