On one of your nightly walks around Tokyo or Osaka, you may have stumbled across a rabuho or love hotel before. It’s often an out-of-date looking neon plastered or kitsch decorated building with hourly rates presented on a sign out front, although there are magnificent looking buildings catered towards romance lining the city too.
Intimidating, isn’t it?
Maybe you’ve wondered why you should visit one of them, if they’re clean, and who typically spends the night (or a few hours) there. Read on to hear more burning questions and answers, with a list of our top 10 places to visit at the end.
What are love hotels and are they normal in Japan?
Just looking at the mere amount of them, we can very easily state that they’re very common and popular. Hourly-paid hotels isn’t just a Japanese concept, but it has come to be a very typical feature of Japanese culture and society. The name actually derives from a hotel in Osaka in 1968, called “Hotel Love”. At the time, which was still early postwar, couples often lived with family, so these hotels provided some time away for any of their private needs.
In the 80s and 90s, love hotels became a hype and lots of dates included a love hotel visit. This is when the themed love hotels, with themes like Hello Kitty, rococo and jungle vibes, came into their existence.
Today, however, Japan's love hotels have grown to become more than date hotels, although that is definitely still the top purpose of them. But recently they’re also used for other various purposes besides a lovenest. It’s also become a popular tourist destination or bucket-list kind of stay.
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What are love hotels in Japan used for and why should I visit one?
Love hotels aren’t for everyone, so are you someone who’d want to visit one? Although love hotels may have a kind of intimate motel image in the West, there is more to it than one-night-stands in Japan. Although it’s definitely a convenient and great place to spend a few hours for such a purpose, you can also:
1. Spend a romantic evening
Whether it’s your anniversary or Valentine's Day, spending the night at a love hotel can be a very romantic event (Check out our blog post on Japanese Valentine’s Day or our guide to getting married in Japan to know more about romance in Japan). Love hotels can be incredibly high-class and beautifully decorated places, and you can find one in about any style you like, whether it’s rococo or Hello Kitty. Most love hotels offer overnight stays, in addition to hourly wages, and these can be quite hefty in sum, so you don’t have to worry about coming across as cheap to your date.
2. Host parties
Love hotels are incredibly popular in Japan, amongst girls especially, for hosting parties. This is because most love hotel rooms come with a fully equipped entertainment system that includes karaoke or may even have Mario Kart on Switch. Often there is also a hot tub to relax. A lot of love hotels actually cater towards such parties and offer special packages for girl groups or bachelorette parties.
3. Have some quiet time
If you’re in a relationship but you live in a house with paper-thin walls (as isn’t uncommon in Tokyo) and you just want some privacy, for whatever reason, a love hotel can offer you just that.
If you want privacy, but aren’t sure if a love hotel is the right fit after all, check out our guide on finding a cheap apartment in Tokyo, so you can find a great and affordable place for your private needs.
Who can use love hotels?
Although any consenting adult should be able to visit a love hotel, there have been reports of some people being refused entry.
Can foreigners use love hotels?
Yes, and more than that, they are a big chunk of the yearly visitors (or used to be before Covid-19). It’s a very touristy thing that most people want to try on their trip, for the sheer exploration of the culture or because it can be a cheap stay if you don’t need a lot of sleep. Be aware that most of the service may be in Japanese (see a handy vocab list down below).
Is it common for new couples to visit a love hotel?
To each their own! There may be an alleged stigma around young couples sharing the bed early on in Japan, but rest assured that it’s very common nonetheless. If you’re new in a relationship or have been married for years, love hotels are fun experiences! So if you want to try it, by all means.
Can I stay at a love hotel by myself?
Yes! In fact, lots of people do this! Because it’s a walk-in hotel, you can stay at any time you want. Say you just arrived in the city in the middle of the night, then a love hotel could be a perfect option for you to just spend the night.
A lot of single female travelers also use love hotels, because of the amount of amenities provided (see more on amenities later).
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Can I use a love hotel in a homosexual relationship?
Truth of the matter is, some hotels may not accept same-sex couples… Unfortunately, Japan is still lacking in their acceptance of LGTBQ communities. Being refused entry has been mentioned a few times on reddit forums, especially concerning male-male relationships. But because of its no face-to-face contact with employers, a lot of love hotels should offer you privacy. If they don’t, then it clearly breaks their privacy rules.
Are love hotels in Japan clean?
Precisely because of its notorious usage, love hotels are cleaned very rigorously. Maybe even more so than any normal hotel on the side of the road. The only thing you have to be careful of is that some rooms will be smoking rooms which means you may experience the lingering smell of tobacco. Be sure to pick a non-smoking room or 禁煙室 (kinen shitsu).
