Shag in the Japanese Love Hotels

an experience as related by Terbo Ted of Shag.

My girlfriend Lizard
and I were in Japan for two weeks this spring as part of a performance tour.
Near the end of our trip we wanted to visit Tokyo, on our own, for a couple of nights.
Our Japanese friends insisted that we stay in the Love Hotels there.
The other option being the cubicle hotels, those teeny one person compartments, which did seem like an interesting experience, but after bonking my head on many doorways the entire trip I was concerned about squishing my 6'1" body into what I imagined to be like a five foot long coffin. Besides, the cubicles go for ¥4,000 a night each (about $40 US) and the love hotels cost anywhere from ¥5,000 to ¥15,000 a night ($50 to $150 a night) per couple. So off to the love hotels.

Our first night in Tokyo, a Japanese friend walked us through the red light area in Shinjuku District, and directed us to the Love Hotel Zone. It was kind of nerve rackingly embarrassing for me, here we are walking around and our friend expects me and my girlfriend to have sex. Anyway, being a Gaijiin (foreigner) on my fist visit there, I don't read Kanji or Katakana, the Japanese written languages, let alone speak Japanese, so it was nice having a guide. The love hotels are always clumped together, filling up a couple of blocks or so, walking distance from the main drags, in an out of the way area. They have big bright pink signs out front in Japanese, and small discreet prices that say (in English) Rest or Stay. Rest meaning a quickie and Stay meaning overnight. After fending off an unusually grotesque transvestite hooker that kept saying "sucky sucky" and another prostitute, Lizard and I chose what appeared to be the nicest love hotel in the area and bid our guide farewell.

We walk in through automated doors and a labrynth of automatic sliding paper walls.

Privacy is the key.

Unaware of the procedure we go bumbling up to the counter and try to sort out a price. The way you're supposed to do it is elegantly simple. Photos of all the differently themed rooms cover a wall, with the prices and selection buttons. The available rooms are backlit and the occupied rooms are darkened. You press a button, the light for your room goes off, you waltz up to the counter, pay your money, and are handed a room number. No sign in, no key, no one is supposed to see your face, but apparently they only rent to hetero couples, and they have to like the way you look (gay couples: one of you has to dress in drag, or you have to go with two females and two males and then switch rooms). You then get in a two person elevator which takes you directly to your floor, no other stops. Your room light is blinking, you walk over, open the unlocked door, enter, take off you shoes (the Japanese way) and lock yourselves in.

We spent two nights in two different love hotels. The first one cost us ¥12,000 ($120) and was built recently. Our room that first night had this tacky sort of nuevo-riche generic theme, with hardwood floors, marble columns, halogen lighting, sand-blasted glass and so on. The room had a large tiled bath, with an open shower and enormous bath tub, complete with underwater rainbow color cycling mood lights, complimentary bubble bath and jacuzzi jets. The toilet was one of the automated spray wash/air dry contraptions, I couldn't even figure out how to flush the thing because all of the controls are in Japanese. The bed room was large enough for a big futon, a couch, coffee table, dresser and large panoramic tv. Japanese and American soft-core porn was already playing on the tube, with all of the genitals pixelated out, the standard there. We never watch porn at home so that was kind of embarrassing and fascinating too, but not exactly sexy for us. We turned it off after awhile. Having heard stories about one-way mirrored glass used to spy on you, we gave the room a James Bond once-over and found nothing unordinary. After a couple of great baths and so on (up to your imagination) we passed out.

Both of the rooms we stayed in while we were in Tokyo had many things in common, and even though every room in every hotel has a different theme, there are apparent standards. First off, its like a hundred degrees inside or something like that, very humid from all the bathing, and you want to take off your clothes immediately, hey, thats what you're supposed to do anyway. Really good noise/sound isolation, we never heard any of the other rooms. Spotlessly clean, the Japanese way (very sexy). Robes, slippers, towels, a hairdryer, etc. are there to use, and large amounts of the most stylish skin care products, brushes, razors, toothbrushes and so on are there, unopened, for you to take, they're like promtional items or something. At the bed's headboard is this mixing board contraption, with faders and controls for all the lights, tv, full-on karaoke, air conditioning/heating, and music with about 100 different recordings, unfortunately most of them in this sort of Japan pop Michael Bolton smooth love style, but some cool sound effects ones and American hip hop. Again, all the controls are in Japanese but we had great fun pushing and sliding everything, eventually getting the hang of it. There are these automated booze dispenser machines with those small bottles they have on the airplanes, but we always skipped those, we were scared of high prices and usually showed up drunk anyway (alcohol is the drug of choice in Japan).

The groovy analag mixing board in one of our rented rooms.

Personal space is at an absolute premium in Tokyo, so this is how they deal with the sex urge. Imagine living with your parents in a small apartment for way too long. In the love hotel areas the amounts of people walking around are dramatically less than in the other areas, and you often see a businessman in a suit and tie discretely sneaking off for a quickie with his secretary or whatever, and young teenage lovers holding hands, absolutely beaming with joy, THEY KNOW WHERE THEY'RE GOING!

Generally I would say
that the Japanese are
very sexy
and fairly open
about sex,
not quite as
as where I live,
San Francisco,
but open all the less,
and generally
very hetero.
Their culture has
a long standing
fertility vibe that was supposedly only dampened by the American occupation after the war.

Lizard outside the Shibuya Train Station in Tokyo
a couple of hundred yards from the love hotels

just say "Sumimasen, Love Hotels wa doko deska"
(excuse me, where are the love hotels)
best idea is to ask a male, and don't give him the
idea your flirting with him!

Our second night was in the Shibuya District, a large youth-oriented area, and we found many more love hotels there. We picked this ultra-modern circular metal looking building that night, and made it through the entry process very quickly, we knew what was up this time. We picked a room with an Aquatic/Fish theme for about ¥7,000 ($70). Unfortunately, this one had actually been built in the 70s and was a little worn from use on the inside, a couple of cigarette burns here and there, and I don't even want to know what the walls would say if they could talk. You get what you pay for, this one was much smaller on the inside, the tub was only big enough for one of us really, the showers were leaky and so on. The electric tea pot was broken. The mixing board at the headboard was missing a lever, partially disfunctional, but the bed did have a bass speaker mounted right in the middle of it, boom, boom, wow, right in your pelvis, we found a Prince greatest hits loop on the mixer, heard "Erotic City" on that one, of course...

Anyway, we found
all of the places
we went in Japan
to be absoultely amazing
and we will definitely return.

For another account of the Japanese Love Hotels, published in the UK and told by Taiji Okada,
click here

back to @tlas

Information on the Neoteric96 Festival, our reason for going to Japan

Shag home page

And another account of the Shag in Japan story