In the land of a thousand neighbors, where mom, dad and their mom and dad and their two children have historically resided under one roof – there has always been the problem of finding a little personal space.
Though many people assume that love hotels are where people go to conduct illicit affairs, a sizable percentage of couples who visit them are legitimately together. In fact, many love hotel patrons are actually married, and are simply looking for a bit of privacy since multi-generational living is still quite common here.
And while the idea of having your parents overhear every move and sound you make in the bedroom is awful enough, imagine the horror of having to bring your one-night stand home and then forcing them to converse with Grandma over a bowl of natto in the morning! Yes, as long as there are several generations living under the same roof, love hotels will continue to thrive.
And even if you don’t live with a lot of other people, sometimes the paper-thin walls of most apaatos keep you intimately involved in the goings on of the next-door Nakamotos. You know she likes it rough, that her Mom is coming to visit and their teenage son is somehow implicated in an incident at school that involves a knife, a reel of duct tape and several feet of rope. Behind closed doors, Japan is a little more exciting than its international image.
So if you live in a gaijin apaato with one-inch plywood walls and your screamer girlfriend or man with a moan is tired of biting the pillow, you can make all the noise you want at your nearest love hotel.
Perhaps you simply want to do it on a water slide while plunging into a private pool. Maybe you want to pretend you are on an alien space ship or are curious to see what Hello Kitty Bondage is all about. One thing is for sure. Whatever your fantasy, whatever your desire, they (probably) have a room for it.
However, the love hotel is changing – which is both good and bad. The good news is they’ve largely gone upscale, lost some of their sleazy associations and the decors are often quite modern and even sophisticated. They’ve even changed their name. Japanese people never say “rabu hoteru” anymore, and although the abbreviation “rabuho” is still in use, most hotels these days prefer to identify themselves as “fashion hotels”, “couples hotels” or “boutique hotels”. Most young people aren’t embarrassed about going to them anymore either. What that means for you, the amorous gaijin, is that it’s easier to convince your significant other to visit one of those kinky rooms with round beds and mirrors on the ceiling. In fact, they may even invite you.
Aren’t sure if you’ve ever actually seen one? Take a moment to think back on those times when you wandered into a slightly shady neighborhood or passed a major rest stop along a highway. Have you ever seen a place with a name like “Hotel Hand’s” (huh?), “Hotel 3-way,” (saucy!) or “Hotel Seeds” (eew!)? Have you ever noticed a hotel that is built in the shape of a castle or cruise ship, has a bright pink stucco exterior, or an elaborate fairy light display, even in July? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then yes, you have chanced upon a love hotel. Of course the dead giveaway is any establishment that has two rates listed – one for a “rest” and one for a “stay.”
It’s also amusing just how up-front it all is. Granted, the receptionist is usually hidden behind a partition (if there’s any receptionist at all), but the very idea that these places are designed expressly to house sexual escapades – and don’t seem to have any problems marketing themselves that way (see above list of names) – can seem surprising. Unfortunately, this also takes some of the romance out of the whole experience. It’s one thing if you happen to walk past one and decide on the spur of the moment to “rest” there, but if you’ve planned to visit one and then have to make the rounds from place to place because they’re all full (a word to the wise – Sunday nights are NOT as quiet as you might think), by the time you actually get a room, you might not feel as libidinous as when you set out.
And while the interior design of some of the older hotels is often lacking, they still have a few things going for them. The temperature seems to be set to “department store balmy” throughout the winter, which means that even if your apartment is freezing, the love hotel is hot, hot, hot. Then there are the bathtubs that are large enough to swim in. For those of us whose bathtubs more closely resemble aluminum cans (in shape and size), this is a true luxury. Plus, there are several special features that are well worth searching out. Massage chairs, adult toy vending machines, and Jacuzzi bathtubs with colored LED light displays all get a seal of approval. Our advice is that you steer clear of the sex chairs and “sample” vibrators, though. In true Japanese consumer fashion, many establishments offer point cards, though it is uncertain how’d you’d be able to justify whipping one of those out on your first visit with someone new…
For all of their conveniences, some things that can be quite maddening or nonsensical about love hotels. People often forget to mention that once you enter your room, you’re not usually allowed to leave until you check out; many of them don’t use keys and some will actually lock you into the room until you pay the machine near the door. This obviously eliminates a lot of the other ways you might use a hotel. They also tend to be super-anal about checkout time. Overstay your welcome by less than ten minutes in some places and you will probably have to pay for a whole extra hour. It is also said that threesomes and same-sex couples are not generally welcome, which seems a little morally superior and ridiculous for an institution that’s capitalizing on people’s lust.
One thing is certain, there are more and more options out there for couples that need some privacy, or just a change of pace. You may have climbed Mt Fuji and eaten sushi and travelled to Kyoto. But if you haven’t tried a really good love hotel, you’re missing one of the truly unique experiences of life in modern Japan.
Admittedly the love hotels of Nagoya lack a bit of the fantasy and freak you will find in Kansai or Kanto. But what they lack in kitsch they make up for with style and technology. Of course you can still get a Hello Kitty room (don’t touch the stuffed animals!) and somewhere out there is the apocryphal classroom theme room. But you are more likely to get a high tech wonderland if you “stay” somewhere in the Nag.
You can find a love hotel in Nagoya just by wandering the back streets of Kanayama, the strip along Hirokoji-dori in Shinsakae, or by traipsing through the golden triangle of love between Chikusa and Tsurumai just around 100 Meter Dori. If you have a car, and want an adventure, just head off on the expressway and look for an exit in the middle of nowhere – that’s where things go over the edge and the hotels, though older,have a higher kink factor. Happy Rubbing!
The Executive Suite room at the Hotel Siesta a beautifully spacious room with an open air spa, bath sofa (floating chair), massage machines. Basically this is the deep end of the love hotel pool. If you want luxe in your love then this is the place. Free breakfast (Japanese or Western) if you stay in the executive class rooms. Also the Siesta cafe on the 1st floor is open 24 hours. All guests get drinks for free.
Rooms 507, 509 and 510 all feature outdoor jacuzzi baths and room 510 also includes a separate tatami mat room. Stylish and upscale yet naughty (You can rent a variety of high school, police, nurse, and office lady uniforms. Maid costumes too! All for only ¥700 – basically the dry cleaning fee!). Rooms also feature mini bars with a welcome drink.
Slip slide away in Room 901 at the Regent Hotel in Shinsakae. This is a swank space which includes a private garden with an aroma diffuser, a foot masssager and… beauty books…? It is one of the most unique rooms in the city (Though room 1003 at their hotel in Odaka location features a slightly larger slide and a more over the top interior)
Pretend you are a gaijin publishing mogul at this unique “office” theme room. Decked out to look like an actual workspace for hacks who run a magazine, the “NAGMAG Office” features a cage (WTF?!) which comes with a dancing graphic designer (optional), a “minibar” fridge containing one “stamina egg” from last year’s combini crimes article, a bunch of half empty ketchup bottles and some tea.