For the right price, women in Japan can pursue a fantasy of romance for a night at a “host club,” an establishment where men are paid to drink and converse and flatter their female clients. Hundreds of such host clubs exist in a district of Tokyo called Shinjyuku-Kabukicho, along with bars and short-term hotels. Typically the hosts initially approach the women, but for an extra fee, a client can choose her companion: those whose style evokes the 1980s screen persona Tony Montana, of the American film Scarface, are especially popular. Frequency of selection is an important measure of the host’s success, which reinforces a hierarchy among the employees. The newer men clean and maintain the club prior to the clients’ arrival in the evenings, while more seasoned hosts graduate to manage and supervise these nocturnal negotiations. Customers have been known to fall in love, mistaking the scripted charm of a commercial transaction for true affection. The Love for Sale photographs were taken at Club Ai, the most famous host club in Tokyo. Photographed while waiting for their work shift to begin, these would-be charmers evoke more ennui than anticipation, revealing the intersections of reality and illusion that both drive their trade and define a contemporary photographic practice. Shimmering with saturated color and light, with figures and forms carefully composed, Yoshida’s images create a resonant visual fantasy while illuminating the doldrums of desire that is manufactured, marketed, and consumed.
Based in New York City and Tokyo, Chito Yoshida has been working as a commercial, fashion, and fine-art photographer since 2008. Her work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries in Japan and the US, including the Tokyo Photo Museum, Tokyo (2011); Nagaoka Zoukei
University, Niigaya, Japan (2010); Tokyu, Tokyo (2010); and Brooklyn Fire Proof, New York (2010). Yoshida is the recipient of the APA Award from the Japan Advertising Photographer’s Association (2011) and won the Newcomer Photographer’ s Competition sponsored by the Japan Professional Photographers Society (2003). Her editorials have been featured in publications such as Vogue Japan, Harpers Bazaar Japan, Dior, Tiffany & Co., and GapKids.