There is something delightfully Japanese about love hotels. In fast-paced, efficient Tokyo, everything is orderly, compartmentalized and for sale. If you want to hug animals, you go to a cat cafe. If you want to drink, you go to an izakaya. If you want ‘love,’ you go to a love hotel. Everything will be hyper-convenient, have fun themes and whatever you did in the relevant space can stay there when you leave. Tokyo’s foreign residents might feel a bit nervous trying a love hotel for the first time, but what better excuse than Valentine’s Day?
In Japan, Valentine’s Day is traditionally when women give chocolate to the men in their life; ones they are romantically involved with as well as male friends, family and colleagues. The amusing term 義理チョコ, giri choco means ‘obligation chocolate,’ referring to chocolate given out of obligation rather than true feeling. Men are supposed to reciprocate a month later on White Day. Although chocolate is big business on Valentine’s Day, it’s also a busy day for Japan’s love hotels too. If you want to, and forgive me for this, get ‘more bang for your buck’ this Valentine’s Day, read on.
No one’s here to sleep
Lesson one: know your lingo. There are usually two charging models for love hotels. ‘Stay’ for those who want to stay the whole night and ‘Rest,’ in which you are charged by the hour at any time of the day when you want to… take a nap. Actually, some tired individuals are using love hotels to do just that, and if you’re flagging during the day between meetings, feel free to make a solo trip to a love hotel for a refreshing power snooze. Many couples also find love hotels a romantic and convenient way to rest after a date instead of scrambling for the last train. For example, Yokohama’s love hotels are often cheaper than Tokyo’s so why not finish up at one after a romantic evening up landmark tower?
From the sublime to the ridiculous
Tokyo’s love hotels are capitalizing on the influx of tourists and foreign residents are benefiting from the improved English language service. In preparation for the hordes of testosterone fueled sports lovers who will flock to Tokyo 2020, many love hotels now have websites and online reservation services in English. This means that if you’re looking for a love hotel to suit your preferences, a quick google search will get you quite far. For a fun and friendly middle-range love hotel, try the Bali An hotel chain, which has six locations around Tokyo and Chiba. In the Shinjuku location, as well as the room you get the use of game facilities, free snack area and all you can drink wine. If you’re looking for a more elaborate set up, try S&M specialists Hotel Alpha-In.
In recent years, there has been a trend of groups of women going to love hotels. The intention here is to enjoy the flat screen TV, snacks and minibar and just have fun with your friends. Interestingly, this has made it a lot easier for female same-sex couples to go to love hotels discrimination free. Unfortunately this is not always the case with male same sex couples who are sometimes turned away even in 2018. If this is you, you may have better luck in ‘gayborhoods’ such as Shinjuku Niichome. The tide may be turning, however. After complaints of discrimination in Tokyo and Kanazawa, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has issued guidelines to hotels and ryokan to “not reject guests on grounds for their sexual orientation or gender identity and take proper care of them.”
Whether we admit it or not, most members of the Tokyo expat community have had contact with love hotels in one way or another. It’s worth saying that Valentine’s Day is a busy time so get your reservations in early to avoid disappointment.