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Notes of Doom: GiraGira Episode 2

This episode takes us deeper into the world that hosts exist in. While the life and work of a host/hostess does not revolve around sexual favors, there are businesses that do. We are exposed to this and more in this story…


ImeKura – In episode 2, Sayo is considering working at one of these establishments in order to make money to pay off her debts. “ImeKura” is short for “imeji kurabu,” or “image club.” It’s a brothel that caters to the sexual fantasies of its customers. Contrary to what you might think, these fantasies do not take place in elaborate fantastical settings but rather in offices, schoolrooms, and trains, for example. (In my opinion that makes them creepier…) The women who work there dress for the part as nurses, secretaries, schoolgirls, teachers, etc. Selling intercourse is illegal in Japan but any other “services” tend to fall through the cracks…

Fuuzoku – The general translation of this word is “manners” or “customs” but there is a secondary, contextual meaning which refers to prostitution. ^^;;

Mizushoubai – This term carries a lot of different connotations, but it is perceived as a crude, impolite term, so be careful where you use it. It can be used to refer to a business scheme with high risk and a high turnover. Generally, however, it is used in connection with businesses that would have been housed in the entertainment business in old Japan. This includes restaurants, theater, geisha houses, tea houses, and other performance venues in addition to “red light” district type activities such as prostitution and gambling. Some say that any business that relies on the patronage of its customers to stay afloat would fall into this category, what we would refer to as the “service industry.” The term literally means “water business” suggesting the transitory and fickle nature of such endeavors. The origin of the term is unclear. For an interesting article on both “mizushoubai” and the life of a hostess, go here:

Omise – The term “omise” means “store,” as in “a place that sells something.” We’ve had to get creative with our translations because we wouldn’t actually call a host club a store. They, however, do. It’s also interesting to note the honorific “o” used at the beginning of the word. This shows respect for the establishment itself. It’s another example of the way the Japanese have traditionally felt that the group is more important than any one individual (with the exception of the leader), especially oneself.

Keigo – When Yuki-san goes to speak with the owner/manager of the ImaKura, she speaks very formally. This style of speech is called “keigo.” In English, some of our level of formality when speaking is indicated by our tone of voice. In Japanese they have a completely different way of conjugating the verbs, plus some words that are completely different than regular speech. The use of correct vocabulary is just as important as tone of voice and body language in Japan when trying to be polite. “Sonkeigo,” “honorific language,” can only be used toward other people, never towards oneself, and its counterpoint, “kensongo,” is “humble language” which should only be used for oneself and never for others. (I say never, but there are probably exceptions.) “Sonkeigo” and “Kensongo” together make up “keigo.” A decent article on this subject with examples of conjugation and gender differences can be found here. Another simple explanation can be found here. And one of my favorite places to get info on the Japanese language, Yomiuri Shinbun’s PeraPera Penguin series, also addresses it. Check it out here.

Mitsugideiru – This is the word for the sum of money patrons of a host club (or hostess club I would assume) pay on a regular basis to shimei someone. It literally means “to pay tribute (generally with money or goods).” They’re paying the owner of the establishment for the privilege of reserving someone’s attentions. This is part of why going to host/hostess clubs can get very expensive. I think the “mitsugideiru” goes to the club, and the hosts get commission from drinks and things in addition to a minimal hourly salary. Again, we’ve never been to a host club so we don’t really know.

Aniki(bun)/Otouto-bun – In the translation notes for episode 1 I talked about “habatsu” (factions), and senpai/kouhai relationships. You should be getting the sense that Japan is highly hierarchical and greatly concerned with group dynamics. The aniki(bun)/otouto-bun relationship is another example of this. If you have watched anything with Yakuza in it you have probably heard the term “aniki” before. It’s actually an honorific term for an older brother (the comparable word for older sister is “aneki” which, in addition to carrying its original meaning, is used among Yankees and Gals) and can be used outside of the yakuza without anyone looking at you funny. However, within groups such as motorcycle gangs and yakuza and hosts, the term is used for a respected senpai whom you wish to emulate. The kouhai in this relationship is called “otouto-bun.” It’s a mentoring situation that is much more personal than that of senpai/kouhai. In this case you have one specific person that you interact with, learn from on a daily basis, and stare at with sparkles in your eyes when you think he’s not looking. The otouto-bun is treated like a younger brother – protected, made to go fetch things, poked fun at…you know, the usual. These relationships are a way of emphasizing the feeling of belonging. The “bun” in both “anikibun” and “otouto-bun” mean that you’re taking on a role, playing a part, in this case, that of an older or younger brother.

Showing Affection – Okay, so in the comments for the last set of notes we got the question “why doesn’t Kohei kiss his wife?” This opens up a huge cultural can of worms…the simple answer is that Japanese adults, historically, and when I say historically I mean from pre-history all the way up to about 10 years ago, do not touch each other. I’m serious. Parents don’t even really hug their children. Couples didn’t hold hands in the street, let alone hug each other. Touching between a man and a woman is generally considered sexual in nature. (That’s why kids in middle school can hold hands, boys with boys and girls with girls, it’s because they are not adults.) Even hugging was considered sexual. The word for “hug” in Japanese is “daku” which is slang for having sex. (That sorta puts a different spin on “Daite, senorita” doesn’t it?) Kissing is seen as super intimate, more so than sex sometimes. If you poll 60-80 year old married couples in Japan I bet many of them had children without ever having kissed.

The fact that Kohei hugs his wife shows that he loves her very, very much. He is far more demonstrative of his affection than is normal for his age bracket, super demonstrative, in fact, so much so that it would probably embarrass most people his age. His hugging her shows that he loves her more than he cares about how people think of him, more than he cares about his own pride or dignity, more than anything in the world besides his daughter Orie whom he loves with equal fervor.

Admittedly, this attitude is changing among younger people in Japan. People in their mid-twenties and younger don’t seem to have a problem with kissing in public. The New York Times carried an interesting article on it which you can read here, and I found a blog entry on it that’s pretty cool too

Tags: giragira, notes of doom
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