By Jade Bonus
“There’s no aphrodisiac like loneliness”
The Whitlams “No, Aphrodisiac,” 1995.
I was going to start this month’s MediaBug film edition with a series of glorious analogies linking Aomori winter with the tragic desolation of the human heart. It was going to be so frigging poetic.
So. Frigging. Poetic.
Anyhow, Towada went and had a two-week warm snap (like so warm I have been able to see my neighbor’s roof twice in two weeks, uh huh), and the sun is still grinning like a smarmy mothertrucker out my window. Therefore such analogies this end aren’t possible. Theses arctic windswept analogies were going to segue beautifully into this month’s filmic selection, The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief, but they are not there, so they don’t; regardless, let’s forge on.
The Great Happiness Space is a 2006 British documentary profiling a successful host bar that I recently rewatched during a bout of loneliness bought on by gastroenteritis (the worst kind of loneliness), and I thought it oddly fitting. For those not in the know, host, and their counterpart hostess, bars are a primarily, but not exclusively, Japanese phenomenon. At a host bar, female clientele are entertained and fauxmanced by ridiculously attractive men…for a price. Strictly speaking, sexual activity is verboten at host establishments- rather, their function is to cater for the intellectual and social needs of their clientele. While there are host bars dotted throughout Japan (sadly, there are none in Towada), their highest concentration is in Osaka.
Unsurprisingly, The Great Happiness Space sets its scene at Cafe Rakkyo, a successful host bar in Osaka’s Minami district. Run by the charismatic Issei, Cafe Rakkyo, in Issei’s words is “in the business of selling dreams.” Over the course of the documentary, we are introduced to both the hosts and their clientele through a series of in-depth and, surprisingly, candid interviews. Admittedly, the first time I saw this documentary I went in set to pity the clientele for the fact that they felt they had to pay for male attention; however, while watching, I quickly realised that such assumptions were simplistic and erroneous.
The Great Happiness Space is a well-balanced and engaging documentary. Even if your interest in host bars is passing to null, the film serves as an interesting insight into how far we are willing to go for love and companionship… even if it has a price tag.
Watch The Great Happiness Space in full! (Thanks YouTube!)