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Seriously, Read a Book!

Thoughts on books, often interpreted through the high-brow prism of cartoon (read: Archer) references. Wait! I had something for this...

Currently reading

The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Notetaking
Mike Rohde
The Antidote
Oliver Burkeman
The Kind Worth Killing
Peter Swanson
Data Points: Visualization That Means Something
Nathan Yau
James Buchanan
Jean H. Baker, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.

People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo--and the Evil That Swallowed Her Up

People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo--and the Evil That Swallowed Her Up - Richard Lloyd Parry

Even after reading the entirety of this seemingly interminably long book, I'm not exactly clear on who these supposed "people" are who  "eat darkness." What I do know is everything (and quite a bit more than) I ever wanted to know about the disappearance/murder of 21-year-old British national, Lucie Blackman, in July of 2000.


Why, you ask, did I think I would want the ins and outs of the case? Well, for one, I like to treat myself to a bit of trashy true crime now and then. Two, the single chapter devoted to this bit of law and order in Jake Adelstein's Tokyo Vice (which I highly recommend) had me wanting to know more about the Roppongi nightlife subculture in Japan.


Hostessing in High Touch Town:

Author Richard Lloyd Parry goes into great detail about the background of Lucie Blackman, but a sentence or two will suffice for the purpose of this summary. She was a good student, meticulous groomer, a bit insecure, but pretty typical for anyone in that adultescent phase of life. She went with her BFF to live in Japan and work as a hostess (not as sketchy as it sounds) in order to pay off some debt she had accrued living in London.


While hostessing in a foreign country on a tourist visa might sound like a euphemism for selling yourself into sexual slavery, that's really not what it is. It's certainly not something on my to-do list, but that's because nothing sounds less appealing to me than the idea of pretending to be interested in chit chatting with tired "salarymen." The nuances of the roles and expectations surrounding the "lady services" (for want of a better word) in Japan are not easily communicated (though, as I mentioned, Adelstein does a pretty great job). The Roppongi kink/twist just happens to be that the women are "western" (not in a cowgirl kinda way). It came to be known as "High Touch Town" as a result of an awkwardly phrased description of the American penchant for high-fiving displayed when military men came ashore for nights on the town. 


Seventh Heaven Roppongi


While it's not my scene, I'm pretty sure a "Roppongi" equivalent (in spirit) exists in most international cities- I'm not sure whether the term eurotrash*  carries more or less negative connotation than gaijin, the Japanese term for foreigner, but both have affiliated club scenes, and that sums things up.


Lucie Blackman MIA:

No shock here, Lucie goes missing after one of her "dates" with a client from the club. This is followed by what may be the least reassuring phone call ever to her best friend by a man who claims that Lucie:"is studying and practicing a new way of life" after a happenstance meeting with his "guru."

"Just before she got on the train she met my guru and she made a life-changing decision. Anyway, she decided to join his cult that night."

As you might imagine, this left everyone feeling less than comfortable with Lucie's whereabouts.


Lucie's youth, looks and soon to be media-savvy family turned this into a veritable frenzy of media coverage (and, eventually, a mention by Tony Blair to the Japanese Prime Minister). Lucie's sister Sophie (pictured with Lucie below) and father tag-teamed back and forth from Japan, running into an array of stumbling blocks (all of which are carefully chronicled). 


Lucie and Sophie Blackman


Joji Obara, the Man-Shaped Hole:

The perp is an enigma unto himself. He was of Korean descent which made him zainichi, a status that precludes a certain level of advancement and respect in Japan. Though abundantly wealthy, he was truly disconnected from society in every respect. There are almost no photographs of him- not even a mug shot, since he would turn away.


Joji Obara


This last third of the book was interesting in its examination of the Japanese justice system and the ways in which it is a product of cultural expectations to which Obara simply did not conform. At the same time, Obara's explanations and excuses and the circuitous reasoning of all parties involved is over-illustrated by the author, giving the book a sense of frustrating ambiguity. 


Parting Thoughts:

Mission accomplished for an author who wanted to cover the Blackman story exhaustively, but reading it was, well, exhausting. 


* I'm neither promoting nor condoning the use of these terms, I'm just saying that they seemed similar to this ignorant American