Love hotels in Japan are as ubiquitous as pachinko parlors. I avoided Japanese love hotels for a long time, equating them with ones I had seen in other parts of Asia. But make no mistake, Japan’s love hotels are first class: they’re clean, cheap, and oh so fun!
The closest thing you could get to a Japanese love hotel in the U.S. would be if you eloped to Lake Tahoe and rented one of those private honeymooner suites: think heart-shaped Jacuzzi bathtubs, round beds that revolve, and big-screen plasma T-Vs. All without having to take a honeymoon.
Although there is no doubt behind the purpose of love hotels in Japan, there is nothing that bars casual travelers, friends or same sex couples from staying in them. As a matter of fact, in true Japanese fashion, even the check-in process is automated, so you will likely never have to come in contact with a human being. Since love hotels are often rented by the hour, there is a high turnover and you can almost always find a room in any city, even when the regular hotels are all booked out for festivals or special events.
Love Hotels are easily recognized by their Disney style exteriors that exude romance–usually castles or palaces. There will almost always be a sign outside posting the hours and prices. There are daytime prices (by the hour) and night time prices (by the hour or all night). A typical deluxe room will typically cost 10,000 yen for the night for two people. There is no need to take towels or toiletries as all are provided, as well as a yukata robe and slippers.
How to Check In and Out
Once you go into the lobby, you will be able to choose from the different styles of rooms and the prices from the photos on a machine. You merely choose which room, hours and price you want and put your money into the machine. There are no room keys at a love hotel. Take the elevator to the proper floor, and look for the flashing light above the door. That is your room and the door will be unlocked as long as the light is flashing. Once you are inside, the door will lock and will stay locked. When you check out, you will have to telephone down to the front desk, who will then automatically unlock the door for you.
Some small love hotels are family-run and have a manned front desk. These smaller places sometimes will not accept two women sleeping in the same room together, although I’ve heard that two men is no problem!
You are not expected to leave the hotel once you have checked in, so buy all your snacks and drinks to take inside beforehand.
You cannot leave your luggage at a love hotel.
- Rabuho.com is a love hotel information site with lots of photos.
Amy Chavez is author of Guidebook to Japan: What the other guidebooks won’t tell you” She is a columnist for The Japan Times, co-hosts the Planet Japan podcast. Visit her website at www.amychavez.com