Passion in Japan
Shibuya's Love Hotel Hill can provide that perfect lovemaking nest?
COUPLES looking at reviving their passion should try the rabu-ho (or 'love hotel' in Japanese) at Love Hotel Hill, a cluster of small-scale accommodations in Tokyo's Shibuya, on the left of a slope named Dogenzaka.
Love hotels first appeared in Japan in the 1600s and evolved into their present form in the 1970s. Rates are cheaper than conventional hotels, and come in two packages:
These hotels accept only walk-in customers from 10pm, and rooms offer a staggering selection of themes, like underwater world, prison chamber and Moroccan harem. Some are fitted with waterbeds, transparent bathtubs and ceiling mirrors.
This explains why honeymooning tourists arrive in swarms every year, eager to sample the near-clandestine appeal of the love hotels.
Another attraction lies in the hotels' obsession with discretion. At a couple of places my husband and I went to, the lobby was manned by a mature woman, whose face was blocked by a sliding panel.
At L'Hotel, however, we were greeted by a large wall panel with a photograph of each room, along with the charges.
We picked a room on the ground floor because it came with a jackpot machine. If nothing else excited us, it would at least, offer us some entertainment.
We pressed the button, and heard the click of a door on our left as it swung open, and we found ourselves walking into an ante room, fronted by a payment machine, which prompted us to pay before entering the guestroom. Somehow our credit card could not be read by the machine. We tried again. Again. And again.
Just then, the phone rang. We decided to dash into the guestroom, fearing that we would be kicked out. Two hours ago, we had popped by another rabu-ho, and were politely turned away because "this is only for Japanese".
A female voice on the other end of the phone told us that we had not made our payment. I put on my most genuinely distressed tone and muttered something about my card experiencing some problems. But it is okay, I added, I will pay cash. She expressed sympathy and asked if I had enough. "Um, hai, hai (yes, yes)," I assured her.
Modestly decorated with cosy peach furnishings, the room was only slightly larger than a Housing Board bedroom. Besides the jackpot machine, there was a 29-inch LCD TV with three adult channels, a DVD player, a mini-bar, and a cabinet stocked with everything from lubricants to sex aids.
While amenities were frills-free, the range of complimentary toiletries was comprehensive, and even includeditems such as a face moisturiser and hair gel.
What got us reeling with delight was the king-sized bathroom, which allowed for a super-spacious jacuzzi bath, complete with a one-touch control panel for temperature and light colour. Last but not least, a floor-to-ceiling mirror took up the entire wall opposite the tub.
Needless to say, we did not get anywhere near the jackpot machine.
Mary Lim is a freelance writer.
Note: This article was part of the Natas Travel 2006 Special published in The Straits Times on March 23, 2006. As a reference to the project's main lead, 'Travel is a numbers game', it's original headline in print was: "¥4,500 gets you three hours in an unusual Japanese 'love nest'".
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