In a country so populous that entire families share the same bedroom and youngsters live with their parents well into their twenties, it must be quite a mammoth challenge to have a good shag in privacy. That’s why love hotels are so successful in Japan. These gaudy sex palaces, where randy couples can go for uninhibited nookie, can be easily spotted in the backstreets and roadsides of Japan, and are a source of fascination and amusement to westerners like me. To cater for this curiosity, Ed Jacob has lovingly written an entire book about the places, and the titillating tome makes for an entertaining read.
In “Love Hotels”, Jacob traces the history of the love hotel from its roots in the discreet backrooms of the tearooms and noodle shops of the Edo and Meiji Eras, before beds and lockable doors had made it to Japan (prior to the tea-rooms, people used to openly rut in parks like wild beasts. Sadly, the pesky white folks put a stop to this charming ancient custom when they arrived in their black ships and disapproved of the al-fresco action); all the way up to the hi-tech Disneyland-influenced pleasure pits of today, with their 50-inch flatscreen TVs, playstations, mind-boggling sex toys, and karaoke machines.
Ed Jacob lets us know the social context, fads and fashions of the times, and he fills us in on the hoteliers’ battles with the law, as well as prevailing Japanese attitudes to sex and romance. And there are plenty of pictures (which makes reading the book on the train difficult, as I discovered!)
One voyeuristic pleasure is the translation of the hotel guestbook comments, with thrilling confessions like “my husband doesn’t know I’m here,” “I love my 60 year old sugar daddy,” and “I’m going to to kill myself.”
Equally entertaining, are the lists of inexplicable and un-sexy love-hotel names, such as “The Hippo Doctor”, “Hello Clown”, “Penguin Town”, “Love Monster’s Room” and “Banana and Donuts”.
Ed clearly has an encyclopedic knowledge of Japanese weirdness, and can now lay claim to the dubious honour of being the English speaking world’s leading authority on love hotels.
The book is so well researched that the guy has either really done his homework, or gets laid more often than Gene Simmons.
We even learn about the poor bastards who have to clean the rooms after the guests leave.
Indeed, the love hotel business is not all fun and games, as we learn from dark news reports of prostitution, adultery, murder and blackmail.
How would you feel if you discovered a rotting corpse under the mattress you’d just made sweet love on?; or if you walked into a video shop, only to discover a DVD on the adult shelf, featuring secretly filmed footage of you shagging somebody in a love hotel? These things have actually happened. Yikes!
Nevertheless, any adventurous couple traveling to Japan should definitely add a trip to a love hotel to their “to do” list.
The most useful part of Ed’s book is the listings and reviews of love hotels, ranging from the romantic to the totally bat-shit bonkers.
Among some of the more demented destinations that I’m keen to investigate (for a laugh, honest!) are a “Hello Kitty S & M”-themed room (?!), and an entire hotel themed around Yakuza-Snowmen (which can surely be erotic for no-one but the criminally insane).
“Love Hotels” is certainly an education, even for the most jaded of Japanophiles. You might, however, need to take a shower after reading it!
You can order the book or read samples at Ed’s site, Quirky Japan.