Osaka, Japan

In the Company of Mayu

Japanese nightlife is a multi-faceted, multi-billion business. In Osaka, an enigmatic couchsurfing hostess welcomes us, somewhere between the geisha and the luxury escort.

It's 22 pm sharp.

Mayu appears at the end of the deep corridor at Osaka Jokitazume Station and walks down a kind of cold walkway made of white industrial mosaics. It approaches the tourniquet barrier and us with a Japanese lightness that impresses us.

It is presented in surprising English, with a much deeper voice than we are used to hearing from Japanese women, yet soft and to the point: "Hi, it's Mayu, come stay at my house."

Mayu Portrait, Osaka, Japan

Mayu in one of her many kimonos and about to start her work shift in Osaka.

We confirm our identity, thank you again for the hospitality and follow in the hostess' short steps. We got into the elevator and went out onto the surface avenue.

The entrance to the building he used to live in is less than 100 meters away. We entered the lobby and another elevator.

Couchsurfing hosting with a view of the castle of Osaka

We arrived at the 10th floor and at his home, took off our shoes and settled in the small room, overlooking Osaka-Jo, the imposing castle that American bombs razed at the end of World War II but that the city authorities rebuilt and they now stand out from the urban pitch, using powerful light cannons.

Mayu puts us at ease on her little white napa sofa and brings us cans of iced Sapporo beer. We share one. She drinks three and blushes before her eyes. your english is confirmed Intermediate  and not beginner as I had registered in the profile of Couchsurfing that filled out.

“I learned almost all of it in Europe, he confesses to us. I've been to Croatia twice. I also went to Bosnia and Herzegovina and France. I loved your Eurovision Festivals”.

When we ask why Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina out of so many countries in Europe, it just shrugs and sketches a "Because it came along." nothing explanatory, much less convincing.

In addition to mastering foreign languages, and being 32 years old, the inevitable item “Occupation”. As for this one, Mayu couldn't be more defensive: “Not of your business! "

We stayed chatting until 1am. Around that time, alcohol and fatigue combine and force her to retire to her upper room in a kind of mezzanine room. We took advantage of the suggestion and gave in to the soporific comfort of the futons and comforters that he had extended to us.

Mayu's New Day (and Night)

We woke up at 10 am, caught in a radiant sun. We come across a note from Mayu informing him that he had gone to the gym and was returning at lunchtime.

We leave the apartment to explore the neighboring precinct of Osaka Castle, occupied by countless free souls from the metropolis, groups of restless young students, dating couples and even an eccentric and lonely J-Pop dancer who moves like a rubber band. rhythm of the private music provided by your headphones.

We headed home to pick up our laptops before turning to the ever-convenient free Internet from the McDonalds chain.

We found Mayu preparing to descend, dressed in a kimono. “Don't be scared, it's my job. I'll only be back there at 2 in the morning. They must be asleep already.”

In duplex, Osaka, Japan

Mayu descends from her rooms on the top floor of Osaka's floor.

Mayu's Intriguing Night Service

Inside, we took a closer look at a hanger full of other traditional Japanese clothes and, in contrast, photographs of him taken in purikuras (sophisticated Japanese photography studios) with friends, in underwear.

Mystery about his profession thickened under the forbidding specter of the online notice. It was none of our business, period.

In elevator kimono, Osaka, Japan

Mayu leaves his house, already wearing a kimono.

In terms of hours, the day-to-day sui generis Mayu's hardly matched ours. She kept coming back we were already sleeping for a long time.

We left the house well before she woke up. Thus, three days passed without us crossing.

Kimonos and First Confessions

We started to find the situation inappropriate and, the next night, we waited for it. Enough in her kimono and, in the middle of another long conversation, she agreed that we would photograph her in her typical costume.

Props, Osaka, Japan

Mayu analyzes a suitcase full of underwear, straps, bands and other accessories that she wears under her kimonos

He asked us for help in choosing a more colorful one and exemplified the delicate placement of the belt.

