The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief.

Just one more little plug for what I think is truly one of the best documentaries I've seen, at least from the perspective of personal fascination. The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief, about a group of Japanese host boys and their clientele. Truly, truly fascinating. The film maker does a fantastic job of building layer upon layer with this material, which would be entirely too easy to present in a far more shallow light.

The part that does my head in the most: The end of the night. One of the hosts is sat on the floor in what appears to be the hallway outside, near the elevators. He's clearly intoxicated, but in that way that seems strangely sober -- when instead of driveling nonsense, you happen upon one rare, clear moment of pure honesty. And as he chokes back tears, he says:

They have a lot of money, but so few are content with their lives. People come to Osaka to make it. They can't find the time or the space to be acknowledged. So they come together. They are willing to spend a lot of money in order to find any fulfillment. They want to fall in love, they want to feel they are really needed and they all come to this space. Everyone is searching for their own space. They want to feel important. They want somebody to love them. Because they want people to understand them, they come to places like this. So the money they spend is worthwhile. And that's why I get paid so well.

People are not so strong... especially alone. People are sad and lonely. But they are wonderful and shining. They have warm hearts. People come to the big city to host clubs as space to rest their hearts. Even though the value of what we sell is $10, we sell it for $100. That's definitely expensive. But they still say, "thank you" when they walk out the door. I think those people are wonderful. Everyday, I do my best for people who appreciate what I do.

I would love to write about this phenomenon, from a feminist perspective. Or a female perspective. Or whatever. Dealing with gender, anyway. Love. I might even organize my sort of vague plans to visit Japan around it. I think the thing that gets to me the most, is that they all claim this isn't real -- even the girls who are suffering very severely from delusions that the relationships they have with these men are real, on some level, acknowledge that it is a fantasy. But the thing is, I don't see anything about it that isn't real. What does it mean to say it's not real? I don't see how it's any less real than what the rest of us partake in, out in the world -- negotiating relationships based on what we most need out of them, what we can take from and give to the other person -- this version is just more sterile, more business-like.

It's sort of like how I view the BDSM community -- it's just a compartmentalized version of the same things that go on in "ordinary" relationships all over the world.

I keep thinking of a conversation I had with Yoshi, the Japanese guy, in the kitchen of the hostel as he was cooking dinner one night. The English girl from my room and myself were sitting down with the Argentinian rugby player, and somehow the conversation shifted to how there are different versions of "I love you" in Spanish, something I already knew and was mildly fascinated with from my previous Spanish study. The two young'ns sort of took the conversation and ran, as they were definitely entering macking-on-each-other territory, but it got me thinking about what "I love you" is like in other languages.

I got up from the table and walked over to where Yoshi was slicing mushrooms, having suspicions that he was paying closer attention to our conversation than he let on. "What about in Japanese?"

He looked up at me over his glasses while chopping and smiled. "In Japan, we do not have the tradition of saying, 'I love you'."

"What? Ever?"

"No. It is not common. We are not like Westerners. We do not express so much emotion."

"Well, you must feel emotion, though. What do you say when you do? Or in a relationship, to show that? Or whatever...."

"We do say, 'I like you.'"

"'I like you.' Hmm. Even to your family?"

"Yes. Even to our family."

He looked at me over his glasses and smiled again. "If I am with a girl... we are in a couple, I do not say, 'I love you', but.... I don't know how to say in English. If we are coupling, sometimes I will say it, though."

"Wait. If you're in a couple....?"

"No. If we are coupling."

"Coupling...." I thought about this to myself for a moment. "Oooh. Okay. I gotcha. If you are coupling."

Another smile.

"So, you say it only then?"

"Only sometimes. Yes."

I tilted my head to the side a bit, to show I was considering this. "So, is that common? Or is it just you...?"

"I think... it is not common."

"So do the girls think it's strange when you say it?"

His turn to tilt his head and consider. "I don't know.... maybe. Maybe, yes. I think they probably do."

"Hmm. Okay. Good to know."

"I think Koreans are maybe the same."

"No. No way. I mean, I don't know for sure, obviously. It might be like that in the older generations or something. I have no way of knowing -- haven't thought to ask. But I'm fairly certain the younger generation say, 'I love you.'"

"Maybe. But you should ask."

"Yeah. I should."

Anyway, watch the film.

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