Japan's 'modern geisha' rally for better work conditions

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Young bar hostesses, often dubbed Japan's "modern geisha," marched through the streets of Tokyo's largest entertainment district on Friday, demanding better working conditions.

Many "kyabakura-jo", or cabaret club sisters, complain of unpaid wages and sexual harassment by their customers and employers, according to the demonstration's organisers, Japan's first labour union for hostesses.

Around 50 kyabakura hostesses and their supporters marched through the Kabukicho red light district, as crowds of Friday evening bar goers looked on.
They waved banners, reading "Stop harassment!" and "Never tolerate rogue bar owners!"

Kyabakura, similar to the geishas of old, accompany male clients, serving and entertaining them. They are often portrayed in TV dramas as enjoying a glamorous and well-paid lifestyle.

Despite the image, their working conditions are tough, they said.

"I was asked at one job interview if I'd do the 'pillow,' meaning if I sleep with customers as part of service," said one of the bar hostesses.

"I worked there just for a few days. I couldn't stand it, so I flew off (moved on)," said the hostess, 20, identifying herself only as Hime (Princess).

"I really support the cause of this demonstration," she said, with perfectly puffed-up hair and shiny, long nails.

Yu Negoro, 37, a labour negotiator on behalf of the hostesses, said, "They don't need to put up with bad treatment just because they are bar hostesses."