The words “love hotel” makes some blush in shame and others give thanks and praise; the notions people entertain about these establishments are as varied as their backgrounds and beliefs. But what about the international community here in Japan? What’s all the excitement and surprise over such an idiosyncratic, and important, part of modern Japanese culture? Well here’s your crash course on a world of pleasure, the ever-changing phenomenon of Japanese love hotels.
Welcome to the Hotel…
When you hear “love hotel,” what’s the first thing you think of? Gaudy exteriors and rotating beds? Two people hoping nobody sees them as they turn down a dark street and duck into one of the entrances? Those kinds of shady and shameful conceptions are the stuff of the past. The number of simple, but stylish, love hotels is growing these days. Now it’s all about a decent and inviting atmosphere, not creepiness and stealth, though you still have to be 18 or older (at least in practice) to patronize them. Love hotels are known colloquially as ‘rabu-ho’ or “love-hos,” and, when unabbreviated, they assume such appellations as “fashion hotels” or “boutique hotels.” With many amenities such as excellent audio systems, roofless baths on upper floors, and karaoke, love hotels can make for a great night of adult entertainment. Love hotel management’s time-honored promise, “we protect your privacy,” is still very much in place of course, and more discreet establishments that deliver on the phrase, “hiding you from the eyes of others,” are alive and well.
Facilities resembling love hotels supposedly originated in the Edo period, well before the 1900s. The love hotel’s origins and development is intimately tied to certain features of Japanese culture. As an example, Japanese houses are smaller, and the walls thinner, than their Western counterparts. Private space is not all that secure with sliding paper doors. And living an extended period of time with one’s parents was (and sometimes still is) a regrettable fact of life. Two people trying to consummate their love could have much better luck. Would it be too much to suggest that Japan’s population would have taken quite a dent without love hotels?
First thing to know: location. In Fukuoka, there are over 80 love hotels, and most of them are concentrated in several areas: Imaizumi, a short walk from city center in Tenjin, among all the flashing neon of Nakasu, in the breezy Bay Area by Hakata port, and not far from Fukuoka airport if you have a car. There are others scattered elsewhere in unexpected places. Many of the hotels have their own special features and characteristics, their rooms equipped and arranged in any number of delightful ways. Some have rather refined interiors with lavishly decorated rooms, a few even resembling exquisite medieval European lodgings. Other rooms may borrow from old Japanese castles or adopt some exotic theme. The bathrooms in love hotels are quite a sight, too. Spacious, sparkling Jacuzzi baths are a given. Hot-spring baths, roofless baths, saunas and even private swimming pools are also available. Expect amusement amenities to be ample. Enjoy satellite cable on huge televisions. Rent some videos or DVDs and pass the time watching them with your lover.
There are rates for short respites and overnight stays. Some of the so-called “rest” rates are from 90 minutes to two hours, catering to the broad needs of different lifestyles. There are many with catering facilities and other special services you can enjoy night or day. Love hotel veterans and love hotel virginsﾐ especially if you are a foreignerﾐ break from the monotony of ordinary dates and make your next one a plunge into the rejuvenating world of love hotels!
Keisuke Segawa is the editor of “Fashion Hotels in Fukuoka”
Rotenburo, or roofless baths are the big fad. Hotels are also clearly appealing to women by providing amenities such as rental appliances for facials or soothing massages, designer furniture, and rose-petal baths. A cardinal rule of choosing love hotels is to search within a love hotel district, where competition works in your favor. Come to think of it, a number of love hotels rise up rather conspicuously in the Odo area of Fukuoka. This is clearly the area to get the most bang for your buck, so to speak!
A typical modern love hotel room with a big double bed, killer stereo, and a window that doesn’t open!
Roofless baths are all the rage now. Rub-a-dub-dub, head for the tub.
Here are “LoveNavi” webmaster Inoue-san’s suggestions for love hotels with designs and amenities from the good old days of wall to wall velvet!
An eclectic western and Japanese interior. A very charming example of love hotel design in the 70s. Many rooms have authentic stone rontenburo! Located in Amagi.
583 Ushigi, Oaza Amagi
Located centrally in Nishi-nakasu, this old-style palace offers a change of pace from all the modern hotels surrounding it. Lavish use of the color purple sets the mood.
5-6 Nishi-Nakasu, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka
Located on a mountainous road near Yamato, Saga it offers a bevy of rooms guaranteed to satisfy the nostalgic love hotel hunter.
996-1 Kawakami, Oaza Yamato-machi, Saga-gun
LOVE HOTEL LINGO
Rest: refers to rates for short periods. 90 mins ~ 3 hour is common.
No Time: refers to a discounted rate for long time periods in low demand hours. Like 9 am to 4 pm
Stay: the whole night until morning, usually 8am
Gaishutsu: normally if you leave your room, you’ve checked out. This service means you can leave and re-enter like a regular hotel.
Deli-Hell: A service in which women are “delivered” to a man’s room for “health” treatments.
Love Hotel: also known as Leisure Hotels, Boutique Hotels, and Fashion Hotels. They’re all the same.
Originally published in Fukuoka Now magazine (fn75 Mar. 2005)