When Conan was asked “What is best in life?” he answered “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.” – I’m pretty sure if the Mongol general would have asked him “What is worst in life?” Conan would have answered “To marry a Japanese woman, see her taking your paycheck, and to hear the lamentation about setting the AC to a ‘freezing’ 28° C in the middle of summer.”
Please forgive this provocative generalization of an introduction, but whenever I stumble across an abandoned love hotel I can’t help but be reminded of how different Japan is in so many ways to my home country Germany. Especially in the relationship department. What I wrote so far and will write in the lines to come is not an analysis of the Japanese society or even just its love life – I’m just describing what I see and hear as an expat living in Japan, which is quite different from the things one sees and hears as a tourist visiting Japan. After six years in Japan I tend to compare this country to a big amusement park – it’s shiny, it’s tidy, it’s expensive and everybody seems to be nice. But visiting an amusement park and working in an amusement park are two completely different things…
Last time I visited an abandoned love Hotel (*Love Hotel Gion*) I wrote about the love hotel industry in Japan in general – this time I will rant a little bit about relationships in Japan. Back home in Germany, when you talk about your girlfriend or wife, you are usually in the range of being honest to being more positive than it actually is; unless you have a beer with your best buddy, then it might turn into a bitchfest. Not so in Japan! The vast majority of people married to a Japanese woman, no matter if they are foreigners or Japanese, bitch openly about their significant others to everybody – constantly! For every happily married couple I can name two or three where the guy calls his wife “The Dictator” or at least doesn’t feel that it is a waste of time to feed his new-born kid after being pressured into having children… It’s depressing sometimes. (Maybe I should add that I never did any of the above and find Japanese women rather sweet and caring… but I was never married to one.)
While pretty much every woman’s biological clock starts to tick at a certain age that certain age is definitely lower in Japan. The big 3-0 seems to be the current number where cute, open-minded girls turn into little monsters obsessed with marriage – if you meet a woman past 35 you better look for rings right away and get prepared to father a child or two. But that actually is progress in comparison to a derogatory term popular for decades in Japan: Leftover Christmas Cake. Leftover Christmas Cake was a not so flattering way to call an unmarried Japanese woman over the age 25. In Japan Christmas is kind of an additional Valentine’s Day you spend with your significant other eating a beautiful, but extremely overpriced cake – and Leftover Christmas Cake is something nobody wants… Since the ticking deadline is now 30 instead of 25 the term isn’t as popular anymore and you can always see the surprise or even shock on a Japanese person’s face when you mention it.
But even if you get married before the age of 30 it seems like people just follow set behaviors, no matter if they make sense or not; like hardly anybody goes swimming in the ocean after September 1st because according to Japanese definition it’s autumn now – it doesn’t matter that it’s still 32° C outside, you don’t go swimming in autumn since it’s a summer thing to do. And it’s the same with married Japanese women. They quit their jobs, they dress differently, they behave differently. Again: Not all of them, but a lot. A couple of years ago a Japanese friend of mine, a cute girl in her mid 20s, wrote me something along these lines: “I know it’s a horrible thing to say, but I don’t want to work anymore. Maybe I should get married…” – I’m not making this up! In Japan the women have control over the money. No matter how much the husband makes or how high he is on the career ladder: The woman gets the paycheck and the husband gets some pocket money. And if he needs more he has to ask his wife – if he’s lucky enough to have access to a bank account he better remembers when and why he used the ATM, because it’s highly likely that he will have the justify the use of that card. One of the reasons guys married to Japanese women tend to bitch about their wives…
Wives that they sometimes barely know. While arranged marriages are not common in Japan it is not exactly unusual that parents introduce their daughters to suitable candidates – especially when their daughters have passed the devilish age of 30. Traditionally men and women are not platonic friends with each other – and if a couple isn’t working at the same company it’s not really rare that they see each other only once or twice a week, because they are both super busy at work; especially the guys. And that’s another big difference to what I’m used to – unless you are having a long distance relationship you see (and get to know) your significant other on 5, 6, 7 days a week where I come from; way more often than in Japan. With the result that a lot of men (including foreigners) are marrying Japanese women they don’t know nearly as much about as if they would have been in a relationship with a woman in a western country for the same amount of time. On the other hand that fact makes it easier to stay at work till 9, 10 or 11 p.m. every night… Who wants to go home to a wife and kids they barely know…?
For a lot of Japanese men it almost seems to be a hassle to have a relationship after all – the so-called Herbivore Men (草食(系)男子, sōshoku(-kei) danshi) are described as having an “indifferent attitude towards desire of flesh”. Whenever you think you’ve heard it all…
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are many, many, many happy (happy!) marriages in Japan, but when I listen to co-workers and friends hardly anybody seems to be really happy in their marriage – and a lot of them cheat on their wives.
And that finally brings us to the exploration of the Furuichi Love Hotel in Hyogo prefecture – an original find I’ve never seen anywhere else before, including Japanese haikyo blogs! Like the *Love Hotel Gion* the Furuichi Love Hotel was more like a motel. You drove into a garage (this one even had closable doors!) and entered a small apartment from there – on the right side was a Japanese style toilet, on the left side a bathroom, straight ahead the fun room with the king size bed and all the other extras. Like the Love Hotel Gion the Furuichi Love Hotel was in pretty bad shape. Most garages were locked and the dozen rooms were accessible via a two small hallways in abysmal state – some vandals used a pickaxe for some remodeling. They did surprisingly little damage to most of the rooms, so I was able to take photos in three of them. Sadly the light from the hallway wasn’t enough to see anything there, so I had to use my flashlight again to bring some light to those abandoned love caves.
The rest of the area was in a state of destruction, too. Right at the entrance was a small house for the manager of the hotel, the interior covered by some smelly pink powder – most likely somebody emptied a fire extinguisher there. The backyard was turned into a junkyard, but if you are looking for a Japanese style toilet you might find an undamaged one there. Glass shards and pieces of porcelain were all over the place, but what really caught my eyes was a sex toy with a cable remote hanging in one of the trees – Merry XXX-Mas everybody!
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