Here’s another Japanese invention, something we have never heard of although it can be found everywhere in Japan as a very normal segment of the hotel industry. It’s a form of accommodation – although rest and relaxation are hardly what it’s about… History-wise, it dates from the Edo Period (1603-1868). You might call it a successor or an heir to the inns and teahouses of that time. According to Wikipedia, the name originates from a hotel in Osaka, which was built in 1968 and named Hotel Love). Today it is a definite subtype of hotel in Japan, and by definition it is meant to “accommodate” couples requiring an intimate “rest.”
Two price categories are typically offered and attached to the entrance, one for rest, and one for an overnight stay. The “rest” period varies by hotel and ranges from one to three hours. Most guests choose the rest category. Prices vary, and are often less during the day, which qualifies as “off-peak.”
If you think that the only people choosing these hotels – as their names would suggest – are couples using them to bed down in (make love in), you’d be wrong. Very often backpackers take advantage of a comparatively cheap way to spend a night in an interesting place. By “interesting,” I am suggesting interesting furnishings, with some offering facilities that are on par with an amusement park! I might also mention that – unsurprisingly – these hotels are also used for prostitution.
One article reports that “adult products”, which outdo one another in the fantasy stakes, net 47 billion dollars a year, thanks to the love hotels. However, some of the love hotels are simple and straightforward and offer no special enticements.
Rather unusually for a hotel, love hotels do not accept reservations and generally have only a minimum of personnel. Often guests do not have to “go past” anyone on the way to a room, because the entire process is automated. A sign at the entrance shows the various types of rooms, with the available ones lit up on the board. To choose a room, one simply presses a button. Some love hotels have staff sitting behind an opaque glass wall, where neither they nor guests can see the other. One can pay for a room by slipping the money through a slot, or, where there are no personnel, by paying through an automated device. In the latter case the guest never has to meet a live person.
Often the building itself attracts attention. (Its facade may be shaped like a European castle or like the entrance to Jurassic Park or there may be a giant Santa Claus sitting atop the entrance, or designers may come up with any one of a thousand other ideas to attract attention.)
In the big cities there can be entire love hotel quarters, such as Love Hotel Hill in Tokyo. Here, on a single street, one can approach countless ostentatious and truly eye-catching facades when choosing which to visit.
The basic furnishings include a double bed (possibly king size), a nice bathroom, a television with mood-enhancing (i.e. censored erotic) channels, a karaoke set, video games and possible extras (such as costumes or S&M equipment) that fit the bill. Since guests are typically not loaded down with luggage, the hotel room offers a variety of hygienic products and may even have pajamas for an overnight stay (although overnight guests typically walk in off the street and have a briefcase of sorts.)
In general visitors come in couples. Spending a night with a friend in a place like this might feel strange, given that the facility is so explicitly sexually oriented that the entire interior attempts to promote intimacy (such as a bathroom with glass walls, mirrors on the ceiling, etc.).
Some of the favorite hotels are ones designed around a specific theme. They are known as design hotels and the theme can be anything a creative mind can produce. A few of the more extreme include: Santa Claus, Hello Kitty, Jurassic Park, the interior of a metro/subway car, a merry-go-round, S&M, or a soap opera setting. Now, if someone were to ask how Hello Kitty connects to a love motel, as someone who is well versed in Japanese culture, all I can say is well さー there ain’t no accounting for taste…
If you’d like more information on this hotel genre, here are a few links to get you started:
Sources of the images, in order: