Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Love Hotels: cheap and surprisingly sanitary Japanese accomodation

In Japan, it's pretty common to live with your parents until you get married, but where can young couples go to escape the prying eyes of their elders? Love hotels exploded in the 90's and Osaka is the best city to find a huge variety of them. They can be rented by the hour, but, as more and more travelers are finding, they're the cheapest way to sleep a night in Japan if you want a private room a bit larger than a capsule hotel. They're also super foreigner friendly in that at many of them you don't have to make any human contact at all. Typically you walk into a lobby which is eerily empty and see a big light up display of the available rooms. Hit the button for the room you want and take your receipt to the door, which will probably be flashing. Here's the scary part: the door will lock behind you. You can't freely enter and exit the hotel, so once you're in you're in.

During the boom love hotels got outlandish. Themes can be pretty extreme, but eventually hotel owners decided that girls don't think sleeping in an exact replica of subway car is that great of an idea. Most rooms these days are less alien autopsy and more Holiday Inn. So in Osaka we decided to give the love hotel experience a go. Besides, it was a holiday and we didn't have reservations anywhere anyway.

We declined to stay at Hotel Beaver. Creeeeepy. We ended up at La Foret, which was definitely on the tamer side of things. We did, however, select the tackiest looking room (complete with zebra couch and weird blacklight patterned ceiling). It had far more amenities than any other hotel we've stayed at in Japan, (free karaoke, free video games, giant spa tub!) and at least it lacked the bed bugs of a certain temple we spent twice as much money on in Koyasan.

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