So, since hearing the phrase "love hotel" uttered a few months after I arrived in Japan, my curiosity was piqued. These are hotels where couples can go for a couple of hours or a weekend to... be alone. Some Japanese homes are multi-generational: The kids, parents and grandparents all live in one home... and Japanese walls tend to be made out of paper.... literally. So having fun with the spouse while his mother sleeps behind what is essentially some butcher paper held up by a thin wooden frame is not really ideal. Love hotels are also popular with college students and cheating spouses... as well as a carload of American wives who were trying to figure out a fun and different Valentine's Day plan for their spouses.
But love hotels, obviously, cater to the Japanese, so English instructions are not easy to come by, and understanding the mechanics of actually getting in to a room can be tricky for the uninformed. I, and five other military spouses, wanted to be informed. And, I figured you would be, too, so I thought a blog post would be in order. So here it is, in as much detail as I can remember, and can provide with tact:
We were led by a fearless Japanese national whom I have known for more than a year, and she served as our love hotel tour guide. To protect our fearless tour guide's identity, I will call her Yui, because I do not know any Yuis and it was the top name for Japanese girls in 2012, so, apparently, a very common name.
We went to the closest love hotel to the base: Hotel Secille, near the Kintai Bridge. It has a huge sign. If you live in Iwakuni and have been to the Kintai Bridge, you have probably seen it, but had no idea what kind of hotel it was. Here is a map for your convenience. Tell them Jessica sent you. Just kidding. Although Yui said there are "frequent shopper" cards for discounts and rewards if you frequent Hotel Secille often, I am not one of said card holders, and you will not see anyone to name drop to, anyway. In our whole two hours at the hotel we saw one car backing up in the parking structure, and the outline of one person exiting a room behind a screen. You can easily avoid seeing people.
What I knew about love hotels prior to this excursion was:
1) They are designed to maintain your anonymity.
2) You generally pay for them by the hour.
3) Some of them have themed rooms (Hotel Secille did not).
4) Special toys are available for purchase.
If you think about it, most American hotels that cater to pay-by-the-hour clientele aren't really somewhere I - or a carload of wives - would want to hang out, much less take a jacuzzi bath or grab some room service. Do those places even have room service? Doubtful...
But in Japan, Yui assures us these rooms are very clean. She just recommends spraying down the jacuzzi tub with the shower hose "just in case." Excellent. That suggestion put me right at ease, thank you!
So, you drive in to the hotel entrance and halfway down the building (which will be on your left) there is a tunnel in to the building. Turn left in to the tunnel and you will find a menu board of room choices.
In each square, there is a price in the colored bar, to the right (to the left is the room number). The top price is what it costs for 2 hours on weekends, or for five hours on week days. The bottom price is the cost for two days and a night. However, keep in mind: When you enter the hotel room, the room door locks and you cannot leave until you pay, so if you select the two-day option, you are in there for the duration. No leaving to check out the sights or go to dinner.
As one of the wives admitted, we have champagne tastes, so with our 850 yen each, we selected the most expensive room Hotel Secille had to offer... because it had a massage chair. See it on the left side of the photo below? Room 307 became our home for the next two hours or so. We found out later that it also had a few other bonus amenities, but I will get to those in a moment.
Beyond the menu board, there is a directional board to tell you which way to go to enter the parking spot for the room you have selected. If there is a car there already, you have to pick another room, so you may want to have a second and third room number choice in your mind before leaving the menu board. Room 307 was to the right...
... and to the next immediate right. Fortunately it was empty, so we parked and got out. That little menu board at the top left has the photo of the room so you know you have the right one, and, in Japanese, it said that it was the massage and karaoke room. When Yui translated that, everyone was excited... massage and karaoke?! Score!
There is one parking space per room, which is why we filled my car up to the brim with people, rather than taking multiple cars. Since anonymity is incredibly important, there are license plate concealers for you to lean against your car. I made sure to cover up my car's butt. Can you imagine the rumors that might be started about me when seven women pile out of my car and go up to the room?!
But I think my American university magnets might give me away. Whoops! Each parking space has it's own steep, private stairs up to the second floor, where the rooms are.
At the top of the stairs, this is what you see to the right...
... and to the left. I assume the frosted, wheeled dividers are for people to hide behind so they cannot be recognized. I could be wrong, but that's my best guess and Yui didn't really have an answer, either.
And here is the door to our room, which was just to the right as you got to the top of the stairs. Above the door, not pictured was a blinking white light... that was to tell us which room was ours.
Remember: Once you shut the door, it locks you in, so all seven of us had to get in to the vestibule and take our shoes off before entering the room itself. There are two pairs of slippers provided by the hotel. We did not use them. The vestibule is pictured below, with the front door being the one with the green lock, and the bathroom was straight ahead. I am taking the photo from the room itself. The slippers were hung on the wall adjacent to the front door.
