cover image Destructive Days and Nights as a Tokyo Nightclub Hostess

Destructive Days and Nights as a Tokyo Nightclub Hostess

Lea Jacobson, . . St. Martin?s, $24.95 (340pp) ISBN 978-0-312-36897-5

What saves this youthful memoir from being a dreary litany of boozy nights spent entertaining drunken big-spenders at Tokyo clubs is American translator Jacobson’s knowledge of Japanese culture and language. Having originally landed in Japan in 2003 after college at McGill to work as a kindergarten teacher, Jacobson was fired from her job at the Happy Learning English School in Yokosuka city because the psychiatrist she saw for anxiety revealed her condition in a letter to her employer. Outspoken about discrimination against women in Japanese society, fond of drinking and prone to eating disorders and self-cutting, Jacobson drifted among teaching jobs before settling into the more lucrative but taxing employment as a hostess at the Palace, on Tokyo’s Ginza strip, where the reigning mama-san taught her the fine art of being a decorative “bar flower” who serves men drinks and light conversation without being touched. Jacobson soon found her job leaching into all aspects of her life, and the paid dates, drinking and partying prompted a destructive spiral of cutting and blacking out. Truly fascinated by Japanese mores, Jacobson nonetheless elevates her story with compelling digressions into ukiyo (“the floating world”), geisha tradition and the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923, among other topics, for a candid version of cultural immersion. (Apr.)