Let me start off by saying that the term “love hotel” in my mind, conjures up something super trashy, outside of Vegas, 30 bucks for the night or 20 for the hour, semen stains on the sheets, stale cigarette smell, dark, dank, wholly unsavory. I’m not even sure if there are hotels like this outside of Vegas.
Love Hotels in Japan, I think, were started for the purpose of having sex. Most likely for the purpose of having sex without disturbing one’s neighbors (walls made of paper, remember), especially since sometimes one’s neighbors are still one’s parents or grandparents. But….you can check any two people into a room…regardless of gender, whether you’re married, whether you’re vastly different ages (as long as you’re both over 20), so it seemed like a good option for finding a cheap but nice room. There cannot be more than two people in one love hotel room, however, and once you enter the room you are actually locked in for the amount of time you pay for.
Payment in a love hotel can be done in segments (paying for 30 minutes, or an hour, or several hours) or for the night. You pick the room you want to go into (the hotel I stayed at, you walked down to a parking garage which listed picture of all the rooms and their prices, with nearby staircases for each room), and you press the button for it. Then the correct stairway will unlock so you can go up to your room (and your room only, at least at this hotel). The rooms I stayed in both nights were about $100 a night, the first was a little nicer, and more up to date (this is the one pictured). I had heard from friends that love hotels are generally cheaper, around $60-70 per night, but I was in Kyoto, exhausted, and unable to speak Japanese, so I settled for the first one I managed to find.
You usually can’t check into to a love hotel for the night until 10pm; you would need to pay hourly before that. When you check in for the night, you are in until 11am or 12pm the next day. I believe you cannot leave early. Once again…you are literally locked into your room.
The room itself was quite nice. It has a cushy, queen size, Western style bed (something I certainly consider to be a luxury in Japan), a large spacious bedroom (once again, EVERYTHING in this country in cramped, so having a large bedroom just felt nice), a spacious bathroom with a whirlpool tub large enough for two people and a shower, a coffee maker, small fridge, room service available, electric kettle (for tea), complimentary tea and coffee, a large TV, complimentary bathrobes, four sets of bath towels total, complimentary shampoos, conditioners, face washes, lotions, and hair brushes (his and hers).
You never speak to an actual person, really. When you enter your room, a person opens a tiny window near the door (though you can’t see their face, unless the bend over to speak to you), they slide a money tray into your room, where you place your money for the room, they make appropriate change, and then leave you alone.
My companion and I ha quite a bit of difficulty leaving the hotel in the mornings. It seems that you need to call the front desk at the appropriate check out time, and tell them you’re ready to leave, and then they unlock the door. They do not unlock the door automatically at your assigned…leaving time. I believe this is due to their policy of charging about $10 for every thirty minutes you go over (and yes, 5 minutes is rounded up to 30). So they trick you into paying it if you don’t know what you’re doing, which I didn’t. We assumed the door would unlock. We waited politely for about 5 minutes, then called the front desk. Then after much language barrier confusion ensued, we were finally released about ten minutes later, after giving them the extra 1,000 yen through the window. Sigh.
All in all, now that I understand love hotels, I would stay in one again, if they were one of the more cost effective options. The room was nice, quite, and fairly luxurious for the price. I dislike having to check in so late and leave so late; it means missing morning activities and carrying your bags around all day. Overall though, I’d recommend it.