MangoVine
Adventures in East Asia

Love Hotels in Shibuya and why we didn’t try one

One thing on our list to check out in Tokyo was a "Love Hotel". If you haven't heard about these before then you could still guess what they're about, although they're not as seedy as they sound.

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Love Hotel Hill in Shibuya has the highest concentration of love hotels in Tokyo and we reached it by walking up the busy Dogenzaka street from nearby Shibuya station.

Love Hotel Hill

When we thought we'd gone up far enough, we took a side street and knew we were in the area since the streets were alot quieter and because we saw the most colourful and garish building with signs bearing prices outside.

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A shop displaying lingerie also made it more obvious!

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What are Love Hotels?

Love hotels are a type of short-stay hotel which exist in order to give Japanese couples privacy and intimacy - especially if they still live with their parents at home. Of course, they're ideal for prostitution too since entrances are discreet and often hidden so that patrons can come and go anonymously.

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Interaction with staff is also minimised as rooms are often selected from a panel of buttons (with each having a photo of the room) and bills are settled by automatic cash machines.

Why did we want to visit a Love Hotel?

Part of the appeal for us in checking out a love hotel was not having to speak Japanese, but the main reason was due to the themed nature of these places.

We read about "miniature gothic castles, kitschy Arabian palaces to Japanese-themed inns and Balinese-inspired resorts". "Fanciful rooms decorated with anime characters, equipped with rotating beds, ceiling mirrors, or karaoke machines, strange lighting or styled similarly to dungeons, sometimes including S&M gear".

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Part of the fun was in strolling through the area and coming across the hotels, or even guessing whether a particular building was a love hotel or not. It was interesting to see what themes were on offer and we also went into the foyer (via frosted glass doors) of one place (greeted by a Japanese woman behind the frosted glass of a kiosk) to check out the display of room photos. We noticed that rooms that were lit up were the vacant rooms, whilst the darkened photos were unavailable.

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Love Hotel Room Rates

Room rates seem to work in two ways. You can either stay for a few hours or you can stay the night. Staying a few hours costs anything from 2,000 - 4,500 JPY (£13 - £30 approx.) and apparently, you need to make sure you exit within the given time, Staying overnight seems to cost around 8,000 JPY (£55) which is fairly reasonable considering it can be for two people. Generally though, you can't check in until around 10pm or 11pm.

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Trying out a Love Hotel room

When it came down to trying out a room, we were quite keen to find a heavily-themed place. It would be no fun otherwise, especially since we do not lack the privacy that these hotels provide, elsewhere (!).

Linh had her heart set on a Hello Kitty (sigh...) themed room and we had read about a hotel that actually had an S&M styled Hello Kitty room. Sadly for her, Tokyo didn't have any Hello Kitty themed hotels, so we short-listed the Carribean Resort hotel instead.

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Why we didn't try out a room

With our current hotel (in Shinjuku) paid for, we only considered staying in a love hotel for a few hours, planning to come another day. However, when it boiled down to it, we ran out of time (there were other things in Tokyo we wanted to see first!) and also thought it was a little expensive.

With hindsight, staying overnight would make sense if we hadn't already paid for our hotel. The only thing to plan for is having to consider where to keep our luggage both before and after the room rental. Finding an available room didn't seem to be an issue - there were so many hotels that a room was bound to be vacant.

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For more photos check out the Shibuya Love Hotels Flickr set

Check Wikipedia for more information on Love Hotels

Check the Quirky Japan website for a write-up on the changing love hotel scene, as well as a directory of hotels

An interview with Misty Keasler, who has shot a series of photographs for her Love Hotel book

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This entry posted in : Culture. Japan.

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