Some highlights of the week so far include:
An actual pleasant businessman on Tuesdays. He speaks a fair amount of English, is a more than adequate conversationalist (meaning he actually asks questions…for many students ‘conversation practice’ involves me asking them a laundry list of questions and them answering in terse succession…not very exciting). He also expressed the desire to actually spend time with his family, which sets him apart from most businessmen and also endeared him to me.
One of my private lesson businessmen on Tuesdays has been trying to work up the courage to invite me to something with him for months. He finally managed it this week; he invited me jogging with him. I laughed it off by telling him that I’m no good at jogging (true) and that I’d likely have to ride my bike to keep up with him (also probably true). A narrow escape, but I figure I’m safe for at least another month or two.
Yesterday there was quite a little mess with one of my elementary classes. Yuta, a kid who is usually not an ideal student (doesn’t pay attention, is sometimes disruptive, is always behind the other kids) was particularly proud to show me his sticker sheet. I admired it, and then he turned to show the other students, but they grabbed it and were tossing it around, he tried to grab it back, and then it was crunched. I had to grab the Japanese teacher to come in and give the kids a talking to. Yuta cried for the entire class. Even though he’s usually kind of bad, I felt sorry for him. His spirit was crushed with the sticker sheet.
Today in one of my better elementary classes, the kids finished their work early, as they nearly always do, so we played Uno. Then something pretty cool happened which I decided to let go on: Tsubasa starting singing, and eventually scatting, while Mayuko and Sora accompanied with various “percussion” and occasionally singing. Most of the “words” were just nonsense noises, but they fell into something of a melody and beat with each other, which evolved every 30 seconds/one minute or so into something else (though there was a solid 3 minute streak on variation of the Super Mario Brothers theme). It was actually a pretty impressive performance, and given the insane schedules, studying, and test taking kids are help to in Japan, I wasn’t going to kill their ten minutes of creative release.
Let me start off by saying that the term “love hotel” in my mind, conjures up something super trashy, outside of Vegas, 30 bucks for the night or 20 for the hour, semen stains on the sheets, stale cigarette smell, dark, dank, wholly unsavory. I’m not even sure if there are hotels like this outside of Vegas.
Love Hotels in Japan, I think, were started for the purpose of having sex. Most likely for the purpose of having sex without disturbing one’s neighbors (walls made of paper, remember), especially since sometimes one’s neighbors are still one’s parents or grandparents. But….you can check any two people into a room…regardless of gender, whether you’re married, whether you’re vastly different ages (as long as you’re both over 20), so it seemed like a good option for finding a cheap but nice room. There cannot be more than two people in one love hotel room, however, and once you enter the room you are actually locked in for the amount of time you pay for.
Payment in a love hotel can be done in segments (paying for 30 minutes, or an hour, or several hours) or for the night. You pick the room you want to go into (the hotel I stayed at, you walked down to a parking garage which listed picture of all the rooms and their prices, with nearby staircases for each room), and you press the button for it. Then the correct stairway will unlock so you can go up to your room (and your room only, at least at this hotel). The rooms I stayed in both nights were about $100 a night, the first was a little nicer, and more up to date (this is the one pictured). I had heard from friends that love hotels are generally cheaper, around $60-70 per night, but I was in Kyoto, exhausted, and unable to speak Japanese, so I settled for the first one I managed to find.
You usually can’t check into to a love hotel for the night until 10pm; you would need to pay hourly before that. When you check in for the night, you are in until 11am or 12pm the next day. I believe you cannot leave early. Once again…you are literally locked into your room.
The room itself was quite nice. It has a cushy, queen size, Western style bed (something I certainly consider to be a luxury in Japan), a large spacious bedroom (once again, EVERYTHING in this country in cramped, so having a large bedroom just felt nice), a spacious bathroom with a whirlpool tub large enough for two people and a shower, a coffee maker, small fridge, room service available, electric kettle (for tea), complimentary tea and coffee, a large TV, complimentary bathrobes, four sets of bath towels total, complimentary shampoos, conditioners, face washes, lotions, and hair brushes (his and hers).
You never speak to an actual person, really. When you enter your room, a person opens a tiny window near the door (though you can’t see their face, unless the bend over to speak to you), they slide a money tray into your room, where you place your money for the room, they make appropriate change, and then leave you alone.
My companion and I ha quite a bit of difficulty leaving the hotel in the mornings. It seems that you need to call the front desk at the appropriate check out time, and tell them you’re ready to leave, and then they unlock the door. They do not unlock the door automatically at your assigned…leaving time. I believe this is due to their policy of charging about $10 for every thirty minutes you go over (and yes, 5 minutes is rounded up to 30). So they trick you into paying it if you don’t know what you’re doing, which I didn’t. We assumed the door would unlock. We waited politely for about 5 minutes, then called the front desk. Then after much language barrier confusion ensued, we were finally released about ten minutes later, after giving them the extra 1,000 yen through the window. Sigh.
All in all, now that I understand love hotels, I would stay in one again, if they were one of the more cost effective options. The room was nice, quite, and fairly luxurious for the price. I dislike having to check in so late and leave so late; it means missing morning activities and carrying your bags around all day. Overall though, I’d recommend it.