Is it true that love hotels are cheap?
Yes, and no. Love hotel prices vary just like normal hotels do. A short rest between 2 to 4 hours will cost around ¥3,000 to ¥7,000 and a whole night could start with a similar price but go up to a whopping ¥30,000. It really depends on where you stay. Bali An is probably the most popular chain in Tokyo and at their main Shinjuku hotel, for example, they charge ¥1,100 for 30 minutes, ¥6,800 for 3 hours during weekend nights, and ¥15,800 for a single night on Fridays. Their royal suites, however, are around double those prices.
How do I book a love hotel?
Once you’ve set your eye on a certain love hotel, you can either book online or just walk in when you feel like it. Be aware that when you go for walk-ins on popular nights such as Friday and Saturday night, you may be left with a no vacancy sign.
How to book online
Oftentimes, the love hotel will have their own website where you can make a reservation, following the button for ご予約 (go yoyaku) or “reservation”. However, you can also browse for and book love hotels in Japan on sites like Happy Hotel or even on English sites like Booking.com.
If you’re in Japan and want to pay for an online booking site such as Happy Hotel, you may want to create a debit or credit card, so check out our blog post on debit and credit cards in Japan. If you’re interested in learning more about opening a bank account, also check out the following article on banking in Japan. And if you want to safely transfer money to Japan without an account, check out our guide to transferring money to Japan.
How to book in-person
If you go in-person, you will find yourself in the lobby of the hotel. Oftentimes a screen with images of the vacancies lets you choose which room you want. Once you’ve clicked the button, you can pay at the counter, where a screen will cover any direct contact between you and the employees. They’ll give you your key and voila!
Ps: There are some love hotels that make you pay inside the room through a tube-like device. This means that everything is automated. You’ll be locked inside until you pay! Our tip to you: be careful of going into such a hotel with a stranger.
Some handy vocab for your stay at a love hotel in Japan
Often there’s a sign in front of a love hotel with hourly wages or their nightly rates. Sometimes, they will offer an English equivalent.
On online sites, you’ll find the rates by clicking on the button for either
- 料金システム (ryokin) or fee system
- 料金表 (ryokin hyo) or price list
The services they provide will be the following:
- 休憩 (kyukei) - a short rest of about 2-3 hours
- 宿泊 (shukuhaku) - overnight stay
- サービスタイム (sabisu taimu) - service time which means the stay in the off hours during the day. These will have the best financial deals, sometimes up to 50% discount!
- フリータイム (furi taimu) - free time. Contrary to what you may think, this is just the same as service time.
- 〜時間 (jikan) - … hours.
A lot of love hotels also have an option to extend your time.
- 延長時間 (encho jikan) - extension time of around ¥1,000 per half hour or hour.
- 延長料金 (encho ryokin) - extension price
There are different prices for different days of the week. You may see the following days and their prices change:
- 月-木 (getsu - moku), short for Monday to Thursday (the full is 月曜日-木曜日)
- 金 (kin) - short for Friday (the full name is 金曜日, kinyobi)
- 土 (do) - short for Saturday (the full name is 土曜日, doyobi)
- 日 (nichi) - short for Sunday (the full name is 日曜日, nichiyobi)
- 祝前日 (iwai zenjitsu) - the day before a holiday
If you want to know when you should pay, ask:
前払いですか (maebarai desu ka). Do I pay upfront?
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Love Hotel amenities
Love hotels are equipped with any sort of thing you may need. Besides a shower, there will often be a hot tub, large TV (with free spicy channels), a small kitchen with fridge, microwave, and kettle, shampoo, conditioner and body soap, bath salt, hairdryers, razors, etc.
There are also free condoms provided near the bed and you can always call down to the lobby to ask for other amenities. A menu in your room will indicate any extra amenities you can ask or pay for, including food, cosplay outfits, protection, and toys.
Although love hotels have a lot of special services and amenities, there is no plan B or morning after pill as easily available in Japan as it is in the West. You’d have to book a doctor’s appointment before receiving it. If you’re in need of the morning after pill after your stay at a love hotel and want an English speaking doctor in the Tokyo area, check out our article on English-Speaking Doctors in Tokyo.
Which love hotel in Japan should you choose?
