1 October 2009

On Host Clubs, Racism and Robotics

This is a pretty snazzy little documentary by Japanese-American Adam Yamaguchi for the show "Vanguard".

Usually when I see Westerners talk about Japan about TV, especially when they talk about major cultural differences like femmy men pouring drinks for yuppie spinsters, or the emergence of robots in the workplace, they present it as being extremely weird-yet-common place (in a "that's so Japanese" sort of way), so it's refreshing to see something that's well analyzed and with a knowledgeable host.

I still don't quite get the robot thing though. Maybe Kyushu is too inaka (ie. the boonies), but I've never seen a robot in Japan. Not once, ever. But, unlike other news magazine documentaries I've seen about the robotics-versus-immigration debate (or, "non-humans versus sub-humans"), this documentary actually talks about cultural differences behind this phenomenon.

I was thinking too, about how people act in stores. I was just at the grocery store and was watching the kid in front of me at the till. The cashier was using ultra formal Japanese with him but not making eye contact. The kid took his change, didn't look at her or respond, and just walked away. This is not really unusual in Japan, and from a fuh-fuh-fuh-foreigner's point of view, at first it was kind of nice, but the ultra-formal Japanese sounded so scripted anyway after a while that now it doesn't even feel like they're talking *to* me. My point is, replace that cashier with a robot and no one would notice.

And I really feel sorry for the Koreans, Chinese and Brazilians in the documentary. I mean, there are enough angry rants in here as it is so I'll save it, but I feel for you, dawgs.

Edit: I want to become a host because, as some of you know, it's been my life-long dream to get drunk every night and talk about virility for some old grand-mama who might be-- nay-- is decked out like a Christmas... tree


Adam said...

I enjoyed that and I too wish there would be more documentaries that are this knowledgeable.

You made a great point about the cashiers. I'd say most people I see don't talk to the cashiers, and just leave when they hand them the money. If I say "thank you" or whatever they rarely respond back or even look puzzled as to what to say because no one ever does it, and conversation becomes awkward.

I liked the peek inside of the host club and I wish they would have touched upon that more in depth. I've always wondered where exactly all those hot women are going. God knows that 2% of my classes will end up working in those places. My JTE and I spent the first half of the period today making fun of kid who does nothing but look in the mirror every day and fix his hair. We were teaching the grammar point "looks like" and we quoted his way of thinking as "Oh! I look cool today" while looking in the mirror.

Furious said...

Did you see that link to Neo-Japonisime that Kozo posted before about profiles for hostesses? Mostly poor inaka girls sending money home / seeing it as a way out? I wonder if it's similar for hosts.

Come on Adam, screw rock 'n roll. Let's move to Roppongi.

aniahime said...

This was really interesting - thanks for posting it Mike. I really enjoyed it. Especially since I've begun working with the elderly, it was really interesting to see the robot helper who aided the man get into his wheelchair. Something like that could be incredible for people with losses of autonomy.

Also, I want the seal. Very, very badly.

Kozo said...

If you read the comment section of the aforementioned article Marxy answers that very question.

The comment reproduced below.

>shouldn’t host clubs be analyzed at the same time as hostess clubs?

It’s pretty clear that host clubs exist as a product of hostess clubs. In other words, host clubs boom when the sex industry booms, because their primary customer is women in the industry — not “rich old matrons.” This should be obvious, but I doubt brown skin Gyaru-o are exactly rich matron’s most desirable men.

Also: http://neojaponisme.com/2008/11/27/1980s-sex-business-explosion/

Host clubs boomed in the ’80s when the sex industry exploded. They go hand in hand.

I think you can say the labor pool is similar — inaka lower class yankii — but the audience for host clubs is totally different. Host clubs are not getting a huge influx of cash from corporations using it as a way to entertain clients. They are mostly a way to drain money out of the pockets of mizu shobai workers and act as a way to keep mizu shobai workers from losing their minds. Hosts are their therapists, and hosts are even instructed to make sure their clients never quit the biz. Hosts also recruit non-industry girls into the industry when they start not being able to pay their debts. In other words, the host club is not a product of a wider social need, but an auxiliary organization of the mizu shobai world — almost like a “company store.”

Dr. Furious said...

@ Anna - My pleasure. Even if the whole Japan = robots thing is hyperbole, I'm sure it won't be too too long before this kind of technology is put to use.

@ Kozo - Someone seems to know an awful lot about host clubs. Is this the "translation job" you were talking about? What's your club name? ;)

I was going to write something about the insidiousness of the water trade/sex industry here and abroad, but that's more depressing to think about than xenophobia.

Kozo said...

My translation jobs are completely above board. My "interpreting gigs" on the other hand...