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A Japanese Love Hotel (roadsandkingdoms.com)
111 points by stuffedolives 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 83 comments

These are big in Korea too, and the purpose isn't just infidelity as the article would have you believe. It is common to live with your family until marriage, and many Korean families outwardly hold traditional values of chastity until marriage. Families also tend to have a greater financial involvement (and therefore more influence over) in their childrens ability to rent a nice place because of jeonsei (very high security deposit - like a downpayment - in exchange for reduced rent), so it is in adult childrens best interest to keep up appearances with their parents. The average marriage age is 32 for women, 35 for men. So this means many, many years of adulthood dating where you cannot bring home a date to sleep with because you live with your parents. So love hotels are common in Korean nightlife districts and they are actually quite nice and cheap too. I stayed at some of them years ago and I recall they were around $75 per night, with free pirated DVD movies to borrow.

>the purpose isn't just infidelity as the article would have you believe.

The article states "The clients are often people who live at home with their parents and just need some privacy." Still, they don't clarify this any further so your explanation is useful. As it happens, a similar situation to what you describe in Korea is also common in Japan.

I took a teaching position back in the mid-00s in Korea. Because it was a new school, the housing wasn't ready when we arrived. The school decided to put us up in one because it was cheap. We were there for a month.

Nice? That's not the word I would choose. Random stains on the furniture and carpet. Hairs on the sheets. A vending machine at the end of the hall selling an assortment of toys.

They did have free pirated DVDs on a shelf at the end of the hall. It was all porn.

It did have fantastic sound effects at 2 AM in the morning, though.

Nice is definitely not the word I would choose based on my experience.

The place your school put you up in probably didn't charge US$75/night. In my experience (in Taiwan), many decent, modern hotels offer 2- to 4-hour couples packages just to tap that extra segment of the market.

In addition to those, there are definitely seedy places where you can get a room for 3 hours for around US$15.

I'm not sure about Korean real-estate, but $75/night would be ~2000/mo (which I don't think would be cheap).

It sounds like he may have stayed at a place that was far more upscale than your experience.

I used to live in an area in Seoul sandwiched between universities (신촌), in a nice enough high-rise apartment building at a main street, with a block full of love hotels behind it. My window was out back, facing hotel back entrances.

It was generally quiet and uneventful, but super amusing on Valentine's Day nights: The entire street would basically be a column of taxis. They'd briefly be stopping, a couple would dash out to the safety of the hotel entrance, the column would advance, repeat.

I loved staying in love hotels when a hostel was not convenient. A king size bed and all you can watch Starcraft, usually with a PC Cafe next door (breakfast, lunch, dinner).

Yes! Starcraft on 3 channels!

Truly a vision of how great the future can be

nowadays it's 23/7 league of legends with maybe an hour of pubg.

I hate both of those games :(

I've definitely ended up crashing in a love hotel or two in Seoul after a night out drinking and 노래방 singing. Never used it for the commonly assumed use, more crash pad and hangover.

Pretty cheap (compared to hotels), better accommodations than most Korean hotels (those that are meant for Koreans) I've stayed in and usually have hangover cure drinks in the fridge and free internet.

I'm sometimes kind of unsure why the real hotels are so expensive and these things are so cheap. I often feel like if they just went "legit" with the current rates they might do better, but what do I know?

The way I understand their economics is, that you do not pay them per night, but per hour. I never heard of someone actually staying overnight in one of them, since that should be prohibitively expensive.

This is big in Argentina too. For similar reasons that children live with their parents into their 30s while saving for a place to live on their own.

Same story in Hong Kong. Homeownership is ridiculously out of reach for most people, so kids stay at home until they're married and well settled in their career. With the tiny apartments in Hong Kong, privacy is hard to come by. So love hotels are very common, and well used

I'm french, and live in France, near Paris.

In France, there is only (AFAIK) _one_ love hotel (inspired by the japanese ones).

It's pretty small and the rooms are not big at all, but okayish (I only visited once).

What's interesting is the history of its creation: from what I've read, it was pretty hard to get the authorizations (which explains why there are not any others). Basically, this is the old B.S. about prostitution. Which is total hogwash because they check your ID when you go in, so it would be impossible for an escort to use it with more than a couple customers (and regular hotels are frequently used for escorting anyway so what's the difference?).

