Thursday, February 06, 2014

Japanese Love Hotels

Getting hotel rooms booked for Kyoto has been little frustrating. The city is packed in April because of the damn cherry blossoms; it'll be beautiful, but crowded. After much hunting through on-line reservation sites, I finally got three rooms (there are six of us traveling together) for our dates and pressed the "reserve" button. That's when I noticed to my dismay, in brackets after the hotel name, the words "love hotel". Thanks to my recent Japanese research I know what that means! Ugh. It's a "hot sheets" hotel. I've kept the reservation as a fall-back, but I hope we don't have to resort to it. 

I wonder what the hotel people will make of us: a senior couple, a same sex couple and two aging sisters? They'll know immediately we couldn't book elsewhere. No doubt, they won't be surprised as I'm sure they've hosted some extraordinary combinations and entertained scandalous requests. 

Rooms, they say are rented by the hour with an economy all-night rate applying after 10:00 pm. 

Here's the Wikipedia explanation of these hotels. 


The history of love hotels (ラブホテル rabu hoteru?) can be traced back to the early Edo Period, when establishments appearing to be inns or teahouses with particular procedures for a discreet entry or even with secret tunnels for a discreet exit were built in Edo and in Kyoto.[6] Modern love hotels developed from tea rooms (chaya (茶屋?)) used mostly by prostitutes and their clients but also by lovers. After World War II, the term tsurekomi yado (連れ込み宿 lit. "bring-along inn"?) was adopted, originally for simple lodgings run by families with a few rooms to spare. These establishments appeared first around UenoTokyo in part due to demand from Occupation forces, and boomed after 1958 when legal prostitution was abolished and the trade moved underground. The introduction of the automobile in the 1960s brought with it the "motel" and further spread the concept.
The original term has since fallen into disuse within the industry itself thanks to the euphemism treadmill, and an ever-changing palette of terms is used by hotel operators keen on representing themselves as more fashionable than the competition. Alternative names include "romance hotel", "fashion hotel", "leisure hotel", "amusement hotel", "couples hotel", and "boutique hotel".[5]

I've read that some of these places collect your payment via pneumatic tube. At others, you never register at a desk, but rather select a room from an availability chart, insert your credit card and a key drops out of a dispenser. You have to admire the systems in place to protect your anonymity. The Japanese are very careful about respecting each other's privacy. 

After fretting over these rooms for a while, I began to wonder really what's so terribly wrong with a "love hotel"? Wherever you reserve a room, you never know the history of that particular space. There could have been wonderful things taking place in a room: a honeymoon night, celebrations of various kinds, parties, reunions. Or turning to the dark side there may have been a murder, rape, robbery, suicide. No disclosure is necessary for hotels. At least with this place it's unlikely there's been the really bad things happening. Would you check into a "love hotel" to commit a murder? 

Looking at some of these places on-line, they appear gaudy and almost circus-like. In Tokyo, there's one shaped like a UFO, another with a statue of liberty on top of it. The rooms are fantastically decorated with such items as carousel horses, Japanese bridges and the usual mirrored ceilings. 

If you hear of any available rooms in Kyoto, April 10 - 13th, let me know. PLEASE.


  1. A little loving can't hurt…Getting anywhere with Musashi?

  2. I can't wait to hear about THIS trip. And I do mean "Trip" or maybe just "trippy".