Where I come from, the kind of hotels that charge by the hour instead of the night are ultra-shady and tend to get raided by the cops a lot. Not in Japan! In the country where most people live in quarters that are far from spacious and even further from private, love hotels aren’t just common, they’re everywhere.
As you’d expect, anyplace that has different rates for “rest” and “stay” attracts a fair share of couples who are two rings shy of wedded bliss. But they’re also used by people who go with their significant others – not only do most Japanese not have cars (making classic Paradise By The Dashboard Light action a little hard to come by), young people tend to live at home with their parents until they get married. Snogging in your Disney Princess bed in front of your stuffed animal collection with ma and pa watching sumo in the next room is, shall we say, not much of a recipe for adults-only passion.
And it’s an incredible business – a good love hotel averages a 250% occupancy rate! (Which means, of course, that they tend to sell each room an average of 2.5 times per day.) The rates are lower, of course, for a two hour rental – usually around $40 – $65. Staying overnight costs about the same as an inexpensive regular hotel ($120-$150).
Recently I walked around a couple of Tokyo’s love hotel districts, because I wanted to see some of the outrageous rooms I’d read about in Rabuhoteru: Satellite of Love, an excellent picture book I bought in Tokyo. Sadly, the fad for outrageous “theme” rooms seems to have mostly passed (although a few gems remain, if you look hard enough!) Most love hotels have been redecorated in sleek, businesslike style (but with extras like “aromatherapy” and, naturally, a larger than average naughty movie menu.)
Here are a sampling of my favorite love hotel rooms in Satellite of Love:
All photos from the ever-entertaining Rabuhoteru: Satellite of Love, edited by Koichi Suzuki, published by Aspect Lightbox.
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“A wonderful blend of history and mystery.” —Laura Joh Rowland, author of The Iris Fan
Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!