Somewhat incredibly, the land that brought the world sumo wrestling; Japan, is saying that the American Godzilla monster is too fat. Granted, the trailers available on the Internet right now do make the Japanese originated monster seem a tad…wide, but seriously Godzilla has to be beyond big, after all, this is the creature that stomped Tokyo flat in the original Gojira released in 1954. Of course in the first film Godzilla only had to smash the smaller “earthquake-proofed” shorter buildings in that country’s capital so the creature was only about 150 feet tall.
Hugh Jackman not gay and not leaving Wolverine anytime soon.
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)
What do you get when you have a film that relies heavily on the film noir verse and then takes a sidestep into fantasy, horror and downright weirdness? You get Starfish Hotel, that’s what. I will just mention here that the giant rabbit costume worn by one of the characters actually creeped me out miles more that the one in Donny Darko. Although you can argue that the giant rabbit in Darko wasn’t in a suit.
Written and directed by John Williams (the current CEO of Tokyo‘s 100 Metre Films) in a move to presumably show that anyone can write and direct a film, Williams helmed this his third film. I am not sure that CEO’s of any company should give up their ‘day job’ if they churn out a film as confusing as Starfish Hotel.
That is not to say that Starfish is unwatchable, the reverse is actually true. I could not stop watching the film. Despite it’s meandering plot and story, it was compelling enough that I had to see it through to the end. I will be honest though and say that the main reason was the presence of Japanese actor Kôichi Satô whom I’d first seen in the superior horror film Infection (2004).
The plot revolves around Arisu (Sato) and an elicit affair he is having with another woman that he first met in the Starfish Hotel. He carries on this affair for years, each time returning to the hotel to meet his lover. The only other passion that Arisu has in his life is his enjoyment of a mystery writer’s newest stories. When they are published, Arisu rushes to get his copy.
The latest book is titled The Starfish Hotel and it appears to be about Arisu. In the meantime, Arisu’s wife goes missing and he has to find her. It turns out that she has been working in a brothel and someone has burned it down.
The noir-ish pattern of intermixing fact with fiction and fantasy does not work in this film, which is a shame. The film looks stunning. The colours create a moody and intense atmosphere and help to create a feeling of loss and confusion. But Williams introduces too many characters and lets them interact with too many people.
I found this film by accident on LOVEFILM and decided to give it a go. Like I said, it was a compelling watch. It was hard to follow and it got a little frustrating at times. It is by all means not the worst film I’ve seen this year, but it’s coming a close second or third.
You know a film hasn’t been received all that well when you cannot even find it on Wikipedia. I think honestly that the side stepping into J-noir hurt the film overall. But again, I can only plead puzzlement over what Williams was trying to achieve with Starfish Hotel. I do know that I found it had to not watch.
It wasn’t the sort of ‘train wreck’ fascination that compelled me to stick to the end. It was more of a, ‘let’s watch just a little bit longer I’m sure it will all make sense soon.’
Unfortunately, by the time I got to the end, I was more than a little underwhelmed. All that painful interaction and subterfuge and dangling interludes just left me cold. Don’t get me wrong, I love film noir. To see how it really should be done just watch the Coen bros first effort Blood Simple (1984).
Blood Simple could be used in film schools as a template on how to make a darn near perfect noir thriller in any language. But I am wandering off topic here, somewhat like the film itself, and I wish that I could come up with an overall rating of Starfish Hotel. It falls into the category of interesting little film.
Just imagine that you’ve entered the local film store. As you go down the aisles looking for a film you haven’t seen yet, you spy a film hiding behind the rest of the DVD cases. Reaching back you grab the ‘hidden’ film and read the back cover. Despite the information printed on the back you decide to watch the film.
Because you found it. It wasn’t recommended by anyone, or panned, or reviewed by anyone. You just stumbled across it. That alone makes it worth watching. I found many ‘hidden gems’ this way. Sadly Starfish Hotel is not a hidden gem, but more of a curiosity as it struggles to find a genre that it belongs in.
- Film Noir or Fancy Shampoo? (bellasugar.com)
- Film noir-ish writing spots in Manhattan? (ask.metafilter.com)
- Film noir drives ‘Woman on the Run’ walk-in art exhibit (hamptonroads.com)
- Alexander Skarsgard Sinks His Teeth Into a Deal With Calvin Klein (bellasugar.com)
- Get Spooked: The Saline Project (steamboatfriday.wordpress.com)
- Kickstarter Launches Return of Classic Film Noir Movie “Trouble Is My Business” Through Crowdsourcing (prweb.com)