In Bar Flower: My Decadently Destructive Days and Nights as a Tokyo Nightclub Hostess, Lea Jacobson recounts the roughly two years she spent as a nightclub hostess in Tokyo’s Ginza district.
After she went to Japan in 2003 to work as an English teacher, Jacobson was fired from her job after a psychiatrist spilled the beans to her employer about her fragile emotional condition. She then went to Tokyo, where she began work as a hostess, entertaining Japanese “sararimen,” even though she was psychologically unwell and unable to cope with the rigid demands of Japanese culture. Jacobson describes this underbelly of Tokyo culture as being in a “floating world,” where everything is fluid and nothing stays constant for very long. As a result, Jacobson’s identity kept changing. Along the way, we’re introduced to a variety of interesting characters, including a dragon-like mama-san, an Irish boyfriend named Nigel, who lies to her and breaks her heart; and a four-year-old girl who learned fluent English entirely from Disney movies.
Jacobson’s knowledge and analysis of Japanese culture is spot-on. She details her drug addiction without feeling sorry for herself, and I found myself becoming emotionally invested in her heartbreaking story. But Jacobson learns a valuable lesson from her mistakes, and she does a wonderful job of analyzing, not rationalizing, her decisions.