Love Hotel

Kicking around the city of Tokyo and checking out various neighborhoods was my favorite way to spend Sunday afternoons. One sunny Sunday, I decided to explore my own neighborhood instead, and headed over to Higashi Ikebukuro, just across the tracks of the Yamanote Line from where I lived. I was on my way to the Sunshine 60 Building, which at that time was the tallest skyscraper in Asia, and along the way, I passed a Baskin & Robbins ice cream parlor. It was a warm day, and the temptation was just too great to resist, so I ordered myself a scoop of butter pecan and went back outside to enjoy it in the sunshine.

I’d also heard that this particular part of town was known for a stretch of love hotels, and I soon discovered that from the plaza where I sat eating my ice cream cone, I was looking right at it. Even if you’ve never been to one, the term “love hotel,” or rabu hoteru as the Japanese call them, is self-explanatory. The rooms in these establishments rent by the hour and often feature fantasy-theme décor. Love hotels have names like Dreamland and Yes Yes, and the parking garages are discreetly hidden from view by drive through curtains. One can well imagine a love hotel as the site of many an infidelity, but in Japan, where single adults often still live with their parents, it’s the perfect place to consummate young love.

People-watching has always been one of my favorite pastimes, and Tokyo is an excellent venue for it. On this particular day, I spotted an attractive young Japanese couple standing on the sidewalk outside one of the aforementioned love hotels. They seemed to be deliberating or negotiating over what I could only guess was whether or not to go in and get a room. This went on for several minutes, with the young man tugging gently at the young lady, doing his best to persuade her. The young lady, all the while, was coyly resisting. Finally, the young man won her over and they quickly ducked into the entrance. For the next few seconds, with my eyes still fixed on the spot where they’d stood, I sat smiling at the scene I’d just witnessed, when all of a sudden, out they came again. The young man shook his head, threw up his hands, and turned on his heel, with the young lady pleading sheepishly after him. After a few steps, he put his arm lovingly around her shoulder, she buried her face in his jacket, and off they went.