Japanese cuddle cafes, rental families & host boy clubs! Tokyo TV fixers for Olli Schulz in a Box.
The cat’s out of the bag… or box. The Pirates were in Tokyo last December to work on a travel-comedy TV show for Pro Sieben Europe, starring comedian Olli Schulz.
As the show’s production coordinators, we put together a Jpop potpourri. Our shoot locations included a cat cafe, cuddle cafe, host club… and we even rented a fake Japanese family. As Super Mario would say, “Let’s-ah Goooo!”
My team’s arranged and appeared in dozens of TV shows in the past years, mostly about travel and underground culture. Remember when we gave Klaas a bagelhead, and then sewed Joko’s lips together? These shows were hits when they aired on German network Pro 7, so the crew hired us again to work with Olli.
This new program is called “Schulz in a Box,” and the concept is pretty amazing. Olli is sick of feeling lonely in Berlin, so he gets in a giant box, and mails himself around the world in search of friends. First Mate Naomi (above) and I jumped at chance to do this show, if only to pose in a giant crate in the middle of Kabukicho…
… and hang out with poof-haired Japanese host boys! When Olli breaks out of the box, he meets one and trains to be one of them.
As you can see from club decor, women go to host clubs to be treated like princesses, since men (especially in traditional Japan) can be lacking in the romantic department.
Once you’ve paid your “prince,” he’ll act like you’re the light of his life. But behind-the-scenes, these guys seem bored and play with their smartphones as they wait for a meeting to start.
Mostly found in the Kabukicho “red light district” in east Shinjuku, the clubs try to stand out by having themes or over-the-top decor. This club group is called “Smappa”, and we mainly shot at the strangely named “Hans Axel Ven Fersen”. (Google tells me Axel was a close companion and possible secret lover of Marie Antoinette, which taps into what these clubs offer.)
This space is decorated with plastic chandelier strands, lights that change colors, and long-nosed fish swimming in tanks. (It’s still not as gaudy as Club Ai, where we filmed with Norwegian TV.)
Hair-ready, the hosts gather for the weekly meeting. For about an hour, they stand and listen to announcements, such as the current ranking. All hosts are ranked according to popularity and pull, and the best ones have their faces on the giant posters.
Olli was a great sport, and had his hair spiked and sprayed in a host salon. He practiced his hosting skills with female clients, making dark jokes along the way.
On another day, we filmed with our friend Kanae at a cat cafe! (Remember her from NYC adventures and the Corporate Goth party?)
Cat cafes are another way for lonely hearts to find company. Nothing cures loneliness like a squish faced kitty.
We set up this scene in Shinjuku’s Calico Cat Cafe (where we also shot with Food Network). At the entrance, you can pick up a face mask in case you’re allergic to fur.
Kanae did a great job chatting with Olli about Japanese culture, and the quirky ways that people combat loneliness here.
In Japan, Scottish Folds are hugely popular. Every cat cafe has to have at least one foldy, and this one had several. (But they’re objectively not as cute as my Basil Farrow, right?)
When we arrived, a woman was carrying out about five meowing cats in bags. This fold-eared one looked rather squashed!
If you’re visiting Tokyo, try visiting one of these unique cafes. It’s quite the experience to play with dozens of gentle kitties, and you’re allowed to take no-flash pictures.
Guests can also order tea and snacks, or read manga.
Tip: buy a packet of bonito flakes, and you’re instantly popular! Kanae is wearing a Jack Skellington Trick or Treat sweater from the Rollick collection in Lumine.
I’m wearing an Algonquins teal top from the latest collection, and Angelica Brigade hair flowers.
The German TV crew was enamored with Kanae’s doll-like contact lenses and eye makeup.
Kanae poses like a “nyan nyan” cat, outside Don Quixote Shinjuku. She’s a street snap in the latest issue of Kera Magazine!
The Pirates also arranged a segment in a cuddle cafe. Yes, men pay women dressed in pajamas to hold them in their arms. No hanky-panky goes on, just hugging and cooing.
I’m in one of the “cuddle stalls,” which contain a mattress, ball and stuffed toys. Olli found this place a tad uncomfortable, for obvious reasons.
However, we loved renting a fake family! In Japan, you can pay people to pretend to be your mother, father, siblings or other relatives.
This Japanese “mother” dressed and played her part spot on. She gave Olli quiet encouragement and sang him to sleep, in one of the show’s funniest segments.
In another example of “alone together”, we did a scene at Green Plaza capsule hotel. At night, all of these coffin-sized spaces will be filled with businessmen — women aren’t generally allowed. There’s just enough room to lie down, and watch the tiny TV above (naturally, there are naughty channels).
Finally, we made special arrangements to shoot inside Akihabara’s Taito video game arcade. An anime girl with cat-ears welcomes us.
Olli enjoyed playing Dance Dance Revolution, and a table flipping game that lets you vent your anger.
The game center had several floors of video games, including retro fighting ones. Later in the day, these rows will be entirely filled with otaku (geeks).
Naomi and I had a terrific time working with Olli Schulz and his team. You can learn more about this travel-humor show and see the episode on Pro 7 (note, this may not be viewable in all countries).
My “The Bitter End” sweater is by the defunct brand Banana Fish. Found it at Closet Child Shinjuku, and paired it with old diamond print tights.
If you’re intrigued by host boy culture, take a look at the award-winning show I hosted on Norway TV. (This video is watchable everywhere.)
What do you think about host clubs, rent-a-family, cuddle cafes, and the other strange ways the Japanese deal with loneliness?
If you’re a television production company looking to film in Japan, then we hope you’ll reach out to us! In addition to on-camera hosting, the Pirates take care of all filming logistics, permits, translation and any other arrangements necessary. Click to find out more about our TV fixing firm (and see examples of our past work, including bagelheads). Arr.