The Wonderful World of Japanese Love Hotels
Monday, November 15, 2004 Posted: 12:55 PM JST
Love hotels are big business in Japan. The economy would probably collapse without them, says love hotel industry "consultant" Vitamin Miura. Miura, who runs the Miura Love Hotel Total Research Office, reports that there are 37,000 love hotels in Japan and that nearly 500 million couples visit them each year. That works out to 1,370,000 couples using a love hotel per day, which is more than double the annual number of combined visitors to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea.
Miura estimates the average expenditure of a couple per use is about 8,000 yen, which adds up to a whopping 4 trillion yen in sales a year, almost 1 trillion yen more than the annual takings of the Japan Racing Association (JRA).
The origin of the love hotel goes back to World War II. Simple travel inns were set up for prostitutes to service American soldiers in postwar Japan. These establishments were called "tsurekomi" (bring your own woman). However, during the ensuing years of economic growth, those inns were rebuilt as business hotels and then love hotels for the general public.
Love hotels have proliferated in Maruyama-cho, Shibuya. The reason for this goes back to 1945 when a dam in Shirakawa village, Gifu Prefecture, burst and destroyed the village. The survivors came to Tokyo and opened inns in Shibuya. Those became the forerunners of today's love hotels, which is why many of them are named Shirakawa or have "kawa" in their names.
Recently, love hotels have started altering their decor and amenities to cater for women's tastes. Flashy room decorations and revolving beds are no longer fashionable. Now, the rooms are painted in neutral colors, which more women prefer, and plenty of items such as shampoo, conditioners and blow dryers are provided. "The future of the love hotel business is in the hands of women," says Miura. "Even if a couple breaks up, if the woman likes the hotel, she will go back with another man, but the man won't."
Another trend is that love hotels are no longer just for sex. The room atmosphere is more relaxing. The bathroom is as big as the main bedroom. Saunas, jacuzzis, karaoke, DVDs, plasma TVs, games, massage chairs and food and drink services are now a matter of course. To stay competitive, hotels are continuously adding more value.
On weekends and at Christmas, love hotels are usually packed with couples. Othertimes, some couples come with their children. Some older couples celebrate their wedding anniversary at a love hotel, while businessmen come to a love hotel to take a bath and stay there for the night alone. It has also become trendy for middle-aged groups to hold their school reunion at a love hotel with a party room.
Love hotels are still far cheaper than regular hotels. The rate for the average time (3 hours) is 4,500 yen and a one-night stay is 7,500 yen. When it is this cheap and there is a huge bath and amenities, it is a lot better than staying at a regular hotel.
One image problem for love hotels is that they are being used as HotelHels (health salons or brothels at hotels). Health salons used to be set up in their own buildings, but since police started to crack down on illegal operations, many girls have moved their services into love hotels. "Actually, it is very attractive to have a contract with them because they bring in stable revenue," said one love hotel manager.
Shukan Post also interviewed a 13-year veteran love hotel worker, whom we'll call A; the owner of two love hotels, whom we'll call B; and C who has worked as a janitor at a love hotel for five years.
What are some of the most surprising things you've experienced?
A: One day, a couple checked into my hotel and after awhile they phoned the front desk and asked us to come up to the room. We thought there must have been a problem. Hanging up the phone, we rushed up to the room where we found them lying naked on the bed. "We need someone to watch us, if you wouldn't mind."
B: There was something weird one night. A couple had checked in and a short time later, the guy left alone. I wondered what was going on. Then the woman rang the front desk, "Sorry, I do not have enough money to pay for this room," she said. I went up to see her and she started playing between my legs.
A: When I was watching surveillance cameras set up in the hallway of every floor in the hotel, a naked woman with a choker came out of her room and walked around on her hands and knees like a dog in the hall. Then a man came out of the room after a while and put a leash on her and led her along the hallway and back to their room.
C: There are some hotels that let guests use sado-masochistic toys, but I don't like guests who improvise in their rooms. It's very difficult to clean up the candle wax. Also, I hate it when they use the bed for a toilet.
A: One time, a man in his 50s checked in with a young woman. After less than 20 minutes, she left alone. Five minutes later, the guy came running out naked, yelling: "She stole my wallet! Please catch her!" I think that was a case of "enjo kosai" (compensated dating) going wrong.
B: I remember a guy who left before the woman. She was crying because she couldn't pay the bill. I said to her that I would call the police, but she preferred to call her mother who showed up with money and apologized to us.
B: There is old woman who always comes alone. All she does is soak in a huge bathtub and sleep on the bed. I am always curious what she is doing there.
What items do guests commonly leave behind?
A: A lot leave their underwear and never come back for it.
C: However, I have seen a couple who came back to pick up their potato chips. I was pretty amazed by them. Nowadays, I keep everything for awhile just in case a guest comes back.
B: Unexpectedly, what they don't forget are their sex toys. I guess that's the most important thing.
C: Dentures, wigs and syringes are left behind, too.
Are there a lot of troublesome couples?
C: One man left his cell phone in a room, so I kept it for him. Later that day, the phone rang a few times. I thought it might be him looking for his cell phone. I picked it up and said "Hello, this is the xxx hotel." However, what I heard was, "That phone is my husband's. Don't you give it back to him. I want it."
B: One time a married woman came to my hotel with her lover. After they checked in, her husband showed up and demanded that we tell him which room his wife was in. We stalled him while we called the room. Her lover escaped down the fire escape, and she invited her husband to the room when they apparently spent a happy night together.
A: A couple in their 70s came and brought a tiny "shichirin" (a BBQ grill that uses charcoals). They proceeded to grill fish in a room, setting off the fire alarm. (Translated by Sachie Kanda)
This article was kindly provided to us by Japan Today
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