Personally, I think that love hotels are a great thing, much better than a regular hotel, and MANY people would benefit from those. Especially people in alternative sexualities (like myself) for whom finding a place to have sex is often a serious problem: going to one partner's home is often seen as a risk for security & anonymity.

BTW, there has also been recently (one year ago), the opening of a "sex doll brothel" in Paris, and they were also checked by the police... Seriously, a freaking SEX DOLL hotel! It's crazy how anything related to sex in any way creates so much problems.

Sadly, I don't think love hotels would work in America. Too many people disrespect and trash public spaces. It's the same reason they don't have net cafes like they do in Japan (where you can informally crash and use the internet).

I don't know how prevalent they are nation-wide, but Miami had quite a few hotels that billed by the hour. Some even had private attached garages so nobody would see you and your date enter the room. The room quality varied depending on the hotel, along with the price, but even the cheaper rooms were passable.

I don't know exactly how common they were, but I've definitely been to an internet café in the US (in a very small town FWIW). AFAICT they're gone because they just don't make economic sense anymore with everyone having a WiFi device already.

Also, public libraries have expanded into the space, using taxpayer dollars to provide the same service for free. Very entrepreneurial of them.

They wouldn't work in the anonymous sense of automated check-in and etc. But they do exist.

In the Chicago area there are two: Aura and Sybaris. It's by the evening and not the hour, but Sybaris has been operating here since the 1970s:


You also have the honeymoon-based hotels in the Poconos as another example.


There are by-the-hour day spas in LA that often serve this purpose. They seem to be used as meet spots for paid hookups, although they serve other uses as well.

Bath houses for gay men worked similarly for years in the US.

They're still there as well. (Just not that common) I can think of at least 2 or 3 in Chicago.

If a stay in a love hotel is $75, isn't that around the price of a cheap hotel room anyway for a night? Pay "a night", have a fuck, check out. I am sure most hotels in France would not bat an eye, would they?

French living in Japan here btw. One of my friends who "goes out" far more than I do did not recommend love hotels, he would just go to regular ones. What you need is a bed and a bathroom. If you want toys, lubricants, condoms, bring your own, really, what more services does a love hotel really offer?

Unless you are into heavy bdsm a regular hotel has all you need.

Love hotels I’ve seen generally provide rooms by the hour, $75 could be pretty pricey.

The rooms will also often come with conviniently shaped furniture which you just won’t find at the Ritz.

Faux, I am pretty sure I remember seeing a "love hotel" in Strasbourg too, which billed by the hour (not a big fan of hotel in general, so don't know more about that)

If you need a hotel in Tokyo you can get a good deal on these love hotels compared to big name hotels. You do not need to go there for sex. They are available on hotels.com and bookings.com and such.

The rooms are good size (in Tokyo hotel rooms tend to be small), you get a very luxurious bath room and bath utilities, you can order a tons of food through TV and of course you get some free condoms.

Do not expect amazing lobby, though. Entrances are more hole-in-a-wall style.

Locals seem to have a cultural taboo with these hotels, but as a Western traveler it is a pleasant and fun experience.

There are a couple of catches to using love hotels as regular hotels though:

* If you want a "stay" (overnight) instead of a "rest" (hourly), check-in times are late and check-out times are early, with steep hourly rates slapped on top if you overstay

* It's often not possible to leave the room and come back (insert joke about in-and-out privileges here)

* Rooms are often windowless

All that said, they can be great deal. Here's a mildly tongue-in-cheek comparison of the JW Marriott Seoul vs a random love hotel in Cheonan:

* $400 (rack) vs. $50 (rack)

* Internet access $25/day vs In-room Internet PC for free

* Two chocolates vs. two condoms on your pillow

* Ordinary bathtub vs. heart-shaped jacuzzi in bathroom

* Whisky and cognac vs. beer, soju and dildos in minibar

* Porn costs $18/channel/day vs. three channels of it for free

Why would anyone want a cold dildo?

