Love hotels are abundant in Japan. This is largely due to the lack of privacy that is part of daily life in Japan. The walls of some appartements are paper-thin, multi-generational living is quite common and many people still pretend that they don’t have sex before marriage.
This implies that love hotels are by no means only for people who are conducting illicit affairs. A lot of people who visit Japanese love hotels are legitimately together, or even married. Many couples just want to enjoy themselves without having to worry about the children or the neighbours overhearing them.
Nevertheless, Japanese love hotels are all about privacy. The one I visited had screens between parking places and wooden signs to cover the license plate of your car, in case someone you know were to visit the same hotel.
The entrance of the hotel was through the parking garage, to further reduce the chance of anyone seeing you. Everything was very dimly lit, which made taking pictures a bit difficult. I hereby apologize for the quality of the photographs.
Once inside, I was surprised by how nice everything looked. Nothing sleazy about it. In fact, it was nicer than some of the ryokan where we sometimes stayed during travelling. I have heard stories about foreigners using love hotels during their touristic travels when all the other hotels in a city were booked full, as can happen for example during golden week, or autumn leaves season in Kyoto.
Inside there is a waiting area, in case you and your lover are arriving in separate cars. Of course the waiting area is nicely partitioned off, again to ensure privacy. Every waiting cubicle has a letter, so you can text your lover to tell them in which cubicle you are waiting. There is also a small ‘bar’, in reality more like a self-service drinks station. Overall, it’s all very nice, anonymous and welcoming. I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again: the Japanese are masters of customer service.
When you have met up with your lover, it’s time to book a room. There is a screen that shows all the rooms. The ones that are available, are lit up. At the time we were there, which was a Tuesday afternoon around 3 p.m., there were not many rooms left. I was amazed to see so many rooms in use on a weekday afternoon. Don’t these people have jobs or something?
Prices differ per room and also depend on how long you want to stay. There are two possibilities: you can just have a ‘rest’, which according to the hotel’s website is 4 to 5 hours during the day or 2 hours at nighttime, which starts after midnight; or you can have a proper ‘stay’, which is roughly from 9 p.m. until 11 a.m the next day, on weekends. Weekdays have several different plans for a ‘stay’.
Judging from the pictures, the rooms look very nice and seem quite spacious as well. Or is that just the camera angle? Unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to go up to the rooms. I was there with a (girl)friend, who took me to the love hotel in a spur of the moment, crazy impulse to satisfy my curiosity about every aspect of life in Japan. And of course we had a good laugh along the way! But unfortunately my curiosity wasn’t strong enough to make me spend 6500 yen just to have a quick look at one of the rooms.
Once you’ve made your choice, you can input the room number of your choice on a computer screen. There is a an elevator in the corner to take you up. Very sleek, efficient and anonymous.
I made a little video to give you a tour of the lobby of the love hotel. This particular hotel was ‘Hotel Siesta Togo’ near Toyota City (between Toyota City and Nagoya).
If you want to know more about love hotels in Japan and specifically the Nagoya area, I refer you to this interesting article about love hotels in Nagoya’s Magazine. It provides some general background on the love hotel culture in Japan and recommends some love hotels in the Nagoya area.
What a great article!
I stayed in a love hotel with my husband in the 1980s, but it was very simple compared to now. A couple with three little kids we knew used to use love hotels for weekend getaway, leaving the kids to the grandparents. Not a bad way of getaway lol
I agree, it seems like a nice getaway! 🙂
interesting. i have always wondered about these places. thank you for the introduction and tour.
We should thank my friend who took me there. She really helped me to get to know some aspects of Japanese culture that I would not have access to without her.
So funny. So does the phrase “love hotel” in the west indicate what we mean in Japan? The word “motel” pretty much used to be synonymous with “love hotel” because love hotels by highways often call themselves “モーテル” (and I guess these “love hotels” do not call themselves “love hotels” but just have more suggestive names).
In Belgium we don’t really use the phrase love hotel. We don’t have many motels either. To me, motels seem more like an American thing. Maybe we would say rendez-vous hotel? But I have the impression that there are a lot less here than in Japan. Maybe because we have a more open culture about sexuality? Or just bigger houses maybe 🙂 Or people tend to just use regular hotels? I also have the feeling that love hotels in Belgium have a lot more of a sleazy reputation than in Japan. I have never been to one in Belgium, nor do I have any desire to do so in the future. I also used to live in Venezuela for a while, and they do have a big love hotel culture. Over there we called them ‘hotelitos’, which means small hotels.
Not sure “sleazy” is the right word but love hotels are definitely supposed to be secretive as you have indicated and perhaps convenient. Nothing romantic about these ready-made places, one would think.
The ones in Japan seemed clean and convenient at least. My idea about Belgian love hotels is that they are so dirty that I might attract a disease there and maybe also run into some local criminals or something. I do admit that this is a prejudice, not based on any actual facts 🙂 But it still keeps me from visiting one.
That’s very interesting. I wasn’t quite sure what to think about with love hotel, but this does look a lot more sophisticated than I could imagine.
And had to laugh about the 3pm occupancy and the “rest” or “stay” bits 🙂
Maybe the red lights are room that are no longer occupied but need cleaning for the next guests???
It does look nice, doesn’t it? Maybe next time when I’m in Japan, I will have a proper stay at a love hotel 🙂
Your guess about the red lights sounds quite likely. Perhaps that way, people will know that it is only a short wait if they want to use that room.