Last month I saw the UK three part ITV2 series which saw Kelly Osbourne in Japan for five weeks trying her hand at a number of different jobs. This included a mix of the wierd and the traditional which began with her working in a maid cafe. The self confessed ‘spoiled brat’ with a potty mouth was interesting to watch going about the business of trying to serve coffee and cake to the geeks in Akihabara (was obviously filmed on a day when I wasn’t in town!) while trying to not laugh or spill the drink.
She was disgusted at the thought of giving a hand massage at one of these places and found the whole thing degrading to women who are still considered by many to be of secondary importance in Japan.
Next up was the hilarity of seeing her work for a day in a Love Hotel. These are dotted around Tokyo and provide couples with some privacy in a city which is crammed full of people living in close proximity or big families living together. They are also places for people to act out their sexual fantasies! On entering one of the rooms Kelly described the smell as if “someone came in a wet sock then put it in the microwave” and though she finds it all funny she is certainly not fond of having to take post-sex food and drink to the rooms. I did learn though that a pot noodle (called cup noodle in Japan) is the favoured choice of food after the couple have gone about their business.
Her other tasks and jobs included dressing up as a doll at a cos-play convention, working in an oxygen bar, teaching English in a school and more stiff traditions like performing a samarai dancer and training to be a maiko.
One of the more bizarre jobs was working at a dog hotel where the mutts are pampered by over-keen owners who sometimes see them as either an accessory or another human and treat them to a special shampoo or a cake or make them wear ridiculous and dignity-losing coats. In Tokyo dogs can even be rented out to people who want to play with them for an afternoon or whatever.
Overall, I enjoyed this series but that was maybe more because of my interest in what other people think about this country. I did think that Kelly got some of her observations spot on (“I learned that a lot of people are very small minded and to be unbiased and to walk into a country and say that isn’t the way I would do it, but it doesn’t mean that its wrong”) but no doubt there are many who disagree and think that she was moaning too much about the language problem and so on.
I would however say that Kelly was far from becoming Japanese but in such a homogenous country like Japan it has always been fairly impossible for any foreign person to ever be thought of as anything other than an outsider.