Bleak Scenes

Abandoned places, lesser-known attractions, and assorted oddities

Hotel Saturday Afternoon

土曜の午后プリンセスワールド

The Hotel Saturday Afternoon Princess World is an abandoned love hotel in a rural part of Chiba Prefecture. The area seems to have experienced something of a boom in love hotel construction in decades gone by, followed by an inevitable bust. The ruins of the Hotel Gaia are less than a kilometre away as the crow flies, and at least two other nearby hotels had already been demolished by the time I made my visit. A number of other establishments remain in business, but given Japan's interminable recession and unfavourable demographics I expect more of them to become ruins in the years to come. Hopefully there will still be enough amorous couples around to allow at least a few to survive.

A prominent sign on the corner of the nearest major road still directs potential customers towards the Hotel Saturday Afternoon Princess World. Presumably to save space, the sign refers to it as simply the Hotel Saturday Afternoon, and from now on I will do the same.

The hotel is a prominent bright yellow, two storey structure overlooking a rice paddy. It stands next to what would be a quiet country road, were it not for the gravel trucks from a nearby quarry that frequently drive along it. A sign near the entrance advertised three hour "rests" for 3,800 yen, or overnight stays for 6,800 yen.

The hotel consisted of two wings, laid out in the shape of a slightly crooked letter L. The wings were separated at the rear, but they were connected by a corridor at the front of the upper storey. A separate two-storey building stood in the corner behind where the wings met, which housed a single "special room".

Both wings of the hotel had carports on the ground floor and guest rooms above, one of the more popular layouts for rural love hotels. One room was above the office at the front of the hotel, so it lacked its own carport, as did the special room. The parking spaces for these rooms were under awnings on the far side of the hotel's courtyard, which would have been less than ideal for couples who preferred to avoid being seen. There were twelve rooms in total - four in the front wing, seven in the rear wing, and the special room.

Japanese love hot baths, so a love hotel needs an ample supply of hot water. A shed next to the rear wing of the hotel housed two large gas fired boilers.

The Saturday Afternoon's carports were typical of what I've seen at other love hotels. They were equipped with curtains to hide the guest's cars for privacy.

A small sign above the entrance showed the room's name and prices, and indicated whether it was currently occupied, being cleaned, or vacant. The guest rooms were all named after places, with such exotic names as "Istanbul", "Acapulco", "Kyoto", and "South Pole". A door at the rear of the carport led to a rear corridor, where there was a private staircase for each guest room. A telephone next to the door provided a direct line to the office in case the guests wanted to inquire about anything before entering the room.

The place had been abandoned long enough for small trees to obstruct the entrances to a few of the carports.

Each wing of the Hotel Saturday Afternoon had a rear corridor on the ground floor behind the carports, which would have provided staff access to the guest rooms. The wings of the hotel were separated at the rear, so staff using this corridor would have had to step outside and walk around the special room to get from one wing to the other. The guests would have had to cross the corridor to get to the stairs to their rooms, so half-height curtains separated the corridors into sections, lest the guests see each other's faces.

Unusually, the hotel also had a corridor on the upper storey, running in front of the guest rooms. The guests would have had no reason to use it, so I can only guess that it was intended to allow the cleaning staff to more easily move between rooms. There was a store room in the angle between the two wings of the hotel, which was now completely empty.

The hotel's office was on the ground floor at the front of the building. There was a system of pneumatic tubes linking the office to each of the guest rooms. These are quite popular at love hotels to allow the guests to pay their bills without the need for direct human interaction.

There were a few rooms behind the office where the manager may have lived. I saw a few 2007 calendars on the wall, which were open to January and February, suggesting that the hotel had been abandoned for just under nine years when I made my visit. This provides an unsettling example of how quickly a building can decay once the roof ceases to be watertight.

The guest rooms of the Hotel Saturday Afternoon were unremarkable. The décor was plain by love hotel standards, and I didn't notice anything particularly interesting.

I photographed the rooms in the rear wing of the hotel first. The windows of these rooms opened onto a hillside covered by a dense bamboo thicket, and it was a dim, overcast day, so even with the shutters open ambient light photography would have required long exposures. I therefore decided to use my LED panels. The roof over this part of the hotel still kept the rain out, and the rooms were in decent condition.

A graffiti artist who signed his work "廃墟 walker_kukuL" (Haikyo walker_kukuL) had decorated some of the walls. Graffiti ranges from juvenile rubbish of no artistic value, to accomplished works of art. Most graffiti is sadly at the juvenile rubbish end of the scale, but these works at least demonstrated a modicum of effort and skill. I've seen far inferior stuff hanging in art galleries. The artist has something of a presence on the Internet if anyone is interested.

The rooms in the front wing were reasonably bright, so I photographed them by ambient light. The overcast sky provided the sort of soft, even illumination that I think is ideal for photographing the interiors of buildings. The roof here was in much worse condition, and the rooms had suffered heavily from water damage. There's a certain beauty in decay, and I thought the scene was rather photogenic.

A short passage between the wings of the hotel led to the "special room". It had a sitting room on the ground floor, and a spiral staircase leading to a bedroom upstairs. Rather strangely, the bedroom contained two single beds rather than a double. The bathroom had a large spa bath, and a glass ceiling which was partially open to the sky.

The special room cost 5,000 yen for a rest or 7,500 yen to stay overnight, a modest premium over a regular room for much better accommodation - apart from the single beds, that is.