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Mysteries of the Love Motel Revealed

Date Posted: 2001-02-09

Ok, we’ve all seen them; castle- and boat-shaped buildings, lighted driveways with neon signs shouting, “Mint House,” “Angel,” “Cleopatra.” I admit, I’m curious. While doing research for Japan, I never knew these places existed; there wasn’t a chapter on “Love Motels” in any of my guidebooks. After living here for a time, I understand that the Love Motel is not simpley a place for people to spend some quiet time together. It’s a bit of a necessity here. The extended family is a common thing in Japan and in Okinawa especially. Because of their devotion to family, it’s not uncommon to have a household consisting of Mom, Dad, grandparent(s) and children. With the size of the houses here, I can definitely understand the need for some private time!

A friend of mine told me about a Love Motel tour that she and a group of ladies were going to be taking. Of course, never having been to one and being very curious, I wanted to go along. Although our guide blew us off, we decided to go anyway, without the assistance of a Japanese-speaking person, since everyone was anxious for this little adventure. Because of the popularity of the Mint House with Americans, we decided to start there.

Having very little knowledge of the Japanese language, I was a bit intimidated by the idea of going to a Love Motel. Getting advice from friends is not the same as actually going there, so I was glad to be surrounded by a number of others who have not had the experience and were willing to be embarrassed along with me. We started out by picking our room, the largest room with a swimming pool. I thought, this is the way to live! We then proceeded to the room in a long caravan that I’m sure did not seem very discreet at all. As we were excited to uncover the magic of this lovely place, we were greeted by an employee who was shouting, “No, no! Only two to a room!” Fortunately, the leader of our group had called ahead to let the management know that we were coming and once the manager was summoned, we were allowed in to have a llok at the room.

Our room was actually a two-story suite. The entrance and huge sitting room were very bright and airy and shouted “V.I.P.” as we opened the door. Going upstairs, we were surprised to see the size of the pool and I have to admit, seeing a private pool gave the feeling of luxury and first-class living. Very nice! There were the usual amenities you would find in a regular hotel room– a huge bed, common toiletries, slippers, robes and a well stocked mini bar. There were also a few “special” items that only a Love Motel would have. For instance, there was a product catalog for those fun “love items” one would usually have delivered in brown paper wrapping. Also, a nice variety of condoms (every shape, color, size) that I have never seen before. And, I’ll never forget the “guest book” that was filled with exciting details of many nights of love! It was a magazine-sized book with spaces for filling out personal information on each guest, along with cartoon drawings of the varied “positions of love” and space for writing comments on their experiences. Most were written in Japanese, but it certainly looked like they had a great time. (It’s probably a good thing that I couldn’t read it!)

After that, we were on to our next room. We paid for a full hour and it was worth it. This was the second largest room and offered a huge bed, weightlifting and rowing machines, a pinball machine (not plugged in), karaoke TV and a lovely spa tub (not filled, but big enough to fit 20 people). While I was looking around, some of the ladies had figured out how to turn on the karaoke tv and were soon serenading the room with music. Others were taking polaroid shots of each other from the camera that came with the room (¥500 each). And others were having a nice time chatting in the lounge on the sofa made for 12. When our time was up, the leader picked up the phone and told the operator we were ready to leave. The operator told us how much to pay ($65) and then the money was sent in the tube to the front desk. The door was then unlocked for us and we quickly went to our separate cars.

That was it for the evening. I didn’t know the visit would be so easy. Don’t be afraid to try it once or twice. It’s part of the culture here and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. People don’t go just for special occasions. They go all year around; some for the “points” earned and turned in for prizes, others just for the pleasure of being alone with someone special. There are a number of Love Motels to choose from. With names like “Queen Elizabeth,” “Joy Garden,” “UFO,” and “Peach Pie,” you’re sure to find a place to suit your every mood (are you feeling frisky? romantic? mysterious?). Just go and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The attendants are very helpful and discreet. Sometimes you may not even see an employee as most transactions are made through a slit in the door or a vacuum tube. For more information, you can get a list of Love Motels with detailed information from your local REACH Center (in the Schilling Center on Kadena AB). Also, ask around. Your friends and neighbors will likely give you the name of their favorite place. And, if you see my car parked, pretend you don’t know me. Enjoy!

Thanks to The Sumo Wives of VMGR 152. You sure know how to show a girl a good time!

Just a few helpful notes...

1. Check out the Love Motels you're interested in during daylight hours if you will be going to one in the evening. That way, you'll get a feel for where you need to go and how to park. There are quite a few varieties and themes, so knowing where you're going will help to ease your anxiety if you haven't been to that particular one before.
2. Prices will vary at each place. There are prices for 1 hour, 2 hours and overnight stays as well as discount prices for certain times of day. There are also discount coupons and "points" for free gifts.
3. Once you open the door to your room, it will close and lock behind you, so make sure that you have everything with you when you go in.
4. Please note that these rooms are for couples only. Parties will not be allowed.
5. Video cameras at the entrance of each room are for security reasons.
6. When choosing a room with a pool or spa tub, keep in mind that the pools are not drained after each use. The spa tubs are usually emptied and cleaned after each guest.
7. The mini-bars have sensors in them. The reception desk will add up any charges and send a receipt to you for payment when you check out.

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