Salon recently had a these very interesting articles on what it means to be a Hostess in Japan. If you don't know, in Japan they have Hostess Clubs. The idea is you pay some relatively large some of money to sit in a lounge and have a woman flirt with you. You drink, sing kareoke and talk.
Similar to the idea of Geshia from the past (and present) this is not a prostitution thing. Actually, interestingly, the lady that wrote the articles and who was a hostess for 6 months thinks that it might be harder to be a hostess than a prostitute because you have to fake love instead of just passion. Note: there are 6 articles, each about 3 pages long so it's not a short read.
I've never been, it sounds a little scary to me and besides it's several hundred dollars. I was taken to a *snack* bar 5 years ago on my first trip to Japan. I was told the difference is that at a snack bar there are only 1 or 2 women that have to try to flirt with / entertain all the customers vs a hostess bar where it's generally at least one women per customer.
Also, I've seen a few TV programs on them. One showed a girl who was supposed to be one of the most popular hostesses in Japan. See seemed very very good at talking. Good hostess actually have to try to keep up a least a little with the interests of their regular customers so they can provide good conversation so for example if the customer is interested in the stock market the hostess might browse the Wall Street Journal or Japanese equivalent now and then.
Two of my female friends have said that at one time or another they tried hostessing. Although it's generally frowned on as a job it's also considered relatively safe and you make great money. Of course that was alot more money 15 years ago during the bubble economy.