For a few years in the nineties I lived in Hong Kong and I can still remember the incredible thrill I got from waking up and realizing ‘I’m living in a different continent!”
But I can also remember the sense of distance I had from local people, who even if friendly would only be so friendly. There appeared to be something almost unknowable about them, not to make them sound like alien beings but you were sometimes aware of a thought process that was very different to yours.
What goes for Hong Kong goes double for Japan. A strange rather insular society with its own idiosyncratic ways of doing things
Most of the time this just leads to funny misunderstandings a la ‘Lost in Translation’. In the case of Lucie Blackmon the subject of Richard Lloyd Parry’s book ‘People who eat darkness ‘it leads to death.
Former BA stewardess, Blackmon worked as a hostess in Tokyo in the 1990’s.
Her job involved keeping Japanese salary men company while they drank in bars.
If a girl was liked, the businessman might invite her for a date known as a dohan. Nothing sexual was expected, just companionship.
As Lucie’s sister Sophie remarked ‘the only difference between being an air hostess and a hostess is altitude’.
Yet clearly going on dates with men you don’t care for in any way is in itself a kind of moral grey area.
Where does companionship end and prostitution begin? It all depends on the mind of the man who is with the girl.
Unfortunately for Lucie one of these men was Joji Obara, an uncaught serial rapist who had kept videos of the hundreds of women he had raped while they lay unconscious from drinks laced with rohypnol. He ends up giving her lethal dose of the drug and dismembering her body.
When hearing these kind of horrific tales it is hard not to use it as a metaphor for the way Japanese men in general think of western women. But as the author Richard Parry points out, a Japanese women was missing in Britain at the same time as the Blackmon case.
We would be rather miffed if the Japanese used this as an example of western degeneracy.
Yet there is still an uneasiness I feel when reading about this case. There is a sense that there are many Japanese men who still view western women as drunken, promiscuous drug addicts. Racist? Maybe but when cultures clash the more dominant will always seek to label the others differences as immoral, be it British whites ripping on Asians or Japanese criticizing westerners..
In both cases their attitudes are severely misguided for they see difference as inferiority and substitute judgment for understanding. If they didn’t there’d be far fewer cases like Lucie Blackmon’s in the world.