To the untrained eye, the love hotels in Japan are often viewed as a manifestation of the country’s seedy underbelly. A place where nefarious and unsavory characters congregate after dark for a night of lustful adultery and/or hedonism. But is this really the case?

In spite of their reputation, the love hotels of Tokyo—and beyond—are part of the fabric of Japanese nightlife society. Some couples use them just to get some peace and quiet from their children, to avoid the questioning of invasive parents, or to alleviate their concerns about snoopy neighbours. And many tourists give them a go because, “When in Rome” and all that.

Another common, yet little known use for love hotels, is as an alternative to more expensive business accommodation options. They often can be value priced for the amenities offered, if one doesn’t mind their lascivious side.

I spoke with four people—two men and two women—from around the world who have dipped their toes, as it were, into the world of Japanese love hotels.

What did they find? Were they surprised? Are the conventional wisdoms to be believed? And most importantly, is this an experience that they would recommend to others?

1. “Gabriel” – Male (Ireland)

(Photo for illustrative purposes)

On a two-week visit to Japan, Gabriel and his girlfriend stayed a night in the Hotel Balian, a Bali-themed love hotel in the Kinshicho district of Tokyo. What were his first impressions?

“On arrival, very much Bali-themed; beachy aesthetic, Balinese music playing, indoor water features, it was very over the top. We entered through the front door but soon discovered there were three different entrances you could use (for discreet comings and goings I imagine). We checked in, then had to wait until the room was ready in the area beside reception.”

Was the check-in procedure similar to that of a normal hotel I wondered? Not quite it seems.

“There were lots of free amenities (sweets, drinks, etc.), and a few pairs of couples sitting around waiting for a room too. It wasn’t a great atmosphere,” he admitted with a laugh, “it was very quiet between everyone. And just beside reception there is more free stuff to take up to room.” The “free stuff” ranges from trivial pleasures like bath salts to lubrication and several other more salacious bedroom props.

So with check in out of the way, let’s get into the meat of the experience. What was Gabriel’s hotel room like?

“We got into our room, still over the top with t…

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