At first, we couldn’t figure out why our taxi driver was giggling. My friend and I had just arrived to Kyoto from Hiroshima by bullet train. It was a whirlwind 10-day introductory trip to Japan, and we were bouncing around by high-speed train, sopping up all the salty ramen broth we could find, and ticking heritage sites off of our bucket list. By the time we arrived in Kyoto, we were exhausted and cranky. It was also prime leaf peeping season, and every single hotel in Kyoto was sold out, forcing us to stay five miles out of town in a place we found online called the Fine Garden Hotel.
The Fine Garden was booked as an “adults-only hotel.” Initially, we thought this was odd, but we figured maybe there were hotels that just didn’t want kids to stay there. We were also desperate for a place to stay, so we decided to book the room regardless. Now, however, we were regretting our decision, and our cab driver’s giggling was getting on our nerves.
We arrived at an industrial, desolate area of the city called the Minami ward. It was dark, save for a brilliantly lit building that looked like an events hall that hosts gaudy Russian weddings. Our cab driver turned around, a hand over his mouth to stifle his laughter. He pointed to the door of the Fine Garden, looked at me and my companion, and drew a heart in the air with his two pointer fingers. We realized immediately that we were staying at a Love Hotel.