Love hotels

Where to spend a few stolen moments

Love hotels

Japan’s chronic lack of any real privacy – and the thinness of its rice-paper walls – has helped create a thriving tradition of ‘love hotels’. These short-stay establishments (usually rented in two-hour blocks) are ubiquitous, with entire sections of the capital’s neighbourhoods devoted to them. And while slightly risqué, the use of such places has much in common with sex in general in Japan – not talked about openly, but widely indulged. Love hotels offer such a quintessentially Japanese experience that any couple travelling to Tokyo should try one out, if only for the afternoon.

The system for using a love hotel varies from place to place, but the basics are simple enough. Open around the clock, they offer rates for different blocks of time. Overnight rates are relatively cheap compared to other hotels (so they can be used as emergency accommodation), but most will not admit overnight guests until after 11pm at the earliest, so as to maximise profit from the day trade.
On entering a hotel, you are typically faced with pictures of each room with their prices listed beneath – the cheaper is for a short ‘rest’, the higher for an overnight stay. Only the illuminated rooms are unoccupied. Push the button on the room of your choice, then go to the front desk to collect the key. In cheaper love hotels, all rooms may be the same, and you simply go to the service window (you are usually unable to see the clerk and vice versa) and pay for the required time. Some hotels are fully automatic, with machines printing out room numbers so that guests can avoid the potential embarrassment of interacting with another human. Go to your room, lock the door, and the rest is up to you.
As with any hotel, the more you pay, the more you’re likely to get. Prices for a two-hour visit range from around ¥3,500 for a room with a bed, TV, bathroom and nothing more, to ¥15,000-plus for a room with its own swimming pool, swings or bondage paraphernalia. All love hotels have immaculate bathrooms, some with jacuzzi or sauna, since the Japanese like to wash before jumping in the sack. When you leave, pay the person at the desk; in automatic hotels, simply feed your money into the talking machine by the door.

The highest concentrations of love hotels in Tokyo are to be found in the Kabuki-cho district in Shinjuku, Dogenzaka in Shibuya and by the railway tracks near Ikebukuro station, although there are clusters in many other areas too. You’ll even find a sprinkling in swankier neighbourhoods, such as Ebisu.

Time Out Tokyo Guide (6th edition published in 2010)

Photo by Mai Michitsuji
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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