She confessed to us that she hoped her boyfriend would come visit her from Tokyo over the weekend but I was disappointed because that wasn't going to happen anymore.

Conversation makes conversation, Mayu feels more at ease. He speaks for the first time to his customers and reveals part of the enigma to us. “A lot of these things you see around are gifts.

Every day they give me things. By the way, I have a new client who is especially wealthy. As you agreed, I am in need of a new notebook. I think I'll see if he offers it to me."

Mayu confesses to being a companion and thus explains her repeated and improbable trips to Europe. It leaves open the degree of intimacy of its service provision.

Mayu leaves his house, already wearing a kimono.

Osaka's Daily Life Past with Mayu

We closed that early morning with pleasant conversations showered with Sapporo and, taking advantage of the reinforced complicity, we suggest accompanying her for part of her pre-work Saturday. Mayu accepts.

The hostess wakes up late again. We met at home around 14pm, she had just returned from the gym. We had lunch heated in the microwave. Then let's go to the salon together hair stylist.

In Metro, Osaka, Japan

Short subway ride from home to hairdresser.

Mayu comes out with her hair still wet, unworthy of a new kimono, which, in turn, clashes with the futuristic look of the subway and the passengers we come across.

We felt following a temporal misunderstanding and, Mayu, uncomfortable as I hadn't anticipated, as we photographed her along the switchable path.

We enter a labyrinth of arcades and, soon, the establishment he goes to every day. The young stylists greet her, install her in a chair, and hand her a laminated catalog of hairstyles, which she deftly examines.

Hairdressers and Hairstyles

"Do you like this one?" and show us the corresponding image. We say yes. "OK, so it's decided."

Hairstyles, Osaka, Japan

Hairdresser shows Mayu a hairstyle catalog

In three stages, the hairdressers dry your hair and put on the necessary rollers. While her hair acquires the desired volume, Mayu takes the opportunity to put on make-up.

Then another stylist designs the chosen headdress that ends with a good dose of spray lacquer which Mayu protects her face with a transparent face shield.

At the hairdresser, Osaka, Japan

Mayu holds a mask while the hairdresser performs her new hairstyle.

The visual for the coming night is ready. The client withdraws 2000 yen, signs a note and says goodbye. Already abroad, it gives us a curious commercial explanation. “The normal price for this styling what I did are about 8.000 yen but as I come here every day I have a nice discount. I only pay 2000. Also, not everyone does these hairstyles every day, right?”.

the last night of Couchsurfing from Osaka, with Mayu

We go together to a central area and stroll through the streets lined with small bars and restaurants. The time has come for us to part ways and she tells us that from there she was going alone. We were left with the idea that to keep the place where he worked secret.

Next to drinks machine, Osaka, Japan

A break before work for a refreshing drink.

That night, we returned from the Portugália restaurant (a pioneering business of our compatriot Eduardo Mira Batista, who has lived in Japan for 30 years).

We walked the streets on the way home when we recognized the area where the Japanese hostess left us. We wonder if we would not find it when we are confronted by the apparatus of some relief operation that combines firefighters and police.

Hundreds of workers and customers of the establishments, like residents of the upper floors, go out into the street scared and hinder the movement of emergency vehicles and agents.

Despite the frenzy, they finally arrive at the bar behind closed doors where the alarm had gone off and find some smoke inside but nothing too complicated. The smoke is extinguished, agents turn off the alarm, record the occurrence and charge the corresponding fine to the owners.

Once the confusion is over, the crowd disbands. The Osaka neighborhood returns to its intense mizu shobai.

Skyline, Osaka, Japan

The tallest buildings in the administrative and business center of the city, one of the largest megalopolises in Japan

It's already Sunday. Mayu returns home later than ever.

The next morning, she tells us that a new customer had liked her more than usual. we moved to Hiroshima not really knowing what that would have implied. We still have to understand it today.

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