Tokyo has a side that’s quite risky – and something I wasn’t expecting.
I had spent the day walking the streets of Shinjuku-ku, adorned with colorful neon streetlights, endless bars, restaurants and karaoke rooms.
The skyscraper district is also home to the Tokyo Metropolitan Building, which offers a popular observation deck overlooking the city’s vast skyline.
However, one thing it is also known for is Kabukicho, which to me unknowingly has the biggest red light district in Tokyo.
After a lot of sightseeing that day, walking almost 30,000 steps and just gorging myself on more ramen, I was ready to end the day.
But then I stumbled across a very bright street that piqued my interest. Above me was a red-lit arc that could only mean one thing – I was about to enter X-rated territory.
It can be a suitable place for the whole family during the day. However, when the moon has risen, there is a strong “adult” atmosphere.
As I walked through the bright gate, I quickly realized the further in you go, the riskier it becomes with endless sex shops and hostess clubs.
I’ve also noticed something pretty sketchy – men trying to lure you into entertainment venues, regardless of gender, which are presumably strip clubs.
I was told that the general rule is that if someone outside is trying to get you to come in – don’t go. And when they name a price, expect (at least) triple that. I didn’t feel like going in so I kept going.
I also vaguely remember being told about something called, you guessed it, “Love Hotels” or “Rabuho” that are dedicated to the art of lovemaking – either by the hour or by the night.
While red light districts are rampant in big cities, one thing surprised me, these love hotels.
Given that Tokyo has a population of 37 million, it’s no wonder they’re so popular with couples just looking for some privacy.
“It’s a themed hotel that people usually go to for some sexy time,” TikTok user ‘Konpeichann’ said in a clip, while explaining the popularity behind the hotels.
“Many people in Japan prefer to go to love hotels than have sex in their own apartments because the houses are all crowded together, there isn’t much space, the walls are very thin and it’s common etiquette not to have noise complaints .”
They’re not just for locals though – tourists can enjoy the fun of a love hotel too, even if they’re traveling alone and want to try something out of the ordinary.
I was curious to know what these hotels looked like as I heard some even had water slides.
I turned into a street again and lo and behold, I was surrounded by them.
I also noticed that it suddenly went from chaos to barely a whisper or person in sight.
Nonetheless, I was here to “investigate” so I continued my walk.
From the outside, the hotels appear “normal”, the advertising shows what they look like from the inside.
I didn’t feel comfortable walking in, but don’t worry, the pictures advertised gave a good idea of what to expect.
Some were super chic with over the top furniture and unlike traditional hotels, they had a specific love heart symbol that would identify them as love hotels.
They also used the wording “rest” on their price list displayed on the front, which applies to short visits or “stay” for overnight stays.
Some varied from $40 to $70 for two to four hours, while “stay-at-home” prices were almost double that.
Basically, if a hotel has the two prices listed on the outside, it is a love hotel.
While you might be thinking why not just go to any hotel, that’s because love hotels not only allow you to stay for just a few hours, they also offer a naughtier experience with things like mirrored ceilings, jacuzzis, and complimentary flavored condoms.
Not only do these hotels have comparable prices compared to regular or business hotels, they are also usually packed with outstanding features.
Aside from those mentioned, some have private saunas, karaoke facilities, soundproof walls, game consoles, and numerous pieces of furniture in the same room.
They’re known for having a theme and there’s even a hotel called Hotel Sekitei that has a water slide inside, but it was an hour away in Chiba.
While I may not have traveled all the way to check it out, luckily for us, Australian travel blogger Emma, aka Tokidoki Traveler, captured a YouTube clip that gives viewers a glimpse of the inside.
“Just a heads up, if you want to visit it’s bloody difficult. They don’t speak English and you can’t reserve the hotel so you just have to show up and hope the slide room is available,” she said in her clip.
After entering one of the spacious rooms with a friend, Emma discovered a glass door and was excited to find the start of a giant water slide behind it.
“Wait, that’s the… THIS IS the slide?? Oh my gosh. What the hell. This is epic,” she said while screaming.
After going down the stairs to the bottom of the slide, the duo were taken back by the disco lights and the size of the slide.
“People probably did it on the slide…” she laughed. “This is crazy, look how big it is. “It’s really pretty too.”
Then she gave a short explanation about Japanese love hotels.
“It’s a place where you go to do deeds and business [but] Plus they’re funky hotels, they have really good bathrooms and fun things to do.”
“It’s also a great time to hang out with your friends and do whatever you like, order food, have a drink, sit in a big bathtub with some lights and bubbles and slide down a slide.”
Emma and her friend spent $120 for four hours at the hotel.
“I think that’s pretty good if you’re getting a whole waterslide in the deal,” she said.
In 1968, the first modern love hotel opened in Osaka, called Hotel Love – the name has now become a universal term for a hotel where couples can be alone for a few hours.
Another was a Disneyland-like property called The Meguro Emperor – and hotels soon opened in Tokyo with names like Casablanca, Sky Love, Venus, Paradiso, Aphrodite and the less discreetly named Hotel Eros, where “Eros” is the Greek god of the love.
However, the concept dates back to Japan’s Edo period in the 17th century, when inns and teahouses with separate entrances for visitors were built for more illegal reasons.
Today there are said to be 37,000 Love Hotels in Japan.