Japan for the Uninvited

Japanese culture from a bemused foreign perspective

Love hotels

Love hotelsJapan’s love hotels, run for amorous couples who want to pay by the hour, are an absolute boon in a country where privacy is rare. In a typical apartment building, rooms might not be divided by anything thicker than cardboard, and walls often seem designed to amplify sound rather than dampen it. Traditionally, Japanese families live and sleep in the same room, making intimate liaisons doubly difficult.

Although establishments for the same purposes exist in the West, they have a completely different image. Japan’s love hotels, also known as fashion or boutique hotels, are used by couples of all ages and backgrounds, and are most impressive for staying the socially-acceptable side of seedy.


The first accommodation provided explicitly for nookie emerged after WWII. Many of these ‘tsurekomi yado’ (“bring-along inns”) were spare rooms rented out by families needing extra money. Their primary customers were prostitutes until 1958, when new decency laws forced the sex trade underground, and the rooms were aimed at couples instead. Since then, entrepreneurship and innovation has crept through the industry, attracting increasingly sophisticated clientele and creating the gaudy love hotels we see today.

The Love Hotel Experience

Whichever Japanese city you?re in, finding a love hotel isn’t difficult. Urban skylines are filled with neon, faux-Western names (‘Hotel California’, ‘Belles Des Belles’) and occasionally incredible exteriors, including hotels designed to look like ships or castles.

Love hotel designers and managers take great efforts to ensure the privacy and anonymity of their guests. Upon entering the lobby, you browse a bank of pictures on the wall (lit means vacant, dark means currently occupied), push a button to select your love nest, and push another to choose whether you want a ‘rest’ (a few hours) or a ‘stay’ (overnight). Check-in is handled almost entirely without human contact until you collect your key from a pair of disembodied hands at the counter. Increasingly, payment is also handled automatically, removing any potential embarrassment from the experience.

The rooms themselves vary greatly. Some are merely functional, the complimentary condoms being the only sign you’re not staying in a business hotel. However, many offer theme rooms, ranging from Parisian boudoirs to tropical beach huts to S&M dungeons. Rooms might include TV, karaoke, a Jacuzzi, or even a vibrating bed or a full-length mirror on the ceiling. Increasingly, hotels are focusing on the preferences of women, becoming increasingly clean, cute and friendly. As a result, their respectability is also increasing – visiting a love hotel doesn’t seem to be a source of shame, though maybe it depends who you go with.

Leaving the hotel is even more low-key than the entrance. Separate entrances and exits are sometimes provided for couple who wish to leave separately – if an acquaintance spotted you emerging from a love hotel on someone’s arm, it’d be very difficult to persuade them nothing saucy had been going on.

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2 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. For more info on love hotels, and tips for visiting them, check out the new site:

  2. Sbs

    Why not buy from me http://www.lovehoteljapan.com

    and make mony while allowing the world to make love at one of the Japnese love hotels?

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