Photo:St Stev on Flickr

The Oh So Discreet Love Hotels of Japan

Eeewwwhh, I hear you say. But believe me that may become an ooohhh, these are absolutely not what you imagine. Well, possibly a little how you imagine but my limited experience has uncovered a few facts about them that I truly think make the Love Hotel a serious option for a good nights sleep. I feel I must first say here that in my experience they are spotlessly clean, with exceptionally high quality bed linen and easily pass the incredibly exacting standards that Japanese expect.

Love Hotel Kyoto - Supposedly the first
Love Hotel in Kyoto - Supposedly the First
Vibrating chair and backpacks - an odd combination
Vibrating chair and backpacks - an odd combination

To be honest there is lots of information about them and I don’t know how much is true but I do know that speaking to Japanese people and experiencing what a traditional home is like I can understand why there is a need for couples to find privacy somewhere other than home. A typical Japanese home can use one space for a number of purposes, living, eating, sleeping. Combine that with the fact that it is standard practice for families to include several generations all under one roof (and between paper thin walls) and you can appreciate the awkwardness of any passionate intimacy. We’ve all been there, when you've stayed at the in-laws and you and the husband turn into a teenage couple too embarrassed to even breath too loudly.

Spot the love hotel
Spot the Love Hotel...

You can’t miss a Love Hotel. They usually look like something from Disney with gaudy designs and names that may have a double entendre.If you are driving and do actually want to be discreet for that afternoon tryst, the car parks are always tucked away and I have even seen registration plates covered over in some. Don't be shy, just go in and have a look. Chances are you won’t see anyone, there’s not a conventional lobby or reception. Unfortunately some we tried to stay at wouldn’t let you unless you could speak Japanese. But that was before we knew what to do, and once you know you don’t need to speak to anyone!

room selction panel
Room selection panel

In the lobby is a display with screens and pictures of the various rooms, some of the more extravagant (also read expensive) hotels have wild, slightly obscure themes from some fun Karaoke to Alien Abduction! But most will have a big comfy bed, a tv, a huge bathroom with bath, shower and good quality toiletries and a fridge. The fridge may have a few unexpected surprises, like a complete vending machine full of sex toys, but it is all very subtle. Anyway, the available rooms will be lit up, choose the one you want by simply pressing the button and going up to the floor. Your chosen room is unlocked and all yours. When you've had enough of the sumptuously comfortable bed and air conditioned temperature just pack your bags and as you leave the room you’ll see what looks like a vending machine just outside the door.

PAYG by your hotel room door
PAYG by your hotel room door

This will display how much your room cost. Put your yen in the slot and off you go.

Several things to note at this point are the costs and hours. These are displayed under the room pictures and will vary for each room. They are available to book by the hour, which is quite handy if you've traveled in from another time zone and want to get some shut eye in the middle of the day. The hourly rate can be between 2,500 – 4,000yen.The clever bit though, is if you can wait till after 8-10pm to get into your room, you can then have the room until 12 midday the next day for less than a bunk in a dorm in most Japanese cities. Smart hey? And with their convenient locations near train and bus stations you can have a huge, spectacularly clean room for about 6,000-9,000 yen, all with added incentives should you choose!

Love Hotel Osaka
A Love Hotel in Osaka

Oh, just one other thing….you don’t get a room key. So once you are in the room the assumption is you’re going to stay there. No problem, make sure you take any food or drink in with you or, like me, send your husband out to bring you a McDonalds breakfast in bed.

Plugged in Microphone (yeah right!)
Plugged in Microphone (yeah right!)

I hope that this has made you see the potential for a traveler, other than the obvious, in staying at a Love Hotel. And just think….what an interesting story to tell your mates when you get home!

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