No, you won’t be staying here with your extended family.
Yes, you can rent rooms by the hour.
No, you won’t be receiving room service.
Welcome to Tokyo and the often-used, seldom-talked about world of love hotels.
We hope you enjoy your stay.
What Are Love Hotels?
Love hotels have long been an institution in Japan. Here you’ll find rooms available to rent for short periods of time, typically by the hour, for couples who want to get ‘intimate’.
Beginning in Osaka in 1968, this style of accommodation has grown popular throughout the country for its unique practicality.
The target demographic of these accommodations ranges from the Tokyo businessperson looking for a sexy lunchtime hookup to the drunken tourist couple desperate to find somewhere to sleep after a night of partying.
What Do I Do?
Well first of all, let’s assume you and your boyfriend/girlfriend are spending the night in Tokyo.
You’ve gotten in to Shinjuku station and it’s late at night. You’ve got no reservations and as of yet have nowhere to sleep. Simply take a wander around the area. Maybe ask a convenience store employee, or a cab driver. If you’re in a concentrated area near a main station you will find a love hotel.
Keep your eyes peeled for discreet looking entrances.
While you’re considering it an adventure, most other paying customers will be looking to slink off into their room without being seen by familiar eyes. Entrances will likely have parking lots not visible from the main road. Front doors will be tinted nearly opaque.
Pay For The Night
Typically this style of hotel offers two types of accommodation.
There’s the hourly rate ‘rest-period’ and then there’s overnight accommodations.
Your average love hotel won’t have any sort of reservation system so in order to secure a room for the night you will need to check in sometime between 9pm and 12am. Before 9pm you won’t yet be able to check in and after 12am the rooms will likely be full, particularly in a busy area during a weekend or holiday.
Look to pay around $60 for a weekday night and closer to $100 for the weekend.
Some hotels will have staffed front desks. Others will dispense your room key via a vending machine. In most scenarios you should be able to get a room without speaking a word of the native tongue.
The Services of Love Hotels
While the description thus far may leave you with an idea of love hotels as some grungy, seedy underbelly of Tokyo culture, you can rest assured that in most reasonable establishments your room will be immaculate. Often love hotels will be cleaner and more sanitized than their brand name, high-priced counterparts down the street.
In addition to cleanliness, your room will likely be state of the art in terms of facilities. You’re probably going to have a computer, a big screen TV with every channel you could ask for, and a bed that will make any hostel accommodations seem like a hovel.
As love hotels have become more popular, luxury facilities have begun to pop up. These might include jacuzzi tubs, mood lighting, and themes galore.
Planning ahead can be done if you’re looking for something specific.
The situation earlier portrayed refers to the typical love hotel experience. If you put in your work beforehand you will be able to find some hotels that accept reservations. Look to pay a little more money but with that comes the privilege to choose your room beforehand as well as check in early.
If your girlfriend (or boyfriend for that matter) wants to spend a night in the ‘Hello Kitty’ themed room, nothing will be stopping her. Lucky you.
If you are trying to book a rooms it is always handy to have someone around who speaks Japanese. It is unlikely that the front desk staff will speak much English and the services aren’t catered to travelers so much as they’re catered to locals.
When To Go
Anytime. Hotels are open year-round. If you are looking to spend the night without a reservation, turn up around 9-10pm. If you do have a reservation you will likely be able to check-in around 3pm.
Controlled climate of course. At most hotels you will be able to control it. At others you’re at the discretion of the hotel staff.
Getting There & Around
Hotels can be found wherever there is a densely populated area, particularly if that area has a large nightlife scene.
The Shibuya district of Tokyo has a more prevalent concentration of love hotels in a region deemed ‘love hotel hill’. Access to the area can be reached by going west from Shibuya station.
Mid-range accommodations – $70 (weekdays)/$100 (weekends).
- Book ahead for themed rooms. Don’t expect the bondage or subway car themed rooms to be vacant for long.
- Sleep in. Don’t worry about some silly 9-10am checkout. Typically you have until noon to vacate the premises.
- Ask the cabbie. If you haven’t booked anything simply hop into a cab and ask the driver to take you to a love hotel. He knows where to go.
- Come with a gang. You will almost certainly be turned away if you come in with a large group of people. The staff doesn’t want to deal with parties.
- Mind the noise. You might wind up hearing some r-rated sounds from the hallway as you walk to your room. Enter your room. All better.
- Expect a view. If there are windows they’ll be tiny and likely facing the building directly next door.
- The popularity of love hotels has spread across the border to countries such as South Korea and Thailand.
- There are some 25,000 love hotels in Japan alone.
- In a struggling Japanese economy love hotels have continued to thrive, boasting profits of somewhere in the area of $40 billion/year.