Adventures in homophobia - Japanese Edition
Yes, my blogging has been light recently - chalk it up to marking season. And this post isn't even about Canadian politics. It's about my upcoming trip to Japan, and how I sometimes forget how good we gays have it in Canada. I recently had a rather shocking experience involving a hotel booking in Tokyo, which demonstrates that homophobia is alive and well, and running hotel management in some Japanese companies.
Based on the recommendations of Lonely Planet, back on March 8, we booked a 5 night stay at the Sutton Place Hotel Ueno, a business hotel in downtown Tokyo. We booked a room with a double bed, described on the hotel website as suitable for 1-2 people. On the online form, we indicated that 2 males would be sharing the room. So far, so good. We thought we were set for accommodations during one of the busiest travel seasons in Japan (Golden Week, which features 4 national holidays in the span of 7 days).
Two days ago, I received a reconfirmation email from the hotel. In this email, they indicated that the room I had booked was:"not for 2 male guests. Suitable for couples or 2 females only. We recommend you to change it to a twin bed room or 2 single bed rooms. Your cooperation and understanding is sincerely appreciated." By this point, all of the hotel's twin rooms were booked, so we were being asked to book a second room - and to sleep apart while on vacation!
Thinking perhaps that this was the hotel's way of trying to avoid our discomfort, I replied that we were, in fact, a married couple, and used to sharing a bed. The hotel replied with the exact same reply. Apparently married couples, or two "lady travelers" (or two lesbians, as my sister chortled with glee) can share a bed in this hotel, but not two gay men (or two straight men trying to save on accommodations in a rather expensive city).
We booked another hotel room, at a place which explicitly replied to my query that they had no trouble with us sharing a bed. I sent an angry cancellation message to the Sutton Place, indicating my anger both at their no-room-sharing policy and at their appalling customer service, which left us high and dry less than a week before we were scheduled to arrive. The epilogue to this story is that 24 hours after sending the cancellation message, the hotel sent me an email indicating that they would make an exception to their rule because of the poor customer service (although standing by their basic policy). We have decided to stick with the other hotel, which treated us well, rather than spend an awkward 5 nights at a hotel that didn't want us.
The irony of all of this is that Lonely Planet touted the fact that, apart from Thailand, Japan is one of the best places to visit for gay travelers, since there are no laws against homosexuality. Meanwhile, on a trip to Malaysia four years ago, where homosexuality is actually illegal, we had no trouble staying in rooms with only one bed in two separate hotels. Cultural norms, it would seem, are just as powerful as formal laws, at least at some hotel chains.
I would encourage all of my lesbian readers to visit the Sutton Place Ueno, since they seem to have no trouble with two females sharing a bed. I recognize that this is because the hotel managers likely have no conception of independent female sexuality - but I like the idea of this homophobic hotel being made into a covert lesbian love den. Not that I'm feeling vindictive or anything...Recommend this Post