Love hotel

A love hotel is a type of short-stay hotel found around the world operated primarily for the purpose of allowing guests privacy for sexual activities. The name originates from "Hotel Love" in Osaka, which was built in 1968 and had a rotating sign.[1]

Distinguishing characteristics

Love hotels can usually be identified using symbols such as hearts and the offer of a room rate for a "rest" (休憩, kyūkei) as well as for an overnight stay.[2] The period of a "rest" varies, typically ranging from one to three hours. Cheaper daytime off-peak rates are common. In general, reservations are not possible, and leaving the hotel will forfeit access to the room; overnight-stay rates become available only after 22:00. These hotels may be used for prostitution, although they are sometimes used by budget-travelers sharing accommodation.

Entrances are discreet, and interaction with staff is minimized. Rooms are often selected from a panel of buttons, and the bill may be settled by pneumatic tube, automatic cash machine, or paying an unseen staff member behind a pane of frosted glass. Parking lots will often be concealed and windows will be few, so as to maximize privacy.[3]

Although cheaper hotels are often simply furnished, higher-end hotels may feature fanciful rooms decorated with anime characters, be equipped with rotating beds, ceiling mirrors, karaoke machines,[4] and unusual lighting. They may be styled similarly to dungeons or other fantasy scenes, sometimes including S&M gear.[5]

These hotels are typically either concentrated in city districts close to stations, near highways on the city outskirts, or in industrial districts. Love hotel architecture is sometimes garish, with buildings shaped like castles, boats or UFOs and lit with neon lighting.[2] However, some more recent love hotels are very ordinary looking buildings, distinguished mainly by having small, covered, or even no windows.[6]

Around the world


The history of love hotels (ラブホテル, rabu hoteru) can be traced back to the 17th century, in the early Edo period, when establishments appearing to be inns or teahouses with particular procedures for a discreet entry or even with secret tunnels for a discreet exit were built in Edo and in Kyoto.[7] Modern love hotels developed from tea rooms (chaya (茶屋)) used mostly by prostitutes and their clients but also by lovers. After World War II, the term tsurekomi yado (連れ込み宿, lit. "bring-along inn") was adopted, originally for simple lodgings run by families with a few rooms to spare. These establishments appeared first around Ueno, Tokyo in part due to demand from Occupation forces, and boomed after 1958 when legal prostitution was abolished and the trade moved underground.

The introduction of the automobile in the 1960s brought with it the "motel" and further spread the concept. Japanese housing trends at the time were characterized by small homes with sleeping areas being used as common areas during the day and, as a result, little opportunity for parents to engage privately in intercourse. Married couples therefore began to frequent love hotels. By 1961, there were around 2,700 tsurekomi inns in central Tokyo alone. Hotels of the time featured unusual attractions such as swings and vibrating beds. The Meguro Emperor, the first castle-style love hotel, opened in 1973 and brought in an average of approximately ¥40 million monthly.[3]

In 1984, the Businesses Affecting Public Morals Regulation Law placed love hotels under the jurisdiction of the police. For that reason, new hotels were built to avoid being classified as "love hotels"; the garish, over-the-top, bizarre designs and features of the past were significantly downplayed. Beginning in the 1980s, love hotels were also increasingly marketed toward women. A 2013 study showed that couples' selections of rooms at love hotels were made by women roughly 90% of the time. The Businesses Affecting Public Morals Regulation Law was amended in 2010, imposing even stricter limitations and blurring the line between regular hotels and love hotels.[8] Keeping in mind legislation and a desire to seem more fashionable than competitors, an ever-changing palette of terms is used by hotel operators. Alternative names include "romance hotel", "fashion hotel", "leisure hotel", "amusement hotel", "couples hotel", and "boutique hotel".[6]

Love hotels have enough cultural significance to be added to the first edition of emojis in unicode 6.0.[9][10]

South Korea

Love hotels (Korean: 러브호텔), also known as love motels,[11] first appeared in South Korea in the mid-1980s. They were originally called "Parktel" (Korean: 박텔). Their boom and growth was originally attributed to the 1988 Olympics which took place in Seoul.[12] The hotels have historically been seen as seedy, with some residents speaking out against them and not wanting them within certain distances of schools and residential areas.[13][14] However, some hotel owners have tried to remove that element from their business by upgrading, offering cleaner modern services, and removing some of the more sexual elements from their decor.[12] They are considered a taboo topic in South Korea and a photo exhibit of love motels taken by a foreigner created a controversy in 2010.[15]


Thailand has had love motels since 1935 and there are approximately 100 establishments in Bangkok most densely located around Ratchadaphisek Road. The government no longer issues building permits for these types of motels, but some businesses work around the laws. In addition to short-stay, the motels are also used by foreign travellers on a budget.[16]


The first and only authentic, Japanese-influenced love hotel in Canada opened its doors in Toronto in 2019.[17]

Other countries

Similar establishments also exist in some other Asian countries including Singapore,[18][19] Taiwan[20] and Hong Kong. India's first love hotel opened in 2015.[21]

The same concept also exists in Central and South America. In Guatemala, they are called "autohotels";[22] in Chile "motel" or "hotel parejero" (couples' hotel); in the Dominican Republic, "cabañas", "moteles" or "estaderos"; in Panama they are called "push buttons" or "push" for short;[23] in Argentina and Uruguay, "albergue transitorio" or more informally, "telo". In Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Puerto Rico, they are simply called "motels" (the word is exclusively used for love hotels). In Brazil motels (approximately 5000) are part of the urban landscape. Very popular, they are associated with erotic transgression, but also with romantic love.[24]

In Nigeria, love hotels are called "short-time". They are often dingy accommodations in densely populated areas. Some other hotels offer "short-time" services unofficially.

