You might not think of Tokyo as a city of romance — but that’s where you’re wrong. The Japanese capital might be best known for its culture, food and entertainment, but it’s also home to some of the country’s best love hotels, or rabuho.
Yep, these are hotels that are dedicated to the art of lovemaking — either by the hour or the night. In a huge city of over 37 million residents, it’s no surprise that couples are going to need some privacy now and again, hence the popularity of the love hotel. However, they’re not just for locals — tourists can also enjoy the fun of a love hotel, even if they’re traveling alone and want to try something out of the ordinary.
If you’re ready to trade your bland corporate hotel chain for neon-lit beds, mirrored ceilings and outrageously themed rooms, here’s what you need to know about the saucy side of Tokyo’s love hotels — from someone who’s been there.History of Love Hotels
The first modern love hotel opened in Osaka in 1968, named the ‘Hotel Love’ — the name has since become the universal term to represent a hotel where couples can go to be alone for a few hours. In an expensive city like Tokyo, where so many young people live at home and multiple generations share one roof, love hotels play a vital role in giving couples an affordable and discreet place where they can be alone together.
However, the concept goes back to Japan’s Edo period in the 17th century, where inns and tea houses were built with separate entrances for those visiting for more illicit purposes.What to Expect When You Visit
What’s it like to actually stay at a love hotel? On a trip to Tokyo, curiosity got the best of me, and I spent a night at one. It’s certainly an experience unlike anything else!
First, it’s normal to feel a bit awkward walking in — I certainly did. After all, it’s no secret why you’re going! However, try not to feel weird, as everyone is welcome in love hotels and they’re a space free from judgment. Some hotels even let you check-in via a computer screen if you’re worried about feeling uncomfortable.
If you haven’t made a reservation yet, don’t worry —the nature of love hotels means that they cater to walk-ins and last-minute bookings. However, if you want to stay overnight, or are visiting at a busy time of year, like during sakura (cherry blossom season), it’s better to make a reservation ahead of time, as many hotels reach capacity.
I don’t speak Japanese, so if you’re visiting from overseas, try to stick to one of the more popular love hotels if you’re worried about communication barriers. My top tip — if the hotel’s website is in both English and Japanese, that’s a good indication that they cater to international visitors. Even if you don’t know much Japanese and the reception isn’t fluent in English, most hotel staff will speak enough English to walk you through the check-in process. Many Japanese hotels prefer cash payments still, and love hotels are no exception—check when you make your reservation.
In a traditional love hotel, once you’re in your room, there’s no going in and out until you’re ready to leave, as exiting your room is a signal to the hotel that you’re checking-out. You also won’t have amenities like breakfast, luggage storage, or concierge either—you’re simply paying for the room itself. After your allotted duration, you head back downstairs and pay for your time. However, love hotels that double as tourist hotels will offer these services and let you come and go, so check before you book.