Sunday, February 19, 2012

Souma and Sendai Part 2: The Love Hotel

Previously on Jimbo's Japan!

    After we left Mayumi's grandparents' house in Souma, Fukushima, we got back on the road and crossed over into Miyagi Prefecture just as night had fallen completely.  We didn't have a hotel reservation (or really any plan whatsoever) and I didn't really appreciate the stupidity of the situation at the time.

A panoramic shot of Sendai.
    Sendai is a big city and I didn't really grasp just how big it was until I was right in the middle of it at 10:00pm, sleepy and craving a shower.  Keep in mind, neither of us had ever been to Sendai and as I mentioned earlier, we had no hotel reservations and just barely the slightest hint of knowing what the heck we were doing.  Luckily, Mayumi's cell phone had internet access and while I continued to get more and more lost as the city grew larger with every turn, she frantically searched the web on her tiny, slow phone for an acceptable "love hotel".  I felt like Jack Bauer, racing across town to defuse a bomb, while my partner picks up intel on our suspected terrorist.  Anyway, we knew we wanted to stay at a love hotel because:

A) You don't need reservations.
B) They are way cheaper than normal hotels.
C) They are totally crazy.

    She found suitable lodging in the form of a charming place called "Bonita", which is Spanish for "pretty".  (Apparently, I learned something in middle school after all.)  After many wrong turns, guesswork, and lots of cursing on my part, she finally said those words I had longed to hear; 「サインが見えてきた!」 ("I can see the sign!") I was ecstatic with the prospect of finally being able to get some rest after a long day of driving.  I had just enough time to see the sign for about half a second before I noticed that I was on an on-ramp for the highway, which didn't have another exit for ten miles. 

Some statistical data about Sendai, in Japanese.

    Twenty miles and many obscenities later, we got to the hotel entrance, which was small and, aside from the huge neon sign fifty feet up the building, discreet. There was no parking "lot", but rather a single garage door that opened up to reveal a complex room with a round platform in the middle that can rotate and place your car in a secret location for the duration of your stay.  I will admit, it creeped me out very much to think of using a service necessitated by adulterers and the like, trying to conceal the identities of their automobiles from snooping spouses, but it was still cool nonetheless.  I felt like Batman returning to Wayne Manor.

    After hearing our car descend into the depths of another dimension, we entered the hotel proper, only to find a very tiny entryway with a touch screen menu next to an elevator.  No staff of any kind were in sight.  Now, there was a bell you could ring if you needed some special assistance in the form of a human being, but I could tell this whole complex was designed with discretion in mind.  If the old wifey came snooping around asking the staff if they saw "Mr. So-and-so" they could honestly reply that they saw no such person.  Like I said, creepy, but rather ingenious in a way.  It was perfect for someone like me who hates talking to people, especially right out of road rage mode. 

Taxis lined up in front of Sendai Station, waiting for customers.

    We approached the fancy touch screen menu system which displayed all the rooms and highlighted which ones were available.  The prices were listed right on the screen along with all the amenities that came along with each room.  I was beginning to get excited looking at all the neat high-tech stuff around and was having trouble selecting a room.  Mayumi had to pee, so she made the decision fairly easily.  She picked the most expensive room on the menu, the suite, which was still only about $120.00.  I figured I can only go to a love hotel for the first time once, so it might as well be a suite, right?  The machine shot out a room key, and we were soon riding the elevator up to our home for the evening.

Exhausted after a long, fun, and frustrating day.
    Words can't really describe how quickly my bad mood changed to good upon entering the room, but I'll give it shot: FAST! It was like stepping into the apartment of my dreams.  But you don't have to take my word for it!
This picture shows most of the cool stuff in the room.  Big TV, projector, massage chair, big fluffy bed, mood lighting/music control panel by the bed, bamboo wall thingy.  It was all very posh. 
This is another view of the room.  You can see the big screen for the projector which can also be seen on the other side, from the bathroom.

The room service menu was both robust and fairly priced.

Even the prices in the mini-bar/fridge thingy were the same as other vending machines.  If you want a drink, just hold down the button for three seconds, the little door pops open, and the item is automatically charged to your room.

We had neither the time nor energy for karaoke or video games, but the options were there nonetheless.
A full service bathroom with a Japanese style shower and all sorts of great soaps and lotions.

The jacuzzi tub big enough for two. ;)
This door inside the bathroom led to...
...this tiny sauna!
The view of Sendai from our room.
Some other views the next morning.

    Staying at this love hotel in Sendai was definitely one of the more memorable experiences from Japan that I have.  We stayed in another one in Osaka two years later that had a New York City theme, which consisted of a very large image of an apple on the ceiling and white brick walls.  Meh.  At least it was cheap.

    Join me next time with the continuation of the Souma\Sendai saga, where I'll take you on a tour of Sendai's beautiful Matsushima Bay!



  1. I loved finally seeing the pictures of the infamous love hotel you have told me wonders about. What a cool room! The views you had were incredible and the room itself was high tech and well kept. I want to try a suit myself sometime.

  2. It was definitely worth every penny because even after the arduous task of finding the place, my troubles just melted away.

  3. Oh man, that room service menu was awesome! No price gouging...that place looked awesome.

  4. The prices for food and drinks inside the room is what surprised me the most. Everything was pretty much conbini prices.