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Japan is a fascinating country. Like many people, I have been drawn to Japanese culture and imagery since I was a child. Icons like the majestic Mt. Fuji, cherry blossoms aka Sakura, sushi and anime draw me in like a moth to the flame. Japan is also notorious for being all about novelties. I am sure some of you reading this have heard of the “Bagel Head” temporary plastic surgery? If that’s not bizarre enough for you, try youtubing any japanese TV commercial. Then of course there are the talking toilets with heated seats, the Pikachu army, and my favorite: SO MANY VENDING MACHINES FOR EVERYTHING! As a side note: I’ve heard that the infamous panty vending machine is a myth. It is not easy to find if you are actually looking for one.

But I digress, Vending machines are my segway here.

PriceImagine checking into a hotel, and never once speaking to a member of the hotel staff. Instead, there are touch screens in the lobby with pictures of the different rooms for rent. This is not your grandmother’s hotel. You’re in one of Japan’s most popular novelties: A Love Hotel! So now that you know everything is completely anonymous and confidential, I just have one question for you. Would you like a REST, or to STAY?

Rest, as in, just stay for a few hours, or stay for the whole night? Until recent years, love hotels or  ラブホテル (rabu hoteru), were viewed as seedy unseemly places where you did not want to be seen walking into or out of. I mean, it’s right there in the title. You don’t need to be a detective to know what people do in a love hotel. In the late 1960s, hotel developers realized that there was a huge market for allowing young couples to enjoy there privacy in a soundproof chamber. Today there are over 25,000+ love hotels spread out all over Japan. And the popularity of these fun and kinky themed hotel rooms with huge beds and Jacuzzi tubs is only getting bigger! Seriously, these rooms are super swanky like the pricy western hotels you find here. Only they are themed. These rooms are comfortable, fun and great for letting loose. And there is no rule saying that you can’t just rent out one for some alone time. There are virtually no rules inside a Love Hotel, cuz who’s gonna see you break them?

One of the oldest love hotels still in operation is the Hotel Meguro Emperor in the Meguro neighborhood of Tokyo. It is, some would say, the beating heart of Meguro and a frontrunner in the growth and development of love hotels throughout the Empire of the Rising Sun. Hotel Meguro is the inspiration for the classic castle facade that many other love hotels have adopted.  The castle towers of the Hotel Meguro Emperor were raised in 1973. The hotel still stands as a testament to the growing LOVE that people have for love hotels and what they stand for… FREEDOM!! Freedom to be as freaky as you want! WOOOOO!

Japan has a large population. It also does not have a lot of space for spacious lodging. It’s no joke, everyone is packed like tiny, polite sardines, bustling around and living Kurutta seikatsu (狂った生活). People who live in and around the urban areas of Japan usually live in small apartments with very thin walls. Sometimes literally PAPER walls! Not only that, but many young couples still live at home with mom and dad. This makes having a passionate love life really uncomfortable. Love Hotels are the answer to this problem.

When in Japan, you do as the Japanese do. You bow to everyone, follow the rules and make sure to keep your “extra” in check. The golden rule is to not disturb anyone else, which seems impossible with there being so many people around. Incredibly, Japan’s culture remains one of the most polite and efficient cultures in the world. Could it be because of all the love hotels around to help people let off steam? Who can say for sure?

vibratorIt is surprisingly economical to rest or stay at a love hotel. Average rates are around ¥8000 for an overnight stay depending on the day of the week. You could get lucky and find a room for even cheaper. You can rest at a love hotel from anywhere between ¥2700 to about ¥7000.

You could just stay for a night with a friend and have fun utilizing all the freebies! There are many videos on youtube where foreigners have done just that. What freebies you ask? Well, there are the basic complimentary personal items that you might find in any hotel like shampoo and a spare Water Slide Roomtoothbrush. But, in a love hotel, you might also find a bottle of champagne, rose petals, terry cloth robes, vibrators, dildos, sex furniture, a big screen TV with a huge porn stash and movies, condoms, condoms and oh, here are more condoms.

