Volume 94, Issue 80

Wednesday, February 14, 2001


Wait, where are men from?
kooky comedian answers all

Comedy is stupid, but funny

A revealing look at Japan's new geishas

A revealing look at Japan's new geishas

Tokyo Girls
Directed By: Penelope Buitenhuis

By Andrea Chiu
Gazette Staff

Many students have at least toyed with the idea of going overseas to travel and work. Be it Europe or Asia, you surely know someone who has been there and done that.

This week's episode of TVO's Gemini Award-winning series, The View From Here, features a film called Tokyo Girls. Directed by Penelope Buitenhuis, the film strays from stereotypical Canadian documentary topics.

Instead, it explores the fast-paced world of the modern-day "economy geisha," a term that describes the new nightclub hostesses that are quickly replacing the traditional geisha and their luxurious age-old arts.

Hundreds of young women from all over the world travel to Tokyo in search of a job and find themselves working as nightclub hostesses. In the Ginza district of the city, the new geishas chat, dance and drink with their wealthy clients. Simply entertaining seems like a small task when making anywhere from $200 to over $1,000 a night.

In Tokyo Girls, Buitenhuis follows the lives of four Canadian women, all of whom are, or have been, hostesses in Japan. They each have different stories to tell from their experiences, but all agree that the job can be a dangerous one.

Not only is hostessing a psychologically draining job, it is illegal in Japan. The chance of drug use is also incredibly common, as the women often snort speed to maintain their high alcohol consumption.

Although strictly prohibited by their employers, the hostesses always find themselves confronted with the opportunity to go beyond simple socialization.

The film is an interesting work, as it contrasts the new geisha with the traditional geishas of Japan. Equally intriguing is that it also contrasts Western culture with Japanese culture. Tokyo Girls is especially interesting for those of us who want to gain international work experience.

While the content may be appealing, Tokyo Girls' overall style is lacking. The use of hidden cameras to candidly shoot Tokyo nightlife is effective. However, the production and poor editing of the film makes the camera work resemble a cross between an episode of Cops and a cheap Karaoke laser disc.

Tune in to Tokyo Girls for an eye-opening introduction to the intriguing world of the modern-day Japanese economy geisha, but don't expect a brilliant visual spectacle.

Tokyo Girls airs at 10 p.m. tonight on TVO, and is the first in a new series of Canadian documentries that The View From Here will be airing in the next few months.

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Copyright The Gazette 2000