And here is what the room looks like when you walk in, albeit a little used. I took this shot after we had gotten done exploring it.
There is our massage chair, which everyone tried to varying degrees of success. The remote control was in Japanese.
Here is what the bed looked like when we first walked in. Just like the picture promised. The room was in various shades of 1980's and 1990's pinks and light yellows.
That white box at the head of the bed controls the lights and various other things. It glows in the dark and you can choose what color it glows. We liked this purplish color.
With the glowing box were two complimentary condoms. Yes, I took one as a souvenir.
Past the large television was a door way that led to a shower/jacuzzi tub room. The tub alone would be worth the price of admission.
A fellow spouse, let's call her Betty, modeled the tub so you could appreciate how big it is. Complete with a television... just in case your partner wasn't entertaining enough for you, I suppose. In front of the tub, to the left of where this picture was taken from, was a traditional Japanese shower. I am not sure of the hose was long enough to spray down the jacuzzi tub.
Once we ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the tub/shower room, it was time to check out the other amenities. There was what looked like three fridges in the room. This one, under the TV, had various beverages available for purchase, such as beer. Bottled water was free. You just take the item you want out and it automatically gets charged to your room. More on that in a moment. A couple of the ladies pulled out a non-alcoholic beer to see how it all worked.
These two "fridges" below were near the front door to the room. The top one was an empty fridge for you to put your own goodies in (after all, you might be locked in there for two days straight) and, the one below was a vending machine for adult toys... like stockings. And other things. The most expensive item was a gift box for 2,200 yen, which is about $22.
Under the glass coffee table (complete with ashtray and lighter, I might add... the room did smell faintly like smoke) was a booklet to help you figure out the room. While most of it was in Japanese, there were some helpful pages in English. These first three were not some of those, but it is nice to know you can rent fantasy costumes, use your frequent shopper points for fun things, and order room service. Yui said that many love hotels have a door that looks like a doggie door to the outside of the room, where hotel employees put your food and then signal to you that it is there. That way you do not have to see anyone. This room did not feature a doggie door, so we are not sure what the protocol would have been.
|Costumes you can rent - I doubt they have one in my size.|
|Fun things to spend your pints, er, points, on|
|The two-page room service menu.|
|The remote control directions were in English. Yay!|
And, unlike American hotels where every On Demand movie you watch is another expense on your bill, this love hotel had a wide range of movies, all included in our room price. We could watch Indian Jones and the Last Crusade. Or Fast and Furious. Or Japanese "sexual education shows" (known in America as porn). We opted for Japanese sexual education shows because we had heard that the good stuff is pixelated and blurred out. We want to see if it was true.
So, with Yui's help, we navigated the movie selection menu. Here are some helpful hints:
See the characters below that look like "paint" or "pant?" That is how "adult movies" is spelled in Japanese.
Next on the menu are four choices. Yui translated them as, from top to bottom, "New" (meaning if you are a frequent shopper, you may not have seen these titles yet), "Beautiful Girls," "Wives"(which, as a wife, I am offended I can't be considered a beautiful girl) and "Technique." We chose technique. We figured that if we were going to watch sexual educational shows, we might as well learn something to take home.
Once you choose your genre, then you get in to the individual shows. They were all in Japanese, so we picked a random number - 8 - and picked the eighth movie down.
And this is how the show started:
A guy showed up eventually, and then clothes came off. And, this may be TMI for some of you, so quickly scroll down past the rest of this paragraph... yep, the genitals were pixelated and fuzzed out. But the anus was clear as day. Interesting. Apparently it is against Japanese law to show genitals, but all other orifices are OK. Yui was surprised that American "sexual education" videos showed everything... almost as surprised as we were that Japan's are fuzzed out. Shoot, what we saw could have been on late night Cinemax. And "techniques" means anything other than conservative sexual acts. Unfortunately, there wasn't much education on actual techniques to go home with. No take aways. Except for the free condom, of course.
OK... if you were scrolling ahead, you can stop scrolling now! Below is the symbol for normal American movies, like Indiana Jones:
OK, so our Japanese-American cultural exchange time was done and it was time to pay. Inside the room, near the front door, is a kiosk on the wall.
There are instructions in English in the same book that had the costume rental and room service menus, toward the back.
To see your room total at any time, select the button I am pointing at. Our room cost, plus the non-alcoholic beer be bought came to 5,000 yen, or $50.
We inserted our money, heard the front door click unlocked, hurried to put on our shoes and then headed downstairs to the car. The ladies made sure the license plate concealer was removed so I didn't back over it, and then we were off... back to base. But, we were definitely pleased to see that, in English, we were invited to come back again:
Something tells me that the place might be booked on Valentine's Day! I call dibs on the karaoke massage room!