Some hotels even have role playing costumes that you can rent or buy. The rooms you are likely to see on Reddit and Instagram are unique to say the least. Each of the rooms in a love hotel can have a different theme. Like carnivals? How about picking the room with the carousel in it. Like water slides, but hate water parks because of all the UFOhello kittykids peeing in the pool? Pick the room that has its OWN WATER SLIDE IN THE ROOM! I’ve heard of skinny dipping, but skinny sliding? That sounds like something that should be trending #nakedonawaterslide. Do you feel like you are not about of this humanoid life? Why not pick the room with a UFO shaped bed in the UFO themed Love Hotel? ET may not want to phone home after all. And if you are into internet trends? How about booking a reservation for a night in the Hello Kitty room? The infamous Hello Kitty Room is brightly colored and adorable just like Hello Kitty herself. The room used to house a Hello Kitty stuffed animal on a sex swing in full bondage regalia complete with a ball gag. But the slutty bondage kitty has been removed from the room due to controversy. There are even love hotels that include other popular Japanese activities in with the price of rent. If I were in Japan, I would be excited to rent a Karaoke Love Hotel room. Karaoke is a huge form of entertainment in Japan and it is totally my jam. The word karaoke is after all, Japanese.

But, it’s not just the rooms that are themed inside the love hotel. It’s also themed on the outside. Many love hotel buildings are large stand alone structures that are gaudy on the outside and therefore hard to miss when you are out and about in the city streets. Many love hotels are shaped like Disney style castles or just brightly colored facades decked out with neon lights. Many have unforgettable names like Hotel Zebra, Hotel Elegance or Hotel Pasta Book (not kidding). Just think, if it looks like a funhouse attraction for kids, it’s probably not. Love Hotels are for adults (only) who are looking for a place to unlock the kid within themselves.cage room

Love hotels are not the only novel or accommodating places that you can choose to stay in, in Japan. The whole country is bursting with things to do and see. You are going to need your rest in order to have the energy to keep up with all of the awesomeness. As far as where to go to lay your head, you have a few options. If you want something that is like a western style hotel stay, Japan has what is called “business hotels”. Nothing really exciting about a “business hotel”, but it is spacious and private. It’s also the more expensive option. You could also stay at a hostel or check out what’s available on These are pretty economical options.

Carosel roomBut if you want something more novel and interesting to take pictures of, how about trying a capsule hotel? Like love hotels, capsule hotels can also be themed. There are different sizes of capsule hotels, but whichever size you pick, it’s still going to be much smaller than any room that you’ve likely ever stayed in. There is an “airplane” themed capsule hotel chain called First Cabin. It has locations in 6 major Japanese cities. Your stay in this capsule hotel will like be like sleeping in a closet with a twin bed. And that’s the first class room! If you get an economy capsule, there is literally just space for the bed and your body. But hey it’s a small sacrifice to make for the price of your stay and access to all the free amenities. When traveling in Japan, there is going to be so much to see and do and eat; you won’t have time to worry about how big the room you are sleeping in is.

princess peach
Capsule hotels are a little bit different than what we westerners may be used to. The idea of a communal bath area, for example, may seem a bit alien. But that’s the way they do bathrooms in a capsule hotel. And here’s another catch about capsule hotels: you have to be SOO quiet in your capsule! Many capsule hotels just have curtains for doors. You get access to a locker to put your valuables with your room key. Also, the rooms are not co-ed. Women and men are separated, rooms are based on single occupancy. Japan’s culture is a very polite and considerate one, so you will probably have to get used to enjoying many experiences really quietly. For example, when you ride public transportation, it’s pretty much like being in a library, only quieter. But hey! The bonus of capsule hotels are that you get to use all the vending machines for FREE!

Personally, I think just having a bed to crash in is all the luxury you need on a tight budget. And if you are interested in covering as much Japanese ground as possible, then I am about to arm you with a secret travel weapon! Japan has Night buses. Like in Harry Potter. Only, these Night buses are sadly, not magic and they do not have triple floors. What they do have though is a seat that leans far back for sleeping. Night buses allow for a more economical commute from city to city. So you can sleep, travel and save money at the same time!

Love Hotels are not designed for extended stays. So, you don’t want to bring a lot of valuable luggage and keep it in your room while you’re out and about. Also, beware! Not all Love Hotels have wifi! It’s a common misconception that all places that offer lodging, must offer wifi. NOT IN JAPAN! Shocking, I know! Isn’t Japan and Tokyo in particular supposed to be the technology capital of the world? All I can say to this question is: it’s complicated. Love Hotels are, however, extravagant, lush, and luxurious. And because they are “Western” spaced, love hotels are sought after by Western tourists and young lovers everyday. Perhaps you may even consider booking a rest or stay yourself with your very own sweetheart in Japan for Valentine’s Day? / Issue 199 - March 2018
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