Monday, July 21, 2008

Love shack!

Loyal readers may recall that I mentioned recently that Joe and I had planned a trip to a love hotel for my birthday.

Well, we did indeed rent a room a couple weekends ago after a sudsy evening at a beer garden bidding farewell to fellow JETs who are leaving Japan.

Mom and Dad, continue reading at your own risk.

For those of you unfamiliar with Japanese love hotels, let me explain a little about them. Due to the high population density of Japan, living quarters in the city tend to resemble sardine cans. Families with children often live in small apartments with very little privacy. As you can imagine, this can make certain activities difficult for moms and dads, or even adult children still living at home with their parents. Enter the Japanese love hotel — hotels designed with one specific purpose in mind.

Now at first you might have the same reaction to this that I did — Eeeew! But we were told time and again that they are actually very nice and very clean, quality places. The rooms are larger and more comfortable than rooms in regular hotels, but the price is the same or lower. And they've got all sorts of room service with quality food and drink delivered to your door.

Of course, there's a reason for that: once you enter the room, it locks behind you. Until you submit your payment into a machine by the door, you cannot leave. And once you leave the room, you cannot return.

Acting on the recommendation of one of my Japanese friends, we headed to the Hotel Royal on the Tenmagawa River.

It's the large white building in front.

We had my Japanese friend call this hotel a few days earlier to make us a reservation, but discovered that the hotel does not actually take reservations, so instead we just showed up to see what was available. Inside the door, you see a large board with pictures of all the rooms. (You can see pictures here. Look on the left side of the screen and click on the third link under "What's New." Then scroll down.)

The available rooms are lit up on the board, and you just hit a button for the one you want. When we arrived, there was only one available room. At 14,000 yen ($140) I do believe this was probably one of the more expensive rooms in the hotel. The price tag made me wince a bit, but we figured we at least felt sure that this particular hotel was nice, and we didn't know what we would get if we tried a different hotel. Not exactly a gamble I was inclined to take. And actually, even though this was an expensive room for the love hotel, it was still on par with what Joe and I have had to pay before when we've stayed in regular hotels. The regular hotels (nothing fancy whatsoever) that we've stayed in have charged us 6000 to 8000 yen ($60-$80) per person.

So we hit the button to take the room for the night (they rent them hourly, too, if you want).

At that point, I think we could've headed upstairs to our room without ever talking to anyone, but the clerk at the front desk called us over to make sure we knew what we were doing since we're foreign. She told us in Japanese not to use the phone and then sent us on our way.

There was a flashing red light in front of our door when we arrived. Wasn't sure how to feel about that.

Inside, here's what we saw.

The bed was to the left. It was probably the most comfortable bed I've slept in since arriving in Japan. That's not saying it was super comfy, but it was nice, and it had a nice down comforter to protect against the room's good air conditioning.

Looking to the right of the bed, we saw a cool wide-screen flat television with a sweet surround sound stereo system. Along with the stereo, it appeared the walls were also soundproof, as I never heard a single peep from any of our neighbors.

Moving on. The carpet was a plush gray shag, very soft. Shag carpet... seems appropriate!

And then this was the wall across from the foot of the bed — a deep, sexy red to complement all the sleek gray and black decor.

The room featured all sorts of adjustable lighting as well. Tinted mirrors lined the ceiling on an angle.

The bathroom area was back past the TV. First, the sink:

The toilet was in its own room off to the left. It was a bidet toilet, of course, but this was the first bidet I'd seen in Japan that actually featured a dryer. I usually never use the bidets in Japan because I haven't figured out how you're supposed to clean yourself up properly after spraying all that water. I mean, toilet paper just comes apart when it gets too wet.

So I tried using this bidet thinking the experience might be a bit more pleasant. There are two buttons — one for your bum and one for your other parts — but both of them just sprayed me pretty forcefully in the ass. When I tried to scoot into position, I just ended up sending water spraying way out into the room. Oops. No doubt Joe wondered why there was water all over the floor. Likewise, the dryer was equally useless as the hot air it blew out didn't dry anything very quickly. So I guess I can say the bidets are still lost on me.

To the right of the sink was the shower room, and it was big enough to fit a dozen people.

The hot tub wasn't big enough to fit both me and Joe, but it did have all these different colored lights that would cycle through the water...Red, pink, green, blue, purple....

In addition, the room was equipped with a refrigerator set up like a vending machine inside, so you could take out cold drinks that you could pay for later. It also had a food vending machine with various snacks like ramen noodles and udon... and a couple uh, shall we say, entertaining gadgets.

All in all, it was a fun experience. It was indeed a quality place. The only thing that wasn't quite up to snuff were the wall decorations. There was this one with a crucifix on it...

And then there was this one. Not so bad at first sight.

But look closer at the writing at the top...

What. The. Hell? Jesus in a love hotel?

As my friend Paul put it, "If they were trying to make all the guys have performance problems, they should have capped it all off with a picture of the pope above the headboard!"

Even the artwork in the hallway continued this theme.

Uuuuuuuuuuuhh. Right.

All I can say is, Japan being a Buddhist country, sometimes I don't think the Japanese see images portraying Christianity the same way some westerners do.

A perfect example is this poster I've seen around various places advertising the Hiroshima Carp's last year in their old stadium.

Look familiar?

This poster is hanging on the wall at the special education school I visit twice a month. The team manager (the only white guy) portrays Jesus with all the Japanese baseball players as his disciples (speaking of which, I wonder how the player standing in for Judas felt?). When I pointed out that making a parody of the Last Supper was offensive, the teachers didn't understand what I meant. Take a closer look at this ad and you'll see an additional absurdity: the Mona Lisa is hanging on the wall in the background, but her face has been photoshopped out and replaced with the manager's face. Nice.

I digress. The love hotel was a fun experience, and if I were travelling somewhere for one night and had to choose between staying in a love hotel or in a regular hotel, I'd probably take a chance on the love hotel. It was a pretty posh place.


Anonymous said...

Maybe Christ has returned to Hiroshima and you just missed it. In any case, I am quite sure he would play for the Carp. You know, fish symbolism and all.

The last time He returned, it was to the Atlanta Hawks basketball team. The Onion had a sports write-up about it. As I recall, His "Ascension Dunk" was the sensation of the playoffs.

Natalie said...

Love Hotels are lots of fun, but if you do want to just sleep in comfort I suggest Toyoko Inn They are pretty much everywhere and about 4000yen pp You get free breakfast and a free gift if you book through the net (which is in English).
Or you could just visit more Love Hotels and tell us about them