Japanese Love Hotels

(also known as Fashion or Couples Hotels)

Japan caters to the high-end traveler, with luxury hotels that put your average Motel 6 to shame. On the other end of the spectrum, you have your no-frills capsule hotels — a place to sleep, bathe, peruse vending machines, not much more. Then there are the love hotels, which we’ve learned offer more than you’d expect (though they offer that, too).

Renting rooms by the hour, partial day, or longer is not a new concept, yet, like all things Japanese, the execution is a little less sleazy, a little more socially acceptable. Probably you won’t want to tell your parents where you’ve been, but in a country (or city, in the case of places like Tokyo) where space is at a premium and not everyone has moved out of Mom’s house, love hotels offer a chance for togetherness.

While we’ve heard rumors of travelers using love hotels as cheap alternatives to other lodging, do not be under any illusions: these hotels cater to sexual trysts. Sex toys and condoms are available in vending machines, mirrors line the ceilings, bathtubs are built for two (more along the lines of Japanese two, but two, nonetheless), some cater to specific sexual pecadilloes. The rooms are chosen and paid for with the anonymity of the guest in mind. Many don’t even take credit cards.

Ranging from functional to funky (the first link below reviews a place that features “Cowntry & Westarn” themed room), the hotels are identified by excessive neon and often unintentionally funny names (Seeds, anyone?). Rooms are chosen from a pictorial menu and amenities vary from establishment to establishment. If you’re seeking a novel experience, be forewarned that Saturday nights are crowded.

Of course, if you’re seeking an out-of-the-ordinary experience, it might not be as easy as you’d expect:

The love hotel is changing though, and the news isn’t all good. They’ve gone upscale, lost some of their sleazy associations and the decors have become more tasteful but the bad news is that in an effort to clean up their image, they got rid of a lot of the exciting theme rooms. Although they still exist, its getting harder and harder to find places with bumper cars and disco lights. (“Love Hotels: Where Have All The Mirrors Gone?”)

Cleaning up the image of the hotels isn’t just for the rooms, either. Love hotels are known by softer euphemisms like “fashion hotels”, “theme hotels”, or even “couples hotels”. Publications detail hotels designed to appeal to women (hey, never let it be said that feminism is dead!). The hotels remain identifiable, of course, by their pricing structure, which is usually three tiers.

Tourists and other travelers have been known to use love hotels as short-term, inexpensive lodging, and from a pricing perspective, love hotels can’t be beat. A quick glance at available room styles will help you decide if you’ve made the right choice. We’ve heard rumors that same sex couples aren’t readily welcomed in many love hotels, though sometimes two women together can slip through.