The Japanese are a practical people. In the past most young adults lived with their parents until they married, and it was not unusual to find three generations living under one roof, separated only by paper thin walls or shoji screens. Needless to say, finding a suitable place to pursue the most private of acts was somewhat difficult to achieve. Emerging from necessity, “Love Hotels” were introduced in the late 1950’s, offering couples who desired time alone an affordable room to rent by the hour. While they might be perceived as bawdy or odd to a foreign visitor, Love Hotels are considered futsuu (normal) in Japan, a fact of life for high school students on up to middle aged lovers and beyond. The Japanese attitude toward sex is often more relaxed and cosmopolitan than that of the west, and these establishments are an accepted segment of a society where space and privacy are at a premium.
Originally modeled after traditional Japanese inns called Ryokan, the hotels in the early 60’s gradually began catering to a more modern, western concept of love and romance, featuring ceiling mirrors and rotating beds with European styled furnishings adorning each room. Eventually these were replaced with high tech amenities, contemporary rooms now offering fully automated services. The television provides a variety of films or karaoke music, while radio and lights are effortlessly controlled from the headboard of the bed. Alcohol, snacks, and sex-toys can be ordered from room service and paid for with a credit card. For those who enjoy multitasking, some hotels even offer “sun beds” that provide a tan while you indulge in other sensual delights. Bordering highways, nightspots, and sometimes even found in suburbia, bright neon lights flashing names like “Hotel Charm”, and “Love Oasis” make these hotels easy to spot for couples with or without a car. For married couples wishing to add variety to their sex life, or “salarymen” and their “office ladies” in search of a clandestine haven after an evening spent drinking, these convenient love nests offer a readily available solution.
Love Hotels are models of discretion, and ensuring that a customer can fully relax while there is a top priority. Clients entering the premise never see the staff or other customers, and anonymity is always assured. Those arriving by car enter underground parking lots hidden from view, and staff often cover license plates to deter any curious onlookers. Upon entering the reception area the customer is greeted by a lit panel displaying photographs of available rooms. Choosing a room is as simple as pressing a button, the extinguished light of the panel confirming the room selected is now occupied. Payment is made discreetly to a staff member who remains hidden behind a partition, and verbal exchange between patron and staff is usually unnecessary.
Depending on the location and exclusivity of the hotel, the amount paid for time spent varies. Room rates are displayed on a sign in front of the hotel, and can range from (2,500-6,000) yen for a “rest” (usually two hours) to as much as 12,000 yen for an overnight stay. Though often cheaper than business hotels or other traditional accommodation, Love Hotels do not provide the same kind of services in regard to mobility. Once you have left the hotel you unfortunately have to pay again to reenter.