Once a land of inscrutable mystery, Japan is no longer especially exotic to Westerners. Who hasn’t sampled sushi and saké? Or fallen under the spell of manga, Nintendo, or at least one of those cool Miyazaki animé films?
But there is one Japanese cultural treasure the West has yet to import--an institution that still retains an aura of glittering allure and forbidden pleasure. I’m talking, of course, about the love hotel. Last time I looked, there were plenty of sushi bars and Sony TV’s in my neighborhood, but not a single one of these establishments, where a couple can rent a fancifully-decorated room for a few hours for unbridled sensual indulgence. Which is too bad, because I firmly believe the world would be a happier—and lustier--place with more of these grown-up playgrounds available to us all.
In a country where housing is expensive, the walls paper thin, and many adult children live with their parents until they marry, it’s hard to find a time and a place for no-holds-barred, thrash-and-scream sex. Enter the love hotel, which truly fills an aching need in Japanese culture. Researchers estimate that one half of all sexual encounters in Japan take place in a love hotel. I usually take questionnaire surveys about sex with a grain of salt, but there’s no doubt the business is flourishing.
Now, there’s nothing especially Japanese about couples sneaking off somewhere to do it—fields, forests, the storage room at the office, even plain old hotels or no-tell motels the world over. A similar kind of rent-by-the-hour hotel can be found in other East Asian countries. Japanese love hotels are a class apart, however, not surprising in a country that has perfected the art of packaging with style.
Curious? But your schedule won’t allow a quick trip to Japan for an amorous encounter in a room decorated with large Hello Kitty dolls in S&M gear? Then come join me for the next best thing: Love Hotel Madness, a game where everyone’s a winner!
First, of course, you have to pick your game pieces. Will you be the married couple, desperate to get away from grandma and the kids on a Sunday afternoon? Two college students who lodge in dorms where your mates see and hear everything? Or maybe an ambitious career woman who satisfies her carnal itch with an after-hours fling with the new boy-toy underling? Remember, though, couples only—singletons and threesomes can’t play!
Next you need to find your love hotel. The best hunting ground is near the train tracks, along the highway, or in the entertainment districts of cities. In Tokyo, Shibuya’s “Love Hotel Hill” has perhaps the most concentrated selection of love hotels in the country. Will it be “Hotel Rich Inn”? Or “Hotel Monaco”? How about “New Seeds”? (Don’t forget the birth control!) Or “Blue Roses”? Pick a card and proceed.
Once you choose, step through the frosted glass door or the discreet hanging curtain and you’ll find yourself in the lobby. There is no check-in clerk, merely a wall of computer screens, each advertising a particular room, with price and amenities. The lit-up screens indicate unoccupied rooms, and you can shop for the theme of your choice. For the purposes of Love Hotel Madness, roll the dice and find the room with that number. Tap the button on the screen for “rest” (one to three hours) or “stay” (the all-night option) and follow the blinking lights to the door of your room ,which has been unlocked automatically.
Although we’ve all heard about the laugh-out-loud humorous theme rooms, more common these days is a well-appointed love den that resembles a baroque Western hotel, although creative touches may be included like a cave bath or a black-light ocean mural. One reason for the decline of all-out kitsch is that women now have more say in the particulars of rendezvous locales. In fact, the word “love hotel” is seldom used by the Japanese anymore. They prefer softer, euphemistic names like couples’ hotel, fashion hotel or boutique hotel. Another blow to humor and fun was the 1985 change to the Law Regulating Businesses Affecting Public Morals. That sorry moment in legislative history banished mirrors on the ceilings and rotating beds and restricted exuberant architectural expression. Thus the Cinderella castles and Moorish palaces I remember so well from my first stay in Japan became unremarkable, anonymous facades, and many owners reregistered their establishments as “business hotels” to avoid fines.
:However, bright spots do remain in the love hotel landscape. If you’re lucky enough to have rolled for the Hotel Adonis in Osaka, you might find yourself in the Hello Kitty S& M room, the bed equipped with manacles and a cute Hello Kitty quilt. Osaka’s Hotel Loire is a classic—here you can rent a train car to act out subway sex fantasies, the Olympic room with Ionic columns and faux marble floors, or the Pirate room, with a bed right on deck and a view of an approaching ship flying the skull-and-crossbones.
