The Great Happiness Space
I watched what I consider to be the most bizarre movie I’ve seen in a long time: The Great Happiness Space, a documentary by director Jake Clennell. Clennel takes us deep into the world of Japanese host clubs in after hours Osaka. Here, young men spend their nights providing physical but mostly emotional attention to women – or clients as they’re referred to. In the early evening men pace the streets and woo women into a club, (not unlike men on the streets of Tijuana,) in hopes of scoring a wealthy girl in needs of lip service.
Upon first visit the woman selects a “host” from a book, and he becomes the person that she will always spend time with. Often multiple women spend time with the same host. Competition, more accurately financial competition, ensues for the host’s attention. A talented host can find themselves making thousands of dollars per night.
In the U.S. women have the upper hand in nightlife entertainment. They are handed free drinks, (to the chagrin of Steve Horner,) and always command attention from men individually or in groups. Even strip clubs, once considered blighted trash accessible only from neon lit back alleys, have become more acceptable as entertainment venues for both men and women. And they even sell stock.
In this strange parallel universe the opposite exists at Cafe Rakkyo in Osaka. The men of this and other host clubs seduce women with sweet talk, understanding, champagne, and large stuffed teddy bears. These women pay out the nose for the attention and companionship of the hosts. And they KNOW that the attention and companionship is an act, but conversely they admit that an emotional connection exists.
If the women suffer emotionally then the men suffer equally as much physically. They’re obligated to drink glass after glass of champagne and remember the details of each and every client. If they can’t maintain the farce of a special relationship the woman will leave them. Owner Issei explains that the trickiest part is keeping female clients “in the dream,” – that is the host must continue to sell the dream that they COULD be together and in love at some point. When reality hits, as it did for one client, the game is done.
Throughout the world almost everyone that visits strip clubs or even brothels enters the exchange with the understanding that it’s just flesh for money. I was awed that these women fool THEMSELVES at the chance for true love as they openly admit. Or maybe they find it empowering?
The old bald guy that cheerfully pines “that stripper really likes me,” is laughed by strangers or brought down from the clouds by his friends. And for good reason. In fact even HE knows inside there isn’t a shot. What’s with Japanese women spending thousands of dollars believing the same lie? From a personal note, of course noting attractiveness is subjective, these skinny guys aren’t even hot. With their makeup and spiked hair I’d think I was chugging champagne with one of those science lights you touch to demonstrate static electricity.
Of course it’s just a small look into Japanese life and examines one individual subculture. I certainly don’t believe Osaka as a whole is nearly that seedy. But strange subcultures exist and are fascinating. I wonder if someone is sitting down with a teacup full of popcorn in Osaka at this very moment watching the opening credits of Jesus Camp?
James Van Dellen