Although some of us might be a little too embarrassed to share our experiences, most Tokyoites have either direct or indirect knowledge of love hotels. After all, these short-stay establishments are ubiquitous, with entire sections of the capital’s neighbourhoods devoted to them. And while slightly risqué, the use of such places has much in common with sex in general in Japan – not talked about openly, but widely indulged. Love hotels offer such a quintessentially local experience that any couple living in or travelling to Tokyo should try one out, if only for the afternoon.
Still, the variety of love hotels on offer can feel a little overwhelming even for locals. First, the flamboyant, castle-like establishments that started to appear as a result of the rapid economic growth seen in the '60s and '70s, are probably the best-known kind. These kitsch-packed houses of pleasure feature eccentric touches like revolving beds, mirrored walls and bathtubs fit for a Roman goddess, but are now a dying breed – thanks to strict construction regulations and dwindling revenues. Second, the standard, modern love hotel is far less flashy, offering little more than spacious rooms, large beds and oversize bathrooms, perhaps with a few fun gadgets mixed in.
Finally, though, there are some love hotels that buck the trend of simplicity and frugality, offering a full-on 'entertainment experience' and welcoming visitors of all stripes, be they a gay couple, a group of adventurous female friends or a carful of tired campers. Occasionally operating under names like 'fashion hotel' or 'boutique hotel', such spots even allow guests to bring their own food and drinks, and attract patrons with equipment ranging from karaoke machines to video games and free Wi-Fi. Here are seven love hotels that fit into this fun and free-spirited category.