When you’re done admiring your love nest, you might like to slip into the hot tub overlooking the city to relax the muscles for the gymnastics ahead. Lovers interested in fueling up can order a room service meal of curry or Italian spaghetti. Other appetites might be better served by a vibrator—just 5000 yen--or schoolgirl’s uniform.
One final preparation: a bit of fiddling with the fancy console on the headboard of your bed. Here you can adjust the room temperature or set the mood with music, the soothing sound of waves or a train conductor’s announcements, perfect for sex-in-the-train fantasies.
But enough scene-setting, it’s time to move on to the climax of Love Hotel Madness. You are about to embark on the ultimate Japanese experience—a quick trip to the yume no kuni, the Land of Dreams. In a country where context rules everything, from the pronoun you use to describe yourself to the angle of your bow, the love hotel is the one place where sensual indulgence is allowed and, if you’re in a dungeon room, strictly required by your Master’s orders.
I don’t have to elaborate here. After all, Love Hotel Madness is all about privacy and discretion. Besides I know Lusties and their fans have very steamy imaginations, but if you’d like some fresh ideas, you might check out the love hotel scenes in chapter eight of my novel, Amorous Woman. So close your eyes and pick your favorite section—ah, yes, I like that one, too—and let me know when everyone’s happy and you’re all wiped up and ready to go.
Ahem, excuse me, sorry to intrude, but if you don’t want to pay a surcharge, it’s best to check-out now. Paying for your pleasure might involve tucking your cash in a container that goes speeding to the clerk through a pneumatic tube. Other hotels ask you pay with a credit card via computer. Some will actually lock you in until payment is received! A few hotels still use the old-fashioned method in which you shove your cash through a curtain to a human being, usually an old lady in kimono who was obviously chosen for the job because she’s too blind to identify you to nosy private detectives.
In any case you will eventually find yourself back in the real world, blinking at the grim, fully-clothed people bustling about on the street around you. Yes, perhaps it was all just a dream. But what’s this in your hand? A coupon informing you that if you “rest” four times at Hotel New Seeds, your fifth romp between the sheets is free. Plus you’ve already earned one stamp. See, I told you, in Love Hotel Madness, everyone’s a winner.
But the games continue! The master of erotic joy and fun, Jeremy Edwards, has cooked up an amusing way for you to win your own trip to Japan for a few hours, in other words a copy of my novel Amorous Woman. Love hotels, hot springs, rope tricks, orgies—the book seethes with more sex than Hotel Loire on a Sunday. Here’s Jeremy with the rules for this contest.
It could have happened to anyone. I ordered my copy of Amorous Woman in the same shipment as a Mad Libs book; and, understandably, I got the two items mixed up in my haste to plunge into a juicy erotic novel.
The result—as you will have predicted if you have a scientific turn of mind—is a madliberated version of Donna’s masterpiece. Here’s a passage chosen at random (through hours of discussion between me and Donna as to what would make the best random passage from the love hotel chapter):
"Yes, Miss Evans," he'd sigh as I [VERB (PAST TENSE)] him. Thoroughly converted to the path of [NOUN]-[GERUND] [NOUN], he'd [VERB] and [VERB] me with his [BODY PART] under my [ADJECTIVE] [NOUN], until his [BODY PART] was as [ADJECTIVE] as a [COMESTIBLE (ADJECTIVE + NOUN)].
In our version of the game, we ask you to fill in the blanks with the most absurd and hilarious (but grammatically appropriate) words you can think of. Do not try to reconstruct Donna’s missing words, or supply other literarily plausible items. It’s silliness we want—Donna will unveil the authentic, erotic version at the end. And one lucky player will win a copy of Amorous Woman (or was it a Mad Libs book?).
Please upload your entries in the comments (which can also, of course, be used for more conventional comments). Here’s a deliberately dull example, just to illustrate the mechanics:
Jeremy Edwards said...
"Yes, Miss Evans," he'd sigh as I avoided him. Thoroughly converted to the path of mind-broadening travel, he'd see and hear me with his foot under my blue blanket, until his shoulder was as deep as a hot brandy.
Donna George Storey has taught English in Japan and Japanese in the US. Her first novel, Amorous Woman, is a semi-autobiographical tale of an American woman’s love affair with Japan. You can buy it at Amazon in the US and the UK). or her very amorous Web site www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com