I Fucked a Stranger in a Japanese Love Hotel
I was trying to explain to him why the only phrase I knew in French besides, “Oui, oui,” was “Will you please take off your shirt for me darling?”
He seemed perplexed.
“There was this song that was huge in Australia in 2009 called ‘Parlez-Vous Français’ by this local band, Art Vs. Science. That phrase was the chorus.”
“So it was a French band? And a Science band?” he asked with a thick accent.
It wasn’t working.
I was on a date in the heart of Tokyo with a French boy called Giovanni, although it felt more like a date with my Google Translate app. His English was pretty good; however, he claimed “Australian” was a whole new language. Fair enough. His Japanese was great, but mine was trash, so meeting that was off the cards. We swapped between languages to try and understand each other, but the conversation was moving historically slowly.
We’d met at a bar in Shinjuku’s Golden Gai district the night before, and after famously striking out with every person at the bar, he asked me for my number. I was a last resort.
After throwing back roughly 11 shots of sake each and not making a single stride in getting to know each other, he asked if I was staying in a dorm room at a hostel. I replied yes.
“Ah, we can’t fuck in them, can we?” he said completely straight-faced.
I choked on my sake. Where did that come from? I was initially taken aback, and acknowledged that if that was someone I was on a date with in Australia, I would have left. But I was on a mission to collect travel stories. And I’d also been dumped prior to the holiday.
“Uhh. No, we can’t. Where are you staying tonight?”
“I have nowhere to stay… I accidentally forgot to book a hostel for my last night in Tokyo!”
It was the biggest load of shit I’d ever heard, but I didn’t care.
“What about a love hotel?” he continued.
A love hotel is a short-stay style of hotel that guests can rent by hour blocks, or for an overnight stay. They’re particularly popular in major cities in Japan, however, they do also operate around the world.
Fuck it, I thought to myself. Why not follow this near-stranger around the streets of Tokyo at 4am to find somewhere to bang?
We settled our bill and headed to the Love Hotel Hill in Shinjuku, unsure of what we would encounter. We walked into the first venue. It was seriously discreet: low lighting, a black screen in front of the receptionist and a giant touch screen where you could click the room you wanted. Gio instantly recognised the Kanji characters for “sold out”. No luck.
Sheepishly, we giggled and kept walking, when suddenly we realised we were in the thick of it. As far as the eye could see were love hotels lining the streets: Destiny Hotel, Alluring, Paradise Mansion and other cheesy names were in neon lights. There were hundreds of hotels.
We soon realised there were also hundreds of people in the street – couples linked arm in arm frantically rushing from hotel to hotel, as more and more had “NO VACANCIES” appearing on their front doors. It was madness.
I copped an elbow to the ribs from a young couple who realised there was one room left at Strawberry Hill and were hell-bent on fucking in it. The overplayed stereotype of Japanese people being polite, docile and courteous was thrown out the window, which I was actually loving.
Gio and I started off awkward and meek in our quest for a love hotel, but now were determined. We joined the sprint between each hotel, pushing other potential lovers out of the way and rushing to hit the button on the last available room. We split up, figured we could cover more ground and began wildly throwing money at receptionists as bribes. Suddenly Gio screamed to me that he’d found one.
I ran across to Cleopatra’s Palace to meet him in the dark and private reception area. We got our key and headed to the elevator. We were out of breath, like we’d just run a marathon. But a marathon we’d won. The satisfaction of finding the room was overwhelming.
I’d completely forgotten we were doing it all for a quick root.
We walked into the room which was red velvet from roof to floor. Luscious red silk lined the bed and a giant beer vending machine glared from the corner. Classic Japan. The shower was bigger than my entire house and it had a giant hot tub. An AUX cord at the head of the bed could play your own music from every roof speaker in the room – creating an intensely loud surround sound. I’m guessing the walls were soundproof.
In the morning, we made the hungover walk of shame out of the hotel room (I drank eight beers from the vending machine). When we emerged back onto the street – so did all of the couples who we’d been racing the night before. They looked dishevelled and exhausted, but satisfied. Just like us.
There was a strange sense of comradery between each of the walk of shame-rs. Boots in hand, I nodded a distant goodbye to Gio as he headed to the airport.
I think. Who even knows if he was flying out that day. Who even cares.
Cover by Sinopix/Rex