Love Hotels and Orientalism


hello kitty love hotel

Donald Richie wrote a review in the Japan Times about a book by Sarah Chaplin on love hotels.

This is well-trodden ground, with photography monographs by Misty Keasler also recently released, recording the fantasical interiors and strange practices of the Japanese. An academic critique might attack such works as pandering to readers with an “orientalist” take on Japan, taking Europe and the West as the norm and playing up the “exotic” in Japan.

Without dredging up the whole Said debate again, I will simply say that differences are important to note, and I think it is possible to celebrate the fantastically creative spaces that are love hotels without relegating the Japanese as some “other”.

I think Misty Keasly does this with her pictures. They are devoid of people, and she allows the spaces to speak for themselves. In the emptiness they have a silent beauty that transcends their function.  Along the way she incorporates diary entries left by users of the love hotels. This is all part of post-war Japan’s wonderfully rich urban history, and I am happier to see it recorded than I am worried about Americans misunderstanding Japan.


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