If you like luxury
Bali An is probably one of the most famous love hotels in Japan with a Bali resort theme. They’re known for their amazing customer service, spacious rooms, and luxury vibe. Bali An offers girls party packages too, also specifically for birthday parties.
|Location||Various around Shinjuku/Shibuya area and Osaka|
|Price||A typical stay will be between ¥6,800 and ¥31,000, depending on your choice of room, day of the week, and length of stay.|
For the same luxury vibe but more options in room choices, Hotel Aroma is the winner. Not only Bali theme is available, but also Japanese, Oriental, and Stylish. Guests noted the relaxing scents in the hotel and spaciousness of the baths provided.
|Price||A typical stay will be between ¥5,400 and ¥26,000, depending on your choice of room, day of the week, and length of stay.|
If you want a little of an old-style rococo look for your stay, then check out Meguro Emperor. They apparently also have the same beds as used in the Ritz Carlton and some rooms also have rotating beds! Meguro Emperor offers a welcome drink and has free member cards at the lobby, so make sure to get one so you immediately get 5% off!
|Location||Meguro City, Tokyo|
|Price||A typical stay will be between ¥6,400 and ¥26,000, depending on your choice of room, day of the week, and length of stay..|
If you enjoy a little kitsch
A perfect stay if you enjoy flashy lights, and rooms with chandeliers and rushed pink pillows. There are quite some options at Hotel Sara, but there’s a color for everyone! You can rent a Nintendo Switch here! Hotel Sara is quite popular for its flashiness so this one may be good to reserve in advance!
|Location||Sumida City, Tokyo|
|Price||A typical stay will be between ¥5,000 and ¥13,300, depending on your choice of room, day of the week, and length of stay.|
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If you want a themed room
Themed in prison-style, this hotel is not for the faint-hearted. It’s more of a dungeon looking hotel than a love hotel, equipped with any themed items you could imagine for an SM hotel. Reviews note that the building and the lobby itself are also quite dark and eerie, fitting well with the overall theme. There’s also a very extensive list of items you can buy in the shop downstairs.
|Location||Minato City, Tokyo|
|Price||A typical stay will be between ¥9,820 and ¥36,480, depending on your choice of room, day of the week, and length of stay.|
6. Hotel Us (Niigata)
Just like Alpha-In, Hotel Us offers its share of kinky rooms, but a little more subdued and for a smaller fee, probably seeing as it is quite far from Tokyo. If you’re on a trip in the prefecture, however, it’s a great visit! They have rooms including an all-round glass wall room, doctor room, construction site, and classroom. No worries for those just interested in plain themes, because Hotel Us has some beautifully themed rooms in oriental, natural, and modern style too.
|Price||A typical stay will be between ¥3,000 and ¥11,000, depending on your choice of room, day of the week, and length of stay.|
Ever wanted to fulfil your fantasy of staying in a Rapunzel-looking tower? There’s Hotel Chantilly for you! Although the rooms are very fancy and not typical ‘locked up in a tower’ vibe, they’re very nicely decorated and a lot have round beds.
|Price||A typical stay will be between ¥7,670 and ¥42,680, depending on your choice of room, day of the week, and length of stay.|
8. Casa Swan (Osaka)
This love hotel offers some of the best themed and simultaneously classy rooms. Choices include casino, Mickey Mouse, and aquarium, but within taste! This love hotel is in Osaka and guests have commented on the friendly service.
|Price||A typical stay will be between ¥2,500 and ¥10,890, depending on your choice of room, day of the week, and length of stay.|
If you want to have a party
This love hotel is perfect for holding parties, because it offers deals and packages for ladies nights, for example. You can also rent board games and you get a complimentary bottle of champagne! Check-in and check-out are all automated, apparently with those automatic locking doors mentioned before. Make sure you go with someone trustworthy. At least you won’t have to interact with any staff!
|Location||Higashi Ikebukuro, Tokyo|
|Price||A typical stay will be between ¥4,800 and ¥14,500, depending on your choice of room, day of the week, and length of stay.|
If you enjoy a view
The rooms at Hotel Mju may not be spacious, but if you get a deal on a 6th or 7th floor room, you’re in for a beautiful view of Tokyo Sky Tree! Worth it just for that! The area of this hotel is also not the biggest love hotel scene, so it really feels more like a normal hotel in a calm and peaceful area of Tokyo.
|Location||Taito City, Tokyo|
|Price||A typical stay will be between ¥3,900 and ¥9,800, depending on your choice of room, day of the week, and length of stay.|
Final thoughts on love hotels in Japan
Now you know all about love hotels, from where they originated down to the best ones to visit! We hope we answered your questions and helped you decide which hotel tickles your interest.
We hope you’ll have a great stay at a love hotel in Japan!
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