Tokyo Girls

Tokyo Girls

2000, Sexuality  -   95 Comments
Ratings: 7.54/10 from 151 users.

Being a hostess in Tokyo is really not that simple. At least Director Penelope Buitenhuis claims that through the tale of four hostesses in her documentary Tokyo Girls. Throughout this emotionally ambiguous film, a sense of complexity and complicity becomes evident, and straight lines become blurred.

At first, it seems Buitenhuis is simply giving you a first-hand look at how working as a hostess in Tokyo is a 'more economical spin-off' of Geisha culture. It seems to be another option women use to achieve financial freedom. The interviews, for example, explore the reasons these foreign women choose such an unorthodox career. Each hostess describes her job as easy, entertaining, and rewarding. Their job, it seems, is a dream come true for them.

But soon, the scene and the story shifts. Like a Barbie doll cut-outs, they hover over expensive cars, glitter in the middle of the street and on the sidewalk, and don't fit anywhere. They begin to recount experiences that are now more reminiscent of nightmares, rather than dreams. The dreams have given way to a 'twilight zone' where nothing is as simple, and straightforward as it seems.

As the film trudges on to an uneasy close, Buitenhuis "lightens" the mood and attempts to look at the "practice" from the men's point of view. Sarcastic comments, however, hint at a more subjective intent. The images get darker and more sinister. In contrast, the men describe their visits to hostess clubs as an essential part of getting ahead in business. They portray themselves as clients and pragmatically talk about the money they spend as an investment in their success.

Still, the director seems content with implying that the hostesses are being exploited by the rich and powerful. She seems to gloss over the fact that these women have willingly chosen to work in this illegal industry for money. As such, Tokyo Girls is an expose that stirs up strange reactions; and in the end, even the allusion to a silver lining is smudged.

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Lorena Cuernavaca
2 years ago

We ought to be more prepared to grow and to take our lives in our hands not being persuaded to think our bodys are naive submissive sexual objects, instead of our efficient equipment, (as workmen) to perform in our best any function or role that we develop, we hope sooner than later, in our lives, and for our daughters, and for the women that work under stressed situations because of non inclusiveness terms or ways that we treat others. (Not talking about slavery or precarious income neighborhood, clearly).

Mark Gaboury
3 years ago

They are treacherous, gold-digging whores who have degraded themselves much more than they are letting on.

6 years ago

as a young woman who has worked as a hostess in a chinese 'karaoke bar' in aus - i can honestly say i have never hated myself more than in the time i spent there.

i had no money, had rent due, had full-time university, and my part-time job had taken me off the roster for 6 weeks because i had been in hospital. its sheer desperation. some girls were okay with what was happening, and each to their own - but i can say for myself and probably 10 other girls from the back room, we despised ourselves and every minute we spent there. we had no other choice. we sacrificed our self-worth to keep ourselves afloat (financially). i pity the people who say its a voluntary business, it shows a great lack of insight and shallowness.

matthew walker
7 years ago

great film.

7 years ago

oh My god. The one that speaks french is not CHIC at all. I guess her customers drink even more.

8 years ago

I'd like to add one more thing: the argument that "women have willingly chosen to work in this illegal industry for money" is often invoked to make work in the sex industry seem a victimless crime. If someone can present me with a rational argument for that (that sacrificing one's self-esteem and a willingness to be abused for money is healthy) I'd like to hear it. I don't think we talk much about the how powerful and addictive the drug money really is and how the lust for it can make the innocent and naive stumble along their paths to a point where true recovery can be difficult or even impossible to achieve.

8 years ago

I found this quite disturbing in that all the symptoms of being sexually exploited were evident but somehow justified in that this isn't really 'prostitution.' It seemed quite apparent to me that all these women had a very hard time coping with what they were involved in and that the men were just as lewd and insecure as men anywhere who buy sexual attention with money.
Was this documentary about sex? About money? Drugs? About the disappearance of the person inside in this process of being used as a sexual object? After these experiences, did any of these women really have much to say that gave us insight and meaning into this world? For me it remains just as creepy and mysterious as it always has. Did the experience make them shallow or were they traumatized to begin with? (That's just what seems like an observation to me- not a judgement for sure.) Isn't hard to believe the couple who say they are happily married? These are currencies that separate humans from each other across all borders and cultures.

8 years ago

The Japanese (edit fot Danny) culture is so mysterious. Nothing is what it seems, but yet it is the same as everywhere else. They just play a game - sort of like people who pretend they are religious but it is all for show and no one is fooled. Very hard to put to words.

I couldn't live there for a week, I think. I like people to be upfront and honest, but not rude. The East apparently only demands the "don't be rude" part. Is it just a part of "face" or ego or acceptance?

There is more to this film than just the hostess business, at least I thought so.

8 years ago

I feel pity for those men (*and women), but who am I to judge... The girls are pretty good off I would say, being the golddiggers(correct: being primarily interested in making money using sexappeal as a means to get it.) that they are. Seems like the best place in the world for upclass prostitutes. I would describe the movie as a very interesting take on the relationship between men and women in general, women primarily seeking material security and men looking for gratification and approval.