News & Opinion | February 6, 2018 10:09 am

Behind the Scenes of Japan’s Secretive Love Hotels

In a country where privacy is scarce, pay-by-the-hour love hotels offer sexual freedom.

love hotel
Geihinkan Love Hotel - Love hotels in Japan are places for couples to meet up for some intimate time together when they may not have privacy otherwise. (John Lander/John S Lander/LightRocket via Getty Images)
LightRocket via Getty Images

In Japan, deaths now outpace births and the population is shrinking. Marriage rates are also plummeting, and it has been reported that young people aren’t having sex. The Japanese government is funneling tax dollars into speed dating and matchmaking services over fears of an economic collapse. But National Geographic reports that in a pocket of Tokyo’s Shibuya district, “BDSM equipment, mirrored ceilings, vibrating beds, and condom vending machines paint a different reality.” At Love Hotel Hill, the sex industry is flourishing. Love hotels cater to millions of Japanese couples every year, but there has also been an increase in tourists visiting them. There are more than 30,000 love hotels in the country, making it a multibillion-dollar business that accounts for a quarter of the sex industry. When married couples live in close quarters with elderly parents and children, love hotels offer a practical alternative to a home where privacy is scarce. Most of the clientele are dating and married couples but sex work and extramarital affairs are not unheard of. Check-in is machine automated for extra privacy, and there is a board that shows which rooms are available. Many hotels have themes and offer a wide variety of amenities like videos, rotating beds, costumes or sex toys.