This particular love hotel had both a minibar and a (uncooled) toybar. Very mildly NSFW picture: http://www.patokallio.name/photo/travel/Korea/Suanbo/Motel_T...

Maybe made of chocolate?

Locals seem to have a cultural taboo with these hotels, but as a Western traveler it is a pleasant and fun experience.

The Taboo seems to be against talking about them, not using them. My wife's brother got very flustered when the topic of love hotels came up in a conversation among family -- yet in another conversation (which involved much more alcohol), he revealed that he and his girlfriend/fiance were regular love hotel visitors before they had a place of their own.

The statement you quoted is such bs. Locals are the ones keeping love hotels in business after all.

Like you pointed out, when it comes to a lot of things Japanese (east Asians?) will either change the subject or tell you what they think you want to hear, unless you are very close (or they are drunk).

I once booked a hotel on Booking.com on a trip to Japan that was a great price for a king bed and a large room. There was no mention it was a love hotel. While I had no issue with it - my SO felt differently...

In Brazil these things are known as "motels". I still have to think twice when I see a reference to the word in its original context, like "Bates Motel" in Psycho.

In Chile, too, any place calling itself a "motel" is actually a discreet place for a rendezvous and often surrounded by high walls for privacy’s sake.

This actually creates problems for OpenStreetMap, because Chileans, unaware of what "motel" means in the rest of the world, tend to tag these places using OSM’s "motel" tag even though it is arguably inappropriate in this context. (Similarly, because of the similarity of the Spanish word hostal ‘hotel’ and English hostel, unaware OSM editors in this region tag all kinds of ordinary hotels as hostels.)

Is that because people park their motor-vehicles there?

I don't know how they started. They may have started as regular "motels" like in the US and then turned into love hotels because they were usually far away from downtown, near highways and that's a better place if you don't want to be seen with someone else? Nowadays "motel" equals "lovel hotel" in Brazil, without exception AFAIK.

Cheap motels (in the US sense) that are near highways and are not "love hotels" will just call themselves "hotels" and avoid the sex-related stuff. There are plenty of those.

I think it's also pretty common place for people who meet at night clubs and don't want to take their partners back home (in order to keep their privacy). They go to the motel and that's it.

Wikipedia doesn't have a lot on this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motel#South_America

Yeah, it's the same in Chile. Cheap hotels go by names that generally translate to "inn".

> Is that because people park their motor-vehicles there?

Regarding Brazilian motels, I'm not sure about the etymology, but it is possible that it was borrowed from English, I guess.

Because people DO park cars there. In many (most?) cases, there are individual parking garages (with a door that closes) which open to the specific room. There are no elevators, corridors, or anything that would allow unrelated people to interact. Other than the 'reception', which is essentially a drive-through, you do not have to see or interact with any human beings. Even payment is handled through a small compartment.

As I understand it, motel rooms have doors that open to the outside and hotel rooms connect to the inside of the building, i.e. motels have no atrium.

In pure form maybe. In actual life lots of motels and motel chains have atriums and rooms that don't open to the outside.

It's basically the same in dodgy parts of the US.

Speaking as an American, to me "hotel" and "motel" mean exactly the same thing. But "hotel" is the more usual word.

The do not mean the same thing. You can't refer to a 20 story Sheraton tower with a concierge-staffed lobby as a "motel".

A motel (portmanteau of "motor hotel") is a low-lying, often ground-level, structure oriented toward motorists, usually featuring separate exterior entrances to each suite. Visitors are usually able to park right next to their suite, for easily moving items to and from their vehicle.

The word comes from America, and seems to originally have been a proper noun serving as the name of a motor hotel chain: https://www.etymonline.com/word/motel

> usually featuring separate exterior entrances to each suite

Having recently thought a lot about this after being tricked into staying in a place listed on booking.com as an "inn", but which upon arrival was clearly a motel, this is definitely the defining feature of a motel: if I can access the room through an exterior entrance without passing through the interior of the building (a lobby), it's a motel and not a hotel.

Same thing with that no one I know would refer to McDonalds as restaurant. Even though technically it is a restaurant.

If you can pull your car up to the door it is a motel. If you have to go in to get to your room its a hotel.