In the United States and Canada, certain motels in low-income areas often serve similar functions as a Japanese love hotel. Colloquially known as "no-tell motels" or "hot-sheets joints", these are becoming scarce as local laws increasingly require renters' identification information to be recorded and given to law enforcement agencies. However, the US Supreme Court struck down warrantless searches of hotel records in 2015.[25][26]

In Oceania, New Zealand opened its first love hotel in May 2011,[27] and Australia opened its first love hotel in August 2011.[28]

Economic aspects

The annual revenue of the love hotel industry in Japan is estimated at more than $40 billion,[29] a figure double that of Japan's anime market.

It is estimated that more than 500 million visits to Japan's 37,000[30] love hotels take place each year, which is the equivalent of around 1.4 million couples,[30] or 2% of Japan's population, visiting a love hotel each day.[6] In recent years, the love hotel business has drawn the interest of the structured finance industry.[30]

Several transactions have been completed where the cash flows from a number of such hotels have been securitised and sold to international investors and buy-out funds.[4][31]

See also


  1. Slavin, Erik (25 March 2007). "My months in a love hotel". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
  2. Basil, Michael (June 2007). "Japanese love hotels: A photo essay". Consumption, Markets, and Culture. 10 (2): 203–221. doi:10.1080/10253860701256315.
  3. Ikkyon, Kim (6 June 2013). "Japan's Affection for Love Hotels". Nippon Communications Foundation. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  4. Wakao, Aiko (9 June 2007). "Developing a passion for love hotels". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  5. Haggart, Blayne (16 October 2002). "A night in a Japanese love hotel". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Retrieved 23 January 2008.
  6. Chaplin, Sarah (2007). Japanese Love Hotels: A Cultural History. London: Routledge. p. 149. ISBN 0-415-41585-3.
  7. Ihara, Saikaku (1964). The Life of an Amorous Man. Translated by Kengi Hamada. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Company. pp. 113–114. ISBN 978-0-8048-1069-2.
  8. Ikkyon, Kim (4 June 2014). "Love Hotels Clean Up Their Image". Nippon Communications Foundation. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  9. "Background data for Unicode proposal". Unicode COnsortium. 27 April 2010. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  10. "Unicode Technical Report#51: Unicode emoji Version 1.0". Unicode COnsortium. 9 June 2015. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  11. Enrique Zaldua (28 June 2002). "World Cup: Why Some Teams Just Can't Win". Time. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
  12. Choi Min-woo; Nam Koong-wook (18 May 2005). "Love hotels not just for secret liaisons anymore". JoongAng Daily. Archived from the original on 19 May 2005. Retrieved 24 April 2009.
  13. Choi Joon-ho (19 August 2002). "'Love hotel' label roils residents". JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
  14. Jeon Ik-jin (5 October 2000). "Anti-Love Hotel Campaign Spreads All Over the Country". JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
  15. Kim Seong-kon (30 March 2010). "What are we trying to hide in this era?". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
  16. Wechsler, Maxmilian (2 May 2010). "The seedy side of Bangkok's love motels". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
  17. "Canada Now Has A Japanese Love Hotel And Every Room Has A Unique Theme".
  18. "The Insider: Love hotels". Time Out Singapore. 19 January 2009. Retrieved 5 December 2011.
  19. Richie, Donald (26 August 2007). "It's ladies first now in Japanese love hotels". The Japan Times. Retrieved 5 December 2011. Review of Japanese Love Hotels: A Cultural History.
  20. Matthew Alexander; Chien Chuan Chen; Andrew MacLaren; Kevin D. O'Gorman (9 March 2010). "Love motels: oriental phenomenon or emergent sector?" (PDF). International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management. 22 (2): 194–208. doi:10.1108/09596111011018188. ISSN 0959-6119.
  21. Safi, Michael (9 March 2018). "Lust in translation: arrival of the 'love hotel' divides India". the Guardian.
  22. Greenspan, Eliot (2007). "Guatemala: Tips on Accommodations". Frommer's Guatemala (1st ed.). Frommer's. ISBN 978-0-470-04730-9.
  23. "The Love Motels of Panama". 20 May 2014.
  24. Souty, Jérôme (2015). Motel Brasil. Une anthropologie des love hotels. Paris: Riveneuve. pp. 109–140. ISBN 978-2-36013-335-2.
  25. "EFF Amicus – Los Angeles v. Patel". 30 January 2015.
  26. Stanwood, Stephen (22 June 2015). "Supreme Court Strikes Down Warrantless Searches of Hotel Records, Reaffirms Fourth Amendment Facial Challenges".
  27. "NZ's first love motel set to open doors". TVNZ. 11 May 2011. Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
  28. "Love shack where mini-breaks last just an hour". SMH. 13 August 2011. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  29. Neill, Morgan (2 July 2009). "Love hotel business zooms despite downturn". CNN. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  30. Kelly, Tim (6 May 2006). "Love for Sale". Forbes. Retrieved 15 June 2007.
  31. Schreiber, Mark (18 July 2004). "'Love hotels' juggle bedsheets and balance sheets". The Japan Times. Archived from the original on 17 October 2007. Retrieved 16 February 2007.

Further reading

  •—Photographs of Japanese love hotels by photographer Misty Keasler, who published a book on the subject (see the Further reading section above)
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