With less than a week left in my one-month trip to Japan, my fiance and I were spending our last few days together visiting tourist spots and taking care of some visa business. We also found some time to relax and visit a love hotel!
My fiance and I had made the decision to live in the US after we got married, and we determined that the easiest way for us to make this happen was through a US fiance visa. As part of the visa application, on Monday we had gone to the police station headquarters to obtain a criminal record check or 犯歴 hanreki, and Tuesday we went back to the doctor to get an updated vaccination record. This was the doctor who I had seen when I was under the weather earlier in December, and he was glad to see that the IV drip (点滴 tenteki) and medicine he had prescribed had quickly restored my health.
The day was very rainy and dark, so we spent some time at the Taito Station game center and went to Don Quixote ドンキホーテ (a low-price store that sells just about anything and everything) to browse the more ridiculous sections. The bright interior of the game center and the Don Ki ドンキー (as it is usually abbreviated) kept us entertained, but there’s only so many times you can play a video game or try to figure out the weirdest item in the store (and there are some really weird ones).
Love Hotel / ラブホテル
We were meeting Aki’s parents for dinner in the evening, but the apartment was especially cold in the rain with only one small heater, so we decided to stop at a love hotel ラブホテル to relax and warm up before dinner.
Love hotel? Yep, that’s what I said. And yes, it’s pretty much what you imagine. It’s generally for couples, and the phenomenon of love hotels has resulted in a giant variety of theme rooms and amenities for the couple. You can “rest” or “stay” at a love hotel, with periods of “rest” lasting 1 to 3 hours, and a “stay” being overnight.
Visiting a love hotel really enforces the idea that the couples here are most likely having a tryst, because everything from check-in to check-out is generally automated, and contact with other people, even the staff, is limited. We never even saw another couple, although many of the rooms were rented and there were many cars in the garage.
When we entered the lobby, no one greeted us, in fact no one was even around, and we selected our room from a giant touch screen display. There were many variations of amenities, with a range of price options. A lot of the rooms were already in use, and since it was cold (and my onsen experiences were over for the trip) I went for the hot tub option, even though it was a bit more expensive. We went for the 3 hour stay since we had time, and the cost was ￥8,800 (~$90 US). We selected shampoo and borrowed a hairdryer from the clerk, who was mostly behind a curtain until we called him over, most likely because he doesn’t have a lot of interaction with guests at the check-in.
We took the elevator to our floor and quickly found our room. There were no windows in the hallways and everything was low lit and very dark, and the elevator and hallways were narrow. This is not uncommon in Japan, but I admit I was a little surprised because it was a hotel, and in America the elevators and hallways are almost always pretty wide in hotels.
The room has a genkan 玄関 or entryway where you leave your shoes and step up to the main room to put on slippers, and which is separated from the genkan by another door. In the genkan there is also a payment machine for the room’s bill because you pay when you leave (in case your stay is longer than you planned).
The room we picked was huge, with a bedroom (with comfy robes in the closet), a leather furnished lounge, a vanity area, and a huge shower and hot tub area. It was also heated throughout the entire room, which is exactly why we decided to stay here for a few hours. There was a huge TV in the lounge area as well as in the bedroom, and you can use the TV to order room service.
My fiance was browsing the room service menu, which has Japanese style snack foods and a huge variety of alcoholic beverages. I suspected that he was accidentally ordering the snacks and beverages, but he assured me that he was not. Sure enough, a few minutes later, one of the staff members rang the bell on the inner genkan door, carrying refreshments. After my fiance explained that he had mistakenly pressed the “order” button on the remote, the staff graciously cancelled all the orders and we were not charged. I proceeded to mock my fiance for at least 5 minutes.
After 3 hours of relaxing in the hot tub (which also had it’s own TV), napping in the huge bed, and taking a refreshing shower and getting dressed up for dinner, we checked out of the love hotel. Through the inner door, at the genkan payment machine, you basically had to pay in order to check-out and open the outer door. There was a slot for cash and a credit card swiper, but the machine would not take my American credit card. This is why I always carry cash in Japan, and particularly in large quantities (travel tip!). I’m less worried about having my cash stolen than about not having enough and having my credit card rejected. We paid the ￥8,800 bill in cash, returned the hair dryer and shampoos downstairs, retrieved the car from the garage, and we were back out on the rainy Tokyo streets.
We met up with Aki’s parents for dinner refreshed, relaxed, and warm. So, even though the idea behind love hotels seems kind of shady, I think that they are an awesome idea if you are travelling for the day and want to take a break, or even if you stayed the night some of the prices are comparable to regular hotels, and they can be something different for a couple to try. They are also much less shady than any American motel where you pay by the hour…
What’s your favorite hotel experience? Have you tried a Japanese love hotel? Let me know in the comments!