When I picked this book up at my local Library, I did so because the title rang a bell. Not the Tokyo Hostess part alone but the prefacing statement above the title: The Shocking True Story… bit. It rang a bell because it was not too long ago that a young English girl who had gone to Japan as an English teacher had been discovered murdered in a tub of sand on an apartment balcony. *In fact it was March 2007* When the news reported this event they mentioned that this was not the first time that this had happened. They also mentioned a name, Lucie Blackman in connection with this “current” event.
This also sparked a bit of recognition. Not because of her disappearance and death, but because of the controversy of her father taking money from her killer; one Joji Obara, a rich Korean immigrant son whose family fortune allowed him to offer huge sums of money to his victims and their families.
Intrigued, I checked the book out and brought it home.
Tokyo Hostess is Clare Campbell’s coverage not only of the events leading up to the deaths of Carita Ridgway and Lucie Blackman but it also contains an in-depth look at the “hostess” trade in Japan and its role in replacing the geisha in modern times but with much more of a risk.
The book looks at the promises made by the Hostess trade to prospective employees and how they emphasise how safe it is and how easy it is. They repeatedly assure the young gaijin (non-Japanese) women that sex is not part of the job. They are not prostitutes. Some Hostess’s in the past have had sex with their clients, but, it is a money losing proposition.
The whole Hostess mythos works on the Japanese male’s sense of harmless fantasy. The men (mostly salary workers and mostly married) will come into a Hostess club for the female company of a pretty girl who waits on him exclusively. Pouring his drinks; lighting his cigarettes; laughing at his jokes and appearing to hang on his every word, the hostess gives the promise of this becoming a love affair. But it is a love affair that cannot happen, because once reality hits (in the form of sex) the fantasy is over and the male will move on to another hostess at another club.
But on the fantasy side of this little “harmless” arrangement, the men are all fixated on gaijin women; the curvier the better.
Clare Campbell takes us into the sordid underbelly of Japan’s “entertainment” districts. She shows us the hierarchy of the Hostess trade and its first cousin the sex trade. She interviews “retired” and current hostesses to find out how the whole thing works and what the rules are.
She also tells Lucie and Carita’s stories and the events that led to their deaths. She spoke to the families; the survivors of the horrible phone call, the inept police enquiry and the subsequent trial and publicity. She has also documented the Japanese legal authority’s xenophobic attitude towards gaijin crime (unless it is a gaijin who has done something to a Japanese citizen) and how political pressure was needed to resolve the problems of moving the case forward.
The fact that Joji Obara had been abducting and raping girls for years (not just gaijin) was well documented by the thousands of videos he’d made and had stored at his various homes. This is the only area that the book has not been able to go into any depth. Obara is still a mystery figure. He was the Japanese born son of Korean immigrants who were fabulously wealthy. A spoiled but popular young man who apparently could not have sex “normally” with a body that could move or feel anything; a fact that caused his weird sexual fantasies to spiral out of control. Aided by his money, he then began his ‘Play’ as he called it, only getting caught when he killed Lucie Blackman.
This book is an interesting read made more so because it gives the reader an insight into the Japanese social culture and their conception of foreign (gaijin) visitors to their shores. It also takes a look at the sexual mores of the country and how “harmless” fantasy is accepted as an everyday staple of life. I would recommend reading this book if you want to see how the judicial system works in Japan on a sophomoric level; if you want something more in-depth you’ll have to look elsewhere.
But Clare Campbell has done an excellent job of showing how “international” crime works and affects different people’s lives and just how difficult it can be to find justice in a country that is not your own.
- “I don’t have an Asian fetish” and Other Sh*t Foreigners Living in Japan Say (en.rocketnews24.com)
- “All my paperwork except my visa… (mcjilton.wordpress.com)
- 5 Mistakes to Avoid in Tokyo Metro (tokyoezine.com)
- Snow forces 3,400 to spend night at Tokyo airport (news.yahoo.com)
- Japanese Panty Thief (adventurebyamie.wordpress.com)
- Japan Won’t Concede to China Over Islands, Kishida Says (bloomberg.com)