There are many that have rooms that you can't get your car up to the door, but are still called motels (and even belong to motel chains like Motel 6).

In smaller motels all rooms have car access (on the ground floor of course). In larger ones, as the expand, they often add extra rooms with no road access.

And inversely, there are smaller places where cars can be parked outside, but are called hotels.

Nowadays it more how fancy they are and how much you pay, which makes them call them "hotel" vs "motel", as opposed to

(That said, I've never seen an establishment without parking outside/next to the building called a motel).

Not exactly. For example, there are two-storey motels, which still have outside entrances, from a balcony corridor reached via an exterior staircase.

Also American, and as I understood it, hotels were traditionally in town but when people started taking more long distance driving trips, people opened "motorist hotels" (aka, motels) along highways and common driving routes.

Even today, with chains often blurring the lines, I still think of the old-school, single story row of rooms as a motel and the taller ones as hotels.

It's not because of the original reasons anymore since you can have a high rise along the highway and serving a similar purpose. But since I was a kid, the cheap one-story drive-up ones were still called motels whereas the bigger multi-story chain places were marketed as hotels.

I agree that the lines have blurred but I still consider a motel as a subset of hotels.

Yup. Motels aren't necessarily sex related. They're just cheaper hotels where you might only stay for a night or two getting to your destination. Whereas a hotel is some place you'd usually stay during a vacation.

As I mentioned above, my understanding is that hotels have internally-connected hallways that link the rooms, whereas motel rooms connect directly to the outside.

Note: I am American, too.

Yes, at least in the USA.

> "Hotel," according to Merriam-Webster, originated in the year 1765 and comes from a French word for an establishment that provides lodging, meals and other services.

> "Motel" came along much later, in 1925, according to Merriam-Webster. It blends the words "motor" and "hotel" and is meant to describe an establishment that provides some, but not necessarily all of the services associated with a hotel. Motels, according to San Jose State University communications professor Andrew Wood, are an entirely American phenomenon: They originated as inns along the country's first major motorways, offering rest to weary explorers and families on vacation.

> Hotels and motels differ in layout and construction. Hotels can contain hundreds of rooms and several floors; they generally have staircases, elevators and internal corridors that lead to the rooms. Motels commonly have a one- or two-floor layout and guests access their rooms directly from the parking lot.

> Some hotels, especially those in the luxury-accommodations realm, exhibit specific styles of architecture and design, such as the Waldorf Astoria of New York. Motels typically have a more utilitarian construction.


Hotel is related to hostel.

Regarding French, note that many words that have a circumflex-o in modern French correspond to "os" words in English. Like hôpital -> hospital.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circumflex_in_French#Indicatio...

So "hotel" is basically a re-import of "hostel" from French which had become "hôtel" due to the lost phoneme. So now we have both hostel and hotel.

All of the words hotel, hostel, hospital and related words ultimately come from the Latin word hospitale (inn, large house).

hospitale is transparently derived from hospis, "host".

>I have to say: if Japan wasn’t already the most neurotically clean country I’ve ever been to

I wonder if he's been to Singapore though? I felt like Japan was very clean, but Singapora was on a whole different level. And not just the "they banned gum" comments, but that I saw at 11:00pm people disappear and the cleaning crews come out pressure washing sidewalks and anywhere people might have been. Tokyo especially felt a LOT like NYC to me, except with much wider alleys, and cleaner. Singapore in contrast didn't feel 'real' at all, like if Disney made a whole country.

Had a long layover in Japan, tried to stay in a Love Hotel as all we needed was 6 hours, but it wasn't $82, more like $120 and turned out we found a cheaper rate at a 'normal' hotel. Next time though!

Japan is clean from end to end, though. I’ve driven all day across the countryside many times and never seen much more than neatly-stacked supply storage in terms of clutter. Outside of Tokyo and Osaka, the other big cities like Nagoya are clean as a whistle, with every street swept clear every morning and all trash carefully monitored by a cadre of obaasan volunteers. This is the situation in every corner of Japan that I’ve ever seen. It’s truly “bottom-up” clean, which is remarkable and special.

So is Singapore. Then again, Singapore is only about 40 km end to end!

