Tokyo Hostess - Clare Campbell

IN THE summer of 2000, 21-year-old Lucie Blackman left her Kent home and went to Japan to work as a nightclub hostess, have an adventure and make some money. Lots of other girls had done the same thing. All she would have to do is serve drinks to Japanese

IN THE summer of 2000, 21-year-old Lucie Blackman left her Kent home and went to Japan to work as a nightclub hostess, have an adventure and make some money.

Lots of other girls had done the same thing. All she would have to do is serve drinks to Japanese businessmen, light their cigarettes and fake being in love with them.

But just eight weeks after arriving in Tokyo, she disappeared.

When her body was found dismembered and hidden in a cave, businessman Joji Obara was charged with her rape and murder. It turned out he had a history of drugging and sexually assaulting hostesses. One other, an Australian, had died several years earlier.

In Tokyo Hostess (�14.99, Sphere), journalist Clare Campbell gives a sensationalised account of Lucie's life and death, and lifts the lid on the world of Tokyo's nightclubs.

She went to the city to find out what young Western women face when they land jobs as hostesses. She spoke to many girls who knew and worked with Lucie and although she is at pains to point out that hostesses like Lucie were not expected to have sex with their clients, the work is very competitive - only the most popular girls keep their jobs and extra-curricular activities help to enhance popularity.

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But while, on one hand she criticises the media's stereotyped clich�s - in the aftermath of Lucie's murder - of "perverted orientals" obsessed with sex and Western women, she falls into a similar trap claiming just that.

She says that many Japanese men seem obsessed with erotic fantasies, even reading porn on the way to work. Western girls, she says, are often the focus of these fantasies.

Hence the popularity of the hostess clubs and the titillation they offer, something she says "seemed a uniquely Japanese phenomenon".

- LINDSAY JONES

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