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  xSaturday, June 07, 2003

japanese link of the day


In Japan, many people live in small quarters with paper-thin walls (sometimes quite literally made of paper). Crowded living conditions and expensive real estate have combined to generate the phenomenon of love hotels. These rent-by-the-hour love nests are used by trysting lovers, college students and even married couples who need a bit of privacy. There are reportedly 20,000 of them across Japan.

Here's an informative essay on love hotels, complete with photos. I particularly dig the one decked out in kawaii Hello Kitty decor; for the more adventurous, there's one with a Hello Kitty S&M room (you heard me right). The article also claims that Osaka, not Tokyo, is truly the love hotel capital of Japan.

Sure, Zen gardens, sushi and the Sony Walkman are great, but the greatest Japanese invention of all time has to be the love hotel. In the concrete wasteland of the modern Japanese city, the love hotel stands out as a refreshingly off-the-wall escape from conformity, a monument to hedonism, and a libertine's paradise. It's also a godsend when you're tired of taking your girlfriend back to your gaijin apartment with its half-inch plywood walls and nosy neighbours. Nearly every foreigner in Japan has a love hotel story to tell and number of Japanese people who were conceived in one must be enormous.

The love hotel is changing though, and the news isn't all good. They've gone upscale, lost some of their sleazy associations and the decors have become more tasteful but the bad news is that in an effort to clean up their image, they got rid of a lot of the exciting theme rooms. Although they still exist, its getting harder and harder to find places with bumper cars and disco lights.

Love hotels have even changed their name. Japanese people never say “rabu hoteru” anymore and although the abbreviation “rabu-ho” is still used, the hotels themselves always refer to themselves as ‘fashion hotels’ (in Kansai) and ‘couples hotels’ or ‘boutique hotels’ (in Kanto).

The image of love hotels has changed so much that, according to Mitsuru Sugaoka, the friendly clerk from Gang Snowman who gave us a tour, a lot of times it’s the woman who invites the man to the hotel. Fashion hotels are getting written up in magazines like Kansai Weekly, and Date Pia, respectable publications that cater to young office workers, especially women. Visit a Kinokuniya and you will see a selection of “Fashion Hotel” and “Boutique Hotel” guidebooks obviously designed to appeal to the sensibilities of the Japanese female. The highly popular “Love Hotel Lovers” website (http://www2g.biglobe.ne.jp/~miyu/lhl/ in Japanese only) is a homepage that “women can access from their office without having to be embarrassed”. Even in the men’s magazines about love hotels, hotel listings are categorized by whether they will appeal to OL’s, female college students or high school girls. We were repeatedly told that people had stopped pulling their hats down over their head or staring at the ground when they walked into the lobby.

There's even a travel guide to several prominent love hotels in Japan, including one that's a replica of the liner Queen Elizabeth, and some further links to explore.

(via Geisha Asobi blog; cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)





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