There's plenty of dirty if you go looking in Tokyo. I don't mind it at all, but if you go walking down the alleys near Shibuya or Shinjuku you can find plenty of garbage, etc. I had to dodge some fighting rats trying to get at an overturned garbage can the last time I went to the Mikkeller bar in Tokyo.

One of our patron saints thought similarly; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disneyland_with_the_Death_Pena...

That would be the case only if you focused your walks on the CBD of Singapore. If you wonder a bit, it is not as clean and crisp as the Japanese. Also Singapore is only 5 millions. Compare that to the metro of Tokyo that has close to 40 millions.

Japanese are really another breed.

I had to look it up and figured I should share: Singapore is roughly six times larger than Disney World.

To clarify, that's the total land area of Disney World's Florida property, only a small portion is devoted to the theme parks:

The Walt Disney World Resort is made up of 47 square miles of land…. or about 30,000 acres. Only about 1100 acres of that land is devoted to the 4 theme parks. In fact, with only 7,100 acres developed, there’s quite a lot of room for expansion!


Another point of comparison: the city of San Francsico has a land area of 47 sq miles, so Singapore is about 6 San Francisco's.

So totally within reason for it to actually be Disney City. Hmm, well, I have my new conspiracy theory.

I have a suspicion that if Disney hadn’t died, and actually built Epcot as a city, and not just a theme park, it would very much resemble Singapore and Dubai.

I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Japan isn't all that clean. Gees I don't know where people get this idea.

Walk down Shibuya Center Street the road is disgusting. Plenty of other similar streets in Ikebukuro, Ueno, Roppongi, Kiyamachi, etc... Go in nearly any station, especially the older ones and there are years of dust piled up all over. Some are so bad I'm surprised it's not considered a fire hazard.

The most interesting to me are toilets. I'd take a Japan over the USA for public toilets as the Japanese ones are less likely to be destroyed but at the same time it often looks like the staff is afraid to wash them correctly as they have extremely caked on stains. Here's a Starbucks.


The "Japan is clean" meme makes all of these issues really stand out for me. I don't know where these dirty places are that Japan is being compared to but I don't feel like Japan sticks out as clean compared to say Silicon Valley or South Orange Country California or even Santa Monica/Brentwood. They seem about the same.

Around Shin-Imamiya station in Osaka where I stayed there's literally trash dumped on the streets and homeless people relieving themselves amongst it all. People just don't go anywhere far from the usual tourist spots.

I've been to Osaka & Singapore. I would consider Osaka to be much cleaner than Singapore.

Tokyo is only clean because they clean it every morning. Stay out before the trash gets picked up, it gets insanely trashed, especially on weekends. Probably due to the lack of trash cans.

Singapore wasn't especially clean when I visited, outside of a few main pedestrian areas

its the people and culture. I think Japan is clean due to the whole culture with regards to cleanliness. So if you see its clean, you know its not just on the surface clean or just hiding it. Singapore might be clean but its mostly due to the municipal/government and management. Once they are out of their country, you know their true nature. Im Malaysian btw, so Im familiar with Singaporeans in Malaysia

I still think Singapore is not that clean (better than most country though).

Tokyo is very smelly on garbage night.

Public restrooms in Singapore are not that great.

Other than that those two cities are super clean.

I little bit of footnote history: back in 2003, in conjunction with the 1st International Moblogging Conference in Tokyo, a group of people (who being armed with pretty much the planets first camphones connected to the internet were also arguably the pioneers of instagram culture) held the 1st International Love Hotel Moblogging Conference.


aka we were overexposing on the internet before it was cool ;)

I was wondering about the Slack emoji :love_hotel:, and now I know.

Its not just part of Slack or Discord's emoji set; its a standard Unicode emoji


And before that, it was in SoftBank's nonstandard extension to the Shift JIS encoding standard at code FBA1 https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/SoftBank%E7%B5%B5%E6%96%87%E5%...

Discord has same emoji. :love_hotel:

Love Hotels are a hit in East Asian. So yes, it's popular China as well since at least 2016[1].

[1]: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/13/chinas-love-ho...

'Telos' called here in Argentina.

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