A Bride for One Season: Married to the Tokyo Billionaire

By: Imani King


“She’s the one, Yamakawa-san. She’ll be able to keep a secret. She’s kept many, for many years.”

The man who has been loyal to me for so long taps his pencil against one of the files sitting on my desk. Inside, there’s a grainy picture of one of the young hostesses from Kyoto.

“Twenty-five, well educated. Admittedly, she’s quite pretty.” I toss the file back at him. “What makes you think she’s different than any of the others?” I think of the woman I saw just yesterday. She had laughed at everything I said, even things that weren’t intended to be funny. She spoke English just fine, had all of the education that all the rest of the women had, and she was supremely enthusiastic about the money.

There’s no reason this one will be any different. But my assistant grins at me feverishly and hands the file back.

“She’s a skilled hostess, despite her past. The team and I like her very much indeed. She’s believable. She’s smart. She won’t spill a word about your plan.”

“We won’t get away with this, my good man. Not without something leaking to the papers—”

“Let me take care of that part, Yamakawa-san. You trust that I’m loyal?”

“I do.” I tap my pencil against the file again, a surge of hopefulness flooding through me. It’s completely insane, but it’s the only idea we’ve got.

“We’ll get away with it just fine. It all hinges on the right woman. And trust me, Yamakawa-san. This is the one.”

I shrug.

If anything, it might be an entertaining evening.

And the girl is quite pretty, I’ll grant her that.

“Bring the car, Daisuke,” I say to my assistant. “We’re going to Kyoto.”


“Alright girls! Let’s review our rules. I know some of you here are new.” Ayumi talks with a singsong accent. She’s spent more time in America than in Japan, but the accent gives her a bit of authority at this tiny hostess bar in Kyoto. “Kaya, can you tell me rule number one?”

“No kissing on the job,” says Kaya, an Australian girl who has spent much of her adult life searching for something—some kind of spiritual awakening that white people seem to look for in their twenties and thirties. She’s perfectly likable, and her big loud laugh and fondness for cursing make her okay in my book, but Japan isn’t the same for her as it is for me. For me, it’s an opportunity to pay off crippling student loans and send money home for my mom’s medical bills. For her, it’s an adventure piled on top of a lifetime full of adventures. Shit’s completely foreign to me, but I try not to let it get in the way. If I let my notions about people rule me like I’ve done for most of my life, I wouldn’t have any damn friends in the whole country.

I can’t judge her for her adventures. We’ve all got our reasons for being here.

“That’s right,” Ayumi says, her voice like a kindergarten teacher’s. “No kissing with the boys when they come in to see us. We’re here to provide feminine beauty, and the foreigner experience, right girls? Next rule?” There are nods all around, even if some of the newbies aren’t quite sure what she means. I’ve been at this bar for six months, so this song and dance is old hat by now. I’ll be the one pulling our girls away from the men at the end of the night. It’s hard when you’ve got a handsome Japanese guy paying attention to you and telling you how beautiful you are, how different you are.

“Don’t talk about yourself! We’re here to listen!” An American girl, Amber, pipes up for this one. This is her first week in Japan, and I have no idea how she got this job right off the bat. I’d have to bet it’s her tattoos—everything about that screams “forbidden.” And the men here, Japanese and foreign, love that shit. Very few Japanese women even get tattoos, so I guess I can get why they hired Amber. As for me...

“Very good,” Ayumi says. Amber beams with happiness. “Reese, what’s the last rule?” She smiles at me with her teacherly smile. I’m a damn fine rule follower, and I’m proving to be one of the top hostesses this bar has seen in years. I like to credit my success to my charm, but Ayumi says it’s my curves. If I’m being perfectly honest—or if I’ve had two cheap whiskeys and maybe a cigar from one of our high-paying clients—I’ll tell you that it’s the rich brown color of my skin, the soft curls of my hair, maybe my claim to having a Japanese grandmother. I’m forbidden, but not threatening. I’m not the girl you take home to your Japanese mother—she’d take one look at my curves, the tattoo on my shoulder, my untamed hair, my American accent.

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