Love Hotels: The Hidden Fantasy Rooms of Japan


Love Hotels: The Hidden Fantasy Rooms of Japan

3.0 out of 5 stars Wrong about Love Hotels

I am of two minds on this book. On one hand, it is full of great fantasy-land photos representing a slice of Japan that I love; the bizarre, the outrageous, the unashamed blending of cute/sexy/violent and anything else that can be thrown into the mix. On the other hand, this book completely misrepresents what love hotels are, the purpose they serve in Japanese society, and pretty much every other aspect of this unique aspect of Japanese life. Anyone reading this book, then going to a love hotel in Japan, would be sorely disappointed.

I lived in Japan for many years, and during that time I went to many, many love hotels. The vast majority are nothing like these photographs, and the themed rooms are actually quite rare. If you notice, most of these photographs are from the same couple of establishments, Hotel Adonis, Hotel Loire and Hotel Snowman (not the actual name of the hotel, which is really Gang Snowman), because they are the few out of the thousands of hotels that offer these kinds of rooms. Most love hotels are…somewhat boring in décor. They are nice rooms, with lots of services such as free movies, karaoke and a big bathtub, which are usually cheaper to stay in than regular hotels. Yes, there are some outrageous love hotels, like the ones in this book, and those are the kind worth seeking out because they are so much fun, but they are hardly the norm.

The introduction to this book, by Natsuo Kirino, author of the book Out, is depressing and also misrepresentative of love hotels in Japan. She would have you believe that they are some sort of seedy place where men live out their dark fantasies while cheating on their wives and abusing women in general. In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. Oh yes, there are those who use them as “cheating hotels”, but all of my Japanese friends and co-workers, teachers and chefs, young and old, used love hotels without embarrassment. Why? Well, for one thing because Japanese houses are small, with thin walls and families often sleeping in the same room together. Privacy is a valuable commodity. For another reason, they are just fun. It is nice to get out of the house, out of the routine, and go with your partner and indulge in a love hotel for the night. People would chat at work at which hotels they liked, in the same way people swapped good restaurants. My wife and I stayed at a great love hotel for our anniversary, complete with private roof-top pool, huge bed and massive bath. It was fantastic.

On another note, in the introduction Kirino calls Japan “a land without religion” and blames that for the moral failing of the country. Japan is indeed a “land without Christianity”, but that is not the same thing as being “without religion”. I was quite shocked at how poorly she represented her native country, and with such spite and venom she discussed the Japanese people. I dearly hope no one takes her opinion as indicative of the country and its populace.

So, in other words, great photos and a nice look at the more bizarre and fringe love hotels, but no one should take this as representative of the industry or the country as a whole. Without Kirino’s introduction, this would have been a much better book, buts its inclusion drags it down to a sad and misinformed level.


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