Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Love as a need to fulfill: studies of the contemporary Japanese society

“Good evening, my name is XY. Please treat me kindly.”
“Good evening.”
“What’s your name?”
“My name is YZ.”
“Oh, what a nice name. Have you been here before?”
“No, but someone recommended this place.”
“Oh, nice. Did you go drinking somewhere else before coming here?”

A regular conversation at a hostess club in Japan. The men who come there, usually drained by work or society, or by their own boring personality, do not have much to talk about. It is usually the hostess that does all of the talking. In the case of a foreign (non-Japanese) hostess, sometimes positively racist remarks are made about how tall she is or how big her nose is or how white her skin, especially in the case of a white hostess. Then if the hostess is black, it is mostly assumed she must be either from the United States or some African country. But let us not talk about how racist the Japanese are. Let us talk about why Japanese men go to hostess clubs.
I often hear or read western people saying they do not understand why Japanese spend so much money at these clubs. Obviously it is the same people who have no real understanding of the depths of Japanese society and about how messed up it is. Though, if you really wonder why these clubs are so popular, can’t you tell that there must be something wrong?

One of the non-regular customers I encountered at my own work place, a man who was born in Hokkaido, told me he was very tired of the standardized conversation he usually had at Japanese hostess clubs. It was that remark that made me a bit more awake, though I was already very tired and worn out of the amount of standardized conversations I had that week. I asked him why people have these conversations here in the first place, and what he answered was: “Because most people who come here cannot even hold conversations like that.” There, you see, the Japanese are in a way retarded (as suggested by Ken Seeroi).
Of course we all long to have a conversation sometimes, and sometimes small talk is necessary. In the countries like the US and Australia, having a bit of small talk with a stranger or with someone you do not know very well is considered polite. Even in Europe it is considered polite, but it really depends on the people involved and the situation. However, that is a few minutes of small talk, not 30 minutes or even an hour, as in the case of Japanese hostess clubs. It makes you wonder if the Japanese are okay in their head - paying 3,000, 6,000 or even 10,000yen to have small talk with a pretty girl for an hour?

There are theories that say Japanese men go to these clubs because they do not want to go home to a nagging wife. They do not want any tiring conversation after a long day of work. I completely understand that but at the same time I understand their wives because most of them probably do not nag for no reason. Maybe the husband’s salary is too low or their working hours are too long or they spend too much money after work, or, if you are a very lucky wife (sarcasm), all three combined.
Still, the Japanese men, no matter how little they earn, how recklessly they spend, how little they care about the needs of their wife or family, want to be loved and cared for. Here comes the whole society crumbling down these days - our generation Y, who are obsessed with themselves. It does not matter so much what I do for others, it is all about our new-age so called ‘acceptance’ of everyone who is different: I deserve to be loved and accepted.
I cannot imagine what hostess clubs were for generation X people, especially in the bubble era. Maybe it was just an outlet for groups of salarymen to go to, in actual large groups, to celebrate whatever successful business deals they had made that day. In that case, it would surely be more understandable for the western mind because these groups do not come only for certain girls, and they do not spend their private money but the company’s (simply to celebrate, as you would spend money on a company party).

That is more the mind of generation X customers, but let us come back to our self-obsessed generation Y customers that come mostly alone or in a group of up to four people, though mainly alone or with just one male companion. Those people who want to be loved after a long day of hard(ly any) work but do not want to work for that love. Love, you would think, especially in the case of Japan, is a need one wants fulfilled. As Hiroki Azuma pointed out in his work Database Animals:

“The difference between animals and humans is that they pursue an unquenchable meaning to life. Animals, in turn, aren’t searching for meaning. They only want to have their basic needs met.”

Azuma describes these “animals” of the Japanese society as Otaku. I go as far as describing the regular Japanese hostess club visitor as Otaku. He just wants his basic need for love met. In the BBC documentary “Storyville: Tokyo girls” that describes the lives of idols and their fans, one female commentator even goes as far as saying that these men do not want to put any effort into a real relationship with a girl, they want to be loved and accepted without doing anything for it (watch it here; 38:59).

Now though, what if we see this all in a postmodern way, and think about the Japanese society as evolved, with the Japanese Otaku, craving love and fulfilling that need with anime characters, idols, and hostesses? Indeed all the needs we have in life can be fulfilled artificially in that way, and there is no denying that we all want to be loved. Now if that love can be consumed, is that so bad or is that maybe simply less traditional? It starts to become a very Science Fiction like scene at this point, and if we look at new movies, let me here throw in my deeply beloved Blade Runner 2049 as an example: it predicts a society where women, especially the ‘unreal’ women (holograms, androids), are consumable goods. Through making these movies, our society faces the change that is occuring these days: we forgot how to connect or we have no time to connect and build a reliable bond. Or are we simply too lazy and too self-obsessed to become anything more than Otaku?

Personally I see nothing wrong with hostess clubs. After all, women can consume the same sort of love with male anime characters, male idols (movie stars and musicians) and male hosts. From my neo feministic point of view, this is all very equal and I cannot criticize the mere consumption of love. However, we all have to be aware that the love we consume from those places is fake love. It is love that is meant to be consumed, it is wrapped prettily and it is prepared to be consumed. It is not real mutual love with a deep meaningful relationship behind it.

In that sense, is the Japanese Otaku community - that is growing dangerously big and difficult to distinguish from our non-self-obsessed more westernized crowd - simply the android society in the Blade Runner 2049 sense? Are we all less human than we think we are?

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