Love hotels, reflections of their time

The love hotel used to be synonymous with a lewd place. Then they became more discreet, more refined, generalist magazines now talk about them under the nickname “love-ho”, young couples use it sometimes, proof that it has become common place. Narrated by Ms. Kim Ikkyon is the evolution of the love hotel.

People think that this young woman who systematically visits love hotels is suspicious. It must be said that love hotels are the subject of Kim Ikkyon’s research. This is for his field investigation…

“I wasn’t very confident at first, either! The image of the love hotel is the one given by the television series: always in a room in a love hotel with a dead body found. But one day, I read an advertisement in the metro: a general information magazine talking about love hotels as healthy places, ordinary places to meet. It makes me question and I want to know more, to investigate, that’s what motivates me”.

The image of love hotels has evolved with the times

Ms. Kim was a student in the late 1990s-2000s. It was at this time that love hotels began to appear in news magazines for young people.

However, until then, love hotels remained a suspicious and dark image that frightened young women. At the media level, the weeklies with scandals, the tabloids and the TV programs after midnight talk about it.

In the book published from her study, Ms. Kim talked about a weekly column on love hotels that mangaka Kondô Risaburô published at the same time.

“At that time, according to Kondô Risaburô, all you had to do was write an article with the words ‘love hotel’ in the title to find a weekly that would buy it from you. […] The word itself is enough to arouse many people,” said Kim Ikkyon in Cultural history of sexual space).

What was the process that led the love hotel to become what you call “a safe place to meet”?

The love hotel is full

Rooms with gaming machines and karaoke (photo: Kim Ikkyon)

As we saw in the first part of this article, the boom of tsurekomi yado started in the 1960s, then between the end of the 60s and the first half of the 70s, at the same time as the generalization of the name “love hotel” the trend towards “luxury” was emphasized, the exterior appearance of the building rather than the interior design of rooms.

This trend ended in the late 1980s, and returned to become a sobriety trend, Ms. Kim said. Exterior and interior sobriety of the love hotel, but which is accompanied by an increase in the supply of gaming machines, karaoke systems, etc. The days when the Meguro Emperor pulled the love hotel concept behind it are over. Should we see a coincidence in the fact that 1989 also marked the end of the Showa era?

For Ms. Kim, three main elements drive “goodness”.

First, the reform of the “law on entertainment establishments”. In the past, love hotels were governed by the same law as establishments in ryokan or “traditional inns” and other ordinary hotel establishments, which are placed under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs.

The revised law makes love hotels “special sexual and entertainment businesses”, under police control. This has the consequence that new establishments prefer to avoid the more obvious exterior appearance that immediately identifies them as love hotels.

Second, the simplification of interior and exterior layouts reduces construction costs. Thirdly, the change of time prompts that “now women choose the hotel”.

The love hotel preferred by women

The legislative reform of the entertainment establishments and the economic situation are not the only factors driving the decency. Glitzy, flashy love hotel look tacky, outdated, especially when the practice of clients began to allow women to choose the hotel to meet.

“The love hotel is no longer a place where a man drags a woman, but a place where a couple comes together.”

For Ms. Kim, this remarkable phenomenon is related to the media’s attention to magazines for young people. In 1994, the urban news magazine too, (Kansai edition, ie the Osaka area) noted that some love hotels are so successful that customers line up for a room. This is the beginning of a boom. This special issue had a huge impact, and the competing magazines all wanted to have their special issue on love hotels, which sold like hotcakes.

The importance of beauty products to gain women’s confidence (photo: Kim Ikkyon)

This “guide” treatment is very accurate to the needs of users, unlike the treatment on a sexual level which is that of news magazines for adults. The media coverage now includes a presentation of everyday consumer products found in the room, which encourages the managers of these establishments to improve their offer to attract the attention of women more directly.

“This is how managers of love hotels know the new demand from users, and begin to compete with attractive services for women. Going back to the 80s, there were very few love hotel offering consumer products like shampoo or conditioner etc. quality of rooms.

In addition, a phenomenon observed by Kim Ikkyon while studying the behavior of couples, once a couple enters a hotel, in 90% of cases it is the woman who chooses the room.

In recent years, many hotels offer a cheap “Ladies plan”. The concept is to offer quality beauty care and even catering services in a “resort” atmosphere, comfortable and relaxing. In fact, one of these efforts can see the difficulty of establishments in expanding their clientele, but the second objective is also that next time, the client will return with his girlfriend. In other words, apart from the room, the woman chose the hotel itself.

Prices of love hotels: the price is always for one person, even for a couple.

At the end of the bright love hotel came a strange side effect: “Now ordinary hotels are approaching love hotels,” said Ms. Kim. This is why urban hotels or traditional inns in spa resorts increasingly introduce a daily room rate, to target couple consumers.

The love hotel of the future

Since the new revision of the law on entertainment establishments in 2010, the regulations against love hotels have been strengthened. The limit between normal hotel establishments and love hotels is increasingly blurred, what evolution awaits the love hotel? Explained by Ms. Kim is part of the success of love hotels through their speed in offering products or equipment in the rooms that customers dream of having at home. But now, when we feel more equipment at home, this kind of argument becomes more difficult to use.

“Recently, there has been a lot of talk about rock saunas. At least, this is an axis that the managers of love hotels have tried. This shows that love hotels are continuously improving in response to those time. Imagining what the love hotel will be like in ten years, in twenty years, in itself is very fun”.

Finally, we will quote some key words that will be a “vision” of the love hotel in the future, according to the survey conducted by Ms. Kim among professionals: “good for the elderly”, “a space that is private comfortable. “, “Authentic design”, “complexification of functions”, “attract foreign customers”, etc. Ironically, doesn’t this seem like a summary of the social and economic issues facing Japan as a whole?

“Evolution of the Love Hotel”, Kim Ikkyon (Bungei shunju)
“Cultural history of sexual space” Kim Ikkyon (Minerva shobô)

Why are there love hotels in Japan?

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