Love Hotels, Soaplands, and Hostess Bars (and of course their ruins / haikyo) are somewhat unique to Japan, growing out of a culture with an unusual approach to sexuality and relationships.
Love Hotels cater to young couples with no other place to frolic, offering cheap rates for ‘Rests’ of a few hours. Soaplands are for the single man, interested in being soaped down by a young naked girl in a sleazy version of an onsen bath-house. Hostess Bars are for busy salarymen with no time to forge real relationships, happy to settle for paid-for compliments from attentive young girls working on commission.
|The ruined Heian Wedding Hall in Ibaraki prefecture was a far cry from the Akeno Gekijo Strip Club that preceded it. Here was a wholly wholesome building, built for the profession and binding of love’s vows, in ruins.
|The Akeno Gekijo haikyo is something of an oddity in Japan, as the only actual strip club I’ve seen here. Of course there are similar venues; hostess bars, soaplands, love hotels, but they each cater to a slightly different crowd.
|The Pearl Love Hotel Haikyo in Tochigi is a wreck in camouflage, deeply nested underneath a blanket of scraggy brown vines. Rooms lie in embers, grown through with ferns; once-bohemian beds and chandeliers lie fallen and despoiled with the nests of wildlife.
|The Yui Grand Love Hotel is an abandonment with a more sordid past than usual, if urban legend is to be believed. According to the story, a gang of bosozoku riders kidnapped a schoolgirl into one of its rooms, where they abused and killed her.
|The Queen Chateau Soapland Haikyo in Mito, Ibaraki, is at once a grand but squalid folly. A bath-based brothel rising 5 fairy-tale stories into the sky, cornered with towers and capped with bright red tile, it represents an era gone mad with indulgence, audacity, and hopefulness.
|The Royal Hotel haikyo in Kanagawa is the grand-daddy of all love hotels, streaking 7 empty stories up into the big blue sky, a giant vermillion flag on the banks of Sagamiko Lake calling out to all and sundry in a mega-watt alto- ‘Need some discreet time alone with your loved one? Come on down!’
|The Akasaka Love Hotel Haikyo in Higashi-Yamato, Tokyo, clearly suffered for lack of passing traffic. Inside, its gaudy rooms still sing of forbidden pleasures, the walls plastered with bright helios, lurking cheetahs, and naked Bathshebas.