I can’t remember when or how I first heard about Tokyo Love Hotels. It could have been the title of a film I never sat still long enough to watch. I could be remembering an imaginary sexy doppelganger of Mr. Ramone’s Chelsea Horror Hotel. Likely though, this knowledge came from the internet. Before the term social networking entered the public lexicon, the internet seemed to be made entirely of cats, Japan, and stuff my parents didn’t want me looking at. I was fully aware that a love hotel was a rent-by-the-hour place for illicit activities, much like the crusty hourly motel a few miles down the highway with unpainted fiberboard doors, but the exotic glamour attached meant that love hotels must somehow be a different concept. Plus, they’re called hotels. With an H. As a kid whose total experience with big cities was four trips to NYC and a few dance lessons in Philadelphia, Europe seemed like a fairytale. Japan was as mythological as Atlantis, and I didn’t fully believe in Los Angeles until I put my shoes in the Pacific Ocean at 19 and my nose informed me that it definitely smelled different than the Atlantic. Many things have since turned out to have a lot less magic in real life than they had in my head, but I still entered the search for a Love Hotel thinking the reality might outdo my imagination.
I wanted scenes from the Kama Sutra depicted in glitter paint on black velvet decorating the walls. Satin-y heart shaped beds, plastic boobs with red light bulbs for nipples providing illumination for the room. That clear plexiglass bowl bathtub. Drawers which open to reveal a buffet of prophylactics and cabinets stocked with toys of suspect origin. Basically, I was looking for a kinky bordello designed by the world’s leading architect of tacky and decorated with the help of an expert on questionable taste.
So here we are in Shibuya, a few blocks from the Tobacco and Salt museum. We’re in a section called Love Hotel Hill. It is a hill, which bodes well for the rest of its moniker’s accuracy. Six inch stilettos may have been a poor choice of footwear. Most of the buildings are bars and restaurants. There are a few mildly tacky looking hotels, with glowing pictures of the rooms displayed by the entrances. Nothing really looks debaucherous enough. The rooms have a tame chain motel aesthetic and the nondescript exteriors aren’t helping anything to seem more exciting. Not a single four foot neon vulva in sight. We’re making mental notes of places that seem like they might be interesting and promptly losing our ability to find them again on the winding streets. As a last resort we ask a cigarette and chewing gum salesmen on the street for a good love hotel. You know…for sex. The language barrier and his apathy combine, giving us an arm waved towards the corner on our right and the statement “Nice hotel.” I’m so cold that my brain is going torpid and I think the recommendation of a tobacco salesman who obviously doesn’t give a flying fuck is going to be a good one. As we size up the edifice I stop and give Matt’s iPhone my best up-to-something face for a picture. Matt likes pictures and the internet likes pictures.
The lobby of the Zero is staffed by a person. I was under the impression that it would be automated for privacy, not that I’m really concerned about being stealth. There is a glossy black stripe of plexiglass above the counter blocking the check-in woman’s face which presumably blocks ours as well. Matt pushes the equivalent of 50 USD through the window. A key is pushed out in return. We are informed we have one hundred and eighty minutes in room 403. Last year I read an article saying that eleven minutes is the average ideal length of intercourse. I wonder what would happen if you made the same penis ejaculate sixteen times in under three hours. Friction burns. There is a tiny little elevator which barely fits the two of us and my purse. The door to the room opens to reveal a giant bathroom. The sink area has two doors on the right side which open into the toilet room and the shower/bath room. So far, aside from the lack of hallway, it looks like every moderately priced hotel I’ve seen in Japan. Behind door number three—on the left this time—is a creepy little rectangular room with a bed, couch, and TV. But it’s the wrong kind of creepy. I take my clothes off because I am on a mission to have sex in one of these hotels, we might not find a better one, and I’m still holding out hope that those cabinets hold something entertaining.
Squeak-thud noises come through the wall, for a moment I think it’s the sounds of other people having sex, but it turns out to just be bad techno. Matt seems grossed out by the room. I’m getting the wrong kind of vibe. It feels sterile but unclean. I start to giggle, partly out of unease and partly out of defeat. Matt’s penis is in its usual congenially turgid state, unaffected by everything. The resoluteness of his cock strikes me as funny, and I start laughing hysterically into Matt’s shoulder. We prove that is possible for two people to have biologically successful intercourse while having a conversation about how thoroughly turned off they are. He glares at the comforter as he graffitis it with semen, engaged in a testicular demonstration of contempt.
When we get into the elevator it goes up instead of down. We stop on the fifth floor and come face to face with another couple. The woman is wearing giant, nearly opaque sunglasses (indoors, at 9pm) and has arranged her hair to cover most of her face. The man is looking everywhere he can that isn’t us or his companion. Matt sing-songs, “That’s not your wife.” The elevator doors close. I’m already in an odd mood and this is just hilarious. It feels like we’re descending, and then the doors open on the couple standing on the fifth floor again. I’m seconds away from falling on the floor, laughing so hard I can’t get a fresh supply of oxygen into my lungs. They look mortified. I try to smile in a way that communicates sympathy or commiseration or something that isn’t “We’ve caught you twice and now I’m laughing at you.” I’m obviously failing, because they gasp and make a run for the stairwell. The rest of the trip to the lobby is uneventful.
While Matt is using his superpowers of patience to get a receipt out of the desk clerk, I notice the couple from upstairs taking turns peering around the corner. A pair of adulterous adults are playing peek-a-boo with me.
(reposted from Fleshbot)
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