On the last night, Soichiro calls us to meet. He tells us some guys are going out, and that they are OK with us tagging along.
On the way over, he explains to me that the club his friend owns, has a slight twist... Instead of a guest giving dollar bills to a dancer during a show, it works the other way around: the dancer chooses to collect dollar bills from a guest she chooses.
In this club, guests pay a fixed amount for a table and a fixed period of time, and accompanying that, they receive chips in the form of fake dollar bills. The dancers come and sit and chat at your table, introductions are made, and drinks are bought. Conversations start to take place. At a certain point, a hostess gets up and chooses a guest to accompany her on stage, to collect dollar bills from during an act. As the night progresses, these dancing acts become more explicit, but always the guest is required to lay still.
The conversations and shows strike me as extremely professional. Any contact between dancers and guests is courteous and respectful in a typical Japanese way. It's even almost like the subtlety and the conversation is more important that the show.... quite an enigma, considering the setting of a night club in Kabukicho.
I soon thereafter learn that customers often return to see the same hostess girl many many times, sometimes over many years, while building up a relationship of empathy, discretion and trust, in which both parties get to know each other intimately (though not necessarily physically), talking about work, home, kids, joys and worries at home, and the like.
Obviously the line is a very fine one, and most probably it is often crossed... but here, now, to me, the line seems very clear... and even here, the concept "geisha", though maybe far fetched and very different, never seems to be really far away.