Let your imagination run wild in a(n in)famous love hotel.

From capsule hotels to traditional ryokan, no one can beat Japan’s accommodation game—but no place works as hard to meet your needs as the love hotel. Also called fashion or boutique hotels, love hotels are cheap and convenient, and rooms are available in two to three-hour “rests,” which are priced on a sliding scale depending on the time of day. You can also purchase an overnight “stay,” but not until late—usually after 11 pm—a policy which allows the hotel to maximize the number of patrons and profits that slip through its doors.

Privacy is paramount at these hotels, so don’t expect to see a smiling receptionist or a bellboy. Instead, high-tech hotels feature a menu of photographs for each room. Select a room by pressing any of the lighted images, then head over to the covered service window to collect your key. You and the receptionist won’t be able to see each other, ensuring that nobody knows who you are, or who you’re bringing along. This extra measure of anonymity is crucial not only for couples having secret affairs, but also for regular couples who frequent the rooms. Since space is in short supply in most Japanese homes, it can be hard to enjoy an intimate evening without worrying about what’s beyond the paper-thin shoji walls. Love hotels can be a haven for couples looking to let loose in a room of their own.

Love hotels can also help revitalize a relationship that’s lost its spark, because these gems offer so much more than mere privacy. Lovers come to abandon themselves to outrageous fantasies in rooms fully equipped to meet their kinkiest needs. Want to try a little Hello Kitty S&M? Done. In the mood for naked bumper cars? Go for it. To top it off, you can often choose from a menu of costumes to spice up your evening. A love hotel is the ultimate box of chocolates, but with a handy picture guide to tell you what’s inside—so go ahead, try out that flavour you’ve considered but haven’t had the nerve to taste. Above and beyond the sexy setting, these rooms often offer luxurious extras like whirlpool baths, massage chairs, and karaoke and gaming systems.

Love hotels can be just as crazy on the outside as on the inside. The hotels first took off in the late 1960s, spreading like wildfire with over-the-top designs and gaudy neon lights to suit the times. Among the most impressive are the giant Santa-covered Hotel Chapel Christmas, the Jurassic Park-themed Hotel Jzauruss and the castle-shaped Hotel Meguro Emperor. If you’re feeling low-key, make your way to one of the more recently built love hotels, which tend toward the sleek and modern. No matter which part of Japan you find yourself in, you can find a love hotel to set the mood for your exotic adventure.

 Make sure you know the DOs and DON’Ts before you check in



Ready to try out the Japanese no-tell motel? Learn the language of love so you don’t get caught with your pants down at your next kinky “rest.”

DON’T  get chummy with other guests

Everyone wants privacy, and you’re here for bed-shaking, not networking.


DO indulge in fantasy

Whip it good, or take it sweet and slow—your secrets are safe within these walls.


DON’T  bring your brood

While love hotels often allow more than two guests per room, this is no family affair.

Illustrations by Chieko Watanabe