Left: “Have a comfortable time” Love Hotel.
Right: I am taking a photo of the electronic photo board of available rooms.
Rost in Transration (Lost in Translation)
Japanese Rove Hoters (Japanese Love Hotels)
In Tokyo, I have to check out Japan’s famous “love hotels”. I have heard as much about them as I have heard about Tokyo’s popular early morning fish market. But, I never wake up early enough to spend the 1.5 or 2 hours to take multiple trains across town to get to the fish market and risk getting my shoes wet in the fish water spilled on the ground. The “love hotels” require no early wake-up call. They are open all day and all night!
I am just a lone gaijin walking from the trendy Shibuya Subway station looking for “love hotel hill” and too embarrassed to ask for directions. Since I speak no Japanese and I know how little English most Japanese can whisper, I don’t want to use hand signs to explain what I am looking for☺ I step out onto the cold Tokyo sidewalk and buy a cream pastry from an outside patisserie shop. (I have heard great things about French pastries in Japan and decide to try. It is excellent.)
With the cream pastry in hand I stand at the corner of the street trying to figure out how to cross the intersection. There are several streets that all come together at the crosswalk and people are walking diagonally to cross the street. I walk up a hill for a long time and then realize that there are only normal looking hotels. I figure I must have walked up the wrong hill and go back down towards the pastry sound and ascend the other hill. Alas, love in neon greets me at the crest.
I am not the only dumb foreigner looking for this modern Japanese invention. I hear a group of American or Canadian tourists walking by me admiring the sights. I bet love hotels have existed for a long time, but the Japanese have really got the high tech stuff incorporated into the one-night stand experience.
The two and three story hotels bear English names of Caribbean or Mediterranean destinations. I walk into the lobby of the first hotel and see a big electronic photo board showing the various rooms and their decorations. The rooms have geographical themes. People tell me that some rooms offer Jacuzzis and ceiling mirrors as well as other high tech perks. Next to the photos are their one-night and three-hour prices. The all night prices are quite reasonable for expensive Tokyo. Maybe I’ll consider a love hotel next time I come back to Tokyo! If the room is available, the photo is alit, otherwise the dark photos signify the rooms are already occupied by busy lovers. Opposite the love room photo board, is the cashiers’ desk. For privacy, some payment areas consist of just a slot for keys and money. There is no window, so the cashiers and customers can not see each other.
Here is where I really needed translation. Since the Japanese have trouble pronouncing the “l” sound, translation sounds a lot more like transration. One of the inns has a big sign on the outside and inside of the hotel saying “We wish you a comfortable experience”.
This must be some transration fumble. Wouldn’t “exciting”, “sexy”, “playful” or “naughty” be more inviting than comfortable? A three-hour sexual fantasy in a “rove hoter” should be more than just comfortable.
Even better is the love hotel advertising 440 TV channels and a VHS video cassette player. (This is all I can understand as it was written in Latin letters.) Ok, I understand why someone might want to watch a couple TV channels, especially the pornographic ones, but who needs 440 if they are meeting with their lover? I think I am missing something.
The next day, I wake up with a fever and I can not get out of bed. I was planning on going to Kyoto. But, I stay in all day. My cousin and his wife leave me to “babysit” their 7 and 5 year olds. Well, I am not the babysitter; the kids are taking care of me. I can’t regulate the heat on the heater because everything is written in Japanese. I can’t even boil water because the stove controls are all in Japanese. The 7 year old turns on the heater and boils water for me. The 5 year old brings me extra pillows. I think I got food poisoning in one of the most hygienic countries in the world. It was that French cream pastry near “love hotel hill”. Well, I definitely didn’t get lucky on my love hotel journey!!
On my second bed ridden day in Japan, I am strong enough to get up and use the computer. This time, I am “babysitting” all three kids: Rafa, the 16 year old, Dima, the 7 year old and Victor, the 5 year old. Rafa is supposed to be reading his Russian literature or history book to prepare for his weekly oral exams at the Russian School at the Russian Embassy. Dima has math homework. Victor is just drawing. I notice after a while that Rafa is laughing and smiling. How can anyone smile while reading a Russian history or literature textbook? Most Russian literature and history is terribly gruesome. I get out of my chair and look to see what is so funny in Rafa’s book.
Aha! He is reading a Japanese comic book inside his Russian textbook. He figured that his sick aunt wouldn’t notice. Though I am a far cry from a Russian disciplinarian or teacher as I also hated studying Russian as a kid, I ask Rafa to put the comic book away and return to his Russian homework.
After two days of staying inside my cousin’s Japanese apartment and speaking Russian all day, I have to get better and experience Japan.