Perhaps I've mentioned it before, but in the interest of our upcoming departure, we're trying to soak up all things Japanese. Last night we had a date night - Wyatt had his date with our local sitter and Jeff & I went to dinner. After our long and lingering, but still so yummy, dinner at Zen (where I learned that my husband taught an ironing seminar to the younger ROTC cadets while he was in college - isn't that funny?), we decided that we should give Love Motel Alley a whirl.
We know a few people who have checked out the local love motels and we've heard pretty positive reviews. The stories we heard before we got here and also from our sponsors when we arrived told of elaborately decorated, themed rooms. So we thought that would be pretty fun(ny) and started driving up and down the roads in the Alley to pick the "best" one. We narrowed it down to Hawaii, Hotel California (despite the creepy name, it was shaped like a pirate ship = fun!), Hotel Santa Fe, Hotel Island and Silkroad. We discovered that you can drive through the parking lots and get a slightly better feel for the hotel but that none of them had pictures of the rooms. After four or five trips and driving through parking lots, etc., we decided Silkroad looked like it was most likely to be themed on the inside (due to the Great Wall, pyramids and general Chinese-lookingness exhibited outside), it looked newish and we were getting tired.
And then we realized we didn't exactly know how this whole thing worked because each room had its own garage but no visible method of paying. We figured that must be in the room, so we pulled in, Jeff pushed a button with some kanji on it and the garage curtain came down. At the same time, we heard a door click open. So we open the door from the back of the garage and there's a white u-turn painted on the ground pointing us to the now open door to our room. We climb up the steep, u-turning steps and there are two sets of sandals at the top of the stairs. That's nice, and I'll respect their wishes that I not wear my shoes in the room, but no thanks on the overused, underwashed vinyl slippers. So we kick off our shoes and open the door to the room knowing that we're in for some sort of unique and hopefully hilarious decorations.
It was unique, alright! But only if you've never stayed in a somewhat sketchy dive motel which, courtesy of some budget-friendly family trips, I've had the joy of sampling. Let's see if I can paint you an accurate picture since we forgot our camera: medium-sized room (though large by Japanese standards) with a few too many smoky and gold-marbled mirrors on the doors to the shower room and toilet room, a built-in desk with a tv on top, a karaoke microphone hooked into the sound system, and a bed that looks just yucky with a raggedy, thin rust-colored bedspread and two lumpy looking pillows. We surveyed the surroundings for approximately 10.4 seconds (making a point to touch nothing) before deciding that everyone who'd raved about love motels is crazy or, at the very least, has supremely different standards than we do, or knows where the "good" ones are. So we promptly turned back out of the room (Jeff had locked the door behind him when we came in so when I was in boltnow! stage, I kind of momentarily freaked out that we were locked in while frantically pulling on the handle), darted down the stairs, exited to the outside, closed the room door behind us and re-entered the garage.
I pushed the little button to lift the garage curtain and voila! Nothing. I pressed it again. Nothing. I confirmed with Jeff that he had, indeed, pressed that same little button and I pressed again. Or maybe another twenty times in rapid succession, but still, it didn't work. Jeff decided to go into the room again and look for a place to pay but discovered the room door has locked behind us. Congratulations! We're officially locked in a love motel garage. That is not exactly the experience we hoped for.
So I tell Jeff that we need to use the phone and call the desk (this was, incidentally the only English: "9 Office" in the whole place). He picked it up and it's rapidly apparent that whoever answers "9 Office" only does so in Japanese. And we only speak English. And it's really hard to do the pointy talky over the phone. So Jeff started with "where do we pay?" (since we'd never put any money anywhere, he felt like doing so would raise the curtain and let us go on our merry way. I felt like our 30 seconds of time in the Silkroad establishment did not warrant any yen changing hands so was saying, "no, we just want out!" - very helpful). Needless to say, he didn't make any progress so he handed the phone to me, since I'm so fluent in Japanese and all.
I get on the phone and say, "gomen nasai, we want out! Out, please?" I'm greeted with silence. And then finally someone else gets on the phone and I try "we no use room? out? pay?" to which she says, "cancel?" and I say "hai! hai! cancel!" and then the line goes dead. So I pressed the button again and nothing. Jeff has, at this point, decided he can lift the curtain so I can drive under it and then he'll just crawl out. But just then, he decided to try the room again and crosses paths with a maid. Apparently our locking the door behind us indicated that it needed cleaned. Let me tell you, I've never been so glad to see a real live person! But she saw us, spewed some Japanese and started to dart away. I'm sure that encountering the "clients" isn't supposed to happen. But we both start talking immediately and I threw the two-arm "x" at her indicating that we "no use the room" and she finally understood what we wanted and scurried back to her office. We heard her get on the phone and then, as if by some great cosmic miracle, we heard a buzz and discovered the button worked. It would be fair to say that I've never been so glad to get in the Carina and drive away into the night.
I felt dirty all the way home just for having been there - where's the hand sanitizer when you really need it? - and also a little like we might have really broken some great love motel rules but mostly I just felt so. freaking. glad. to be going home. So to all the people who sold the love motels as a fun! unique! clever! and to the couple who said, "oh, we went all the time when we lived there!": I might be the one who was temporarily locked in a garage, but you are the stupid Americans in my book.