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Frisky Business: East Asia’s Love Hotels

Asia, Featured, Offbeat — By Alex Resnik on May 9, 2010 at 9:41 am

There’s a magical moment that happens sometimes between couples, whether they’re a new item or well acquainted lovers, at home or on the street. Their eyes might meet across the table; a single hair might brush against his face; a hand might slip down to her thigh, and a miraculous, impossible synchronicity leads them both to think the same thing simultaneously: “We need to find a room.”

This is a situation for quick action and easily dispensed concerns. Money becomes no object; eyes dart in search of a quick retreat; the tension mounts. It is here that East Asia’s “love hotels” – offering hourly rates and the utmost privacy – rise to the occasion. Often situated in clusters inside of larger cities (like Shibuya’s Love Hotel Hill), these establishments offer the amorous couple with a thin-walled apartment or the new hook-up with a deadline discreet entrances, total anonymity, and convenient amenities.

They range from bare basics to bizarre boudoir, and prices reflect the difference. However, all are generally clean, safe, fun, and widely popular (estimates show that 1.4 million Japanese couples, or 2% of the population, visit a love hotel each day). A couple’s romp through East Asia simply wouldn’t be complete without experiencing at least one of the region’s many businesses geared toward sex and kink.

Hello, Kitty

Image: the_toe_stubber/Flickr

The walls and furniture burn a bright pink, embellished with hearts; chains, cages, and restraints hang from the ceiling; and a plush Hello Kitty figure (she likes to watch), looms over you and your partner from a swing in the corner. Say “hello” to Sanrio’s frisky feline in a whole new way. Osaka’s Adonis love hotel is equipped with a Hello Kitty-themed bondage room, complete with cuffs, restraints, and of course plenty of images of Japan’s most famous animated export, in sometimes compromising positions.

It’s the ideal place to take in Japan’s sometimes amusing, sometimes disturbing mash-up of cartoon culture with sex. There’s even a pink piano for those who prefer a soundtrack to the sadomasochistic goings-on – maybe Looney Tunes, maybe Gothic. One thing is for sure at the Adonis room 501: whether you’re the top or the bottom, there’s no escaping the simple, innocent, two-dot glare of Japan’s favorite cartoon cat. Don’t worry, she won’t judge you, but you might want to involve her in the games.

Honeymoon Island

Image: stephan Seo/Panoramio

With a sex-themed amusement park and hotel staff acting as “sexual icebreakers,” it’s definitely not the Poconos. Korea’s southernmost inhabited area (Jeju or, Cheju) is known as Honeymoon Island, a volcanic rock jutting from the Sea of Japan that enjoys a warmer, more tropical climate than the mainland. It’s comparable to Hawaii for Americans or Okinawa for the Japanese.

After the Korean War, new couples in Korea faced restrictions on travel abroad, limiting their options for honeymoon destinations. Add to that the prevalence of arranged marriages, and you’ve got a recipe for Korea’s sexiest island, complete with entertainment and accommodation aimed at educating new couples to copulate in comfort.

The sexy entertainment at your hotel might help you get in the mood. If not, you might ask the amorously inclined staff to get hands-on with you and your partner – lap dances and other raunchy endeavors are on the menu. If all else fails, head to Love Land, an adult amusement park filled with phallic structures, statues of copulating couples, and even a masturbation machine.

Hotel Pamplona

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zx_wv1HXPXQ&feature=related[/youtube]

For a peek into a classic Japanese bondage-themed love hotel, look no further than Hotel Pamplona, in Osaka. No frills or extras here, just the basics: bed, bath, vibrator vending machine, and lots and lots of ways to chain up your partner. Forceful sex and erotic restraint are the objectives at love hotels like this, which cater to all walks of life, from the curious couple to the cheating salaryman.

After all, bondage is ingrained into Japanese culture, the art of kinbaku (tying one up with rope for sexual purposes) having originated as early as the Sengoku period (15th to 17th century). The Japanese may seem upright and rigidly rule-abiding citizens on the street, but the prevalence of love hotels like Pamplona prove the kind of activity that goes on just behind the shiny veneer. It illustrates the Japanese concept of compartmentalization: what happens in the bondage room stays in the bondage room.

For You Inn

Image: Tou Patumsuwon/cnnGo

Thailand is already known for its contributions to no-holds-barred sexual experiences; does the For You Inn really have to bring Mickey into the picture? Yes, it’s cheesy; yes, it’s gaudy; yes, it’s probably infringing copyrights like crazy. But the For You Inn is a wacky (and much appreciated) departure from the classic love hotel experience. By bringing a cartoon vibe to the adult hotel industry, For You Inn has turned Thailand’s sometimes seedy sex industry into something fun and accessible for everybody.

You’ll find all the expected furnishings at this no-tell motel: a circular bed, massage chair, deep bathtub, and a two-way mirror that looks into the bathroom from the bedroom. There’s also discreet parking: when you drive in, your car will be quickly hidden from view by a colorful curtain. In fact, the Thai name for this kind of hotel is man root, or “curtained” hotel.

The Carousel Room

Image: Frufru de Petipuan/Flickr

Coming in as the creepiest themed love hotel room on our list is the Carousel Room at Osaka’s Public Jam love hotel, decked out with merry-go-round horses to act out any playground predators’ most extreme fantasies. The smiling faces of young children beam from the walls, making for a disturbing décor in this one-of-a-kind-for-good-reason room.

As with many things Japanese, one can only imagine what happens behind the Carousel Room’s locked doors. It’s doubtful that anybody is actually bringing children here, although Japanese love hotels’ privacy policies give guests considerable leeway. The props and dubious kiddy theme suggest that this is a private place for consenting adults to act out specific fantasies and generally horse around. Otherwise, why not just do it on the playground?

New Kink on the Block

Image: http://www.chinatravel.net/

China’s first love hotel opened in Nanning in 2008. Late comers to the game, the Chinese still seem hesitant, with the owner of the establishment expressing concern that visitors might mistake the place for a brothel. Although the furnishings in China’s first foray into the sexual accommodation industry are downright spartan compared to those in veteran Japan and Taiwan, this love hotel is an important first step for a culture currently undergoing a sexual liberation.

Each room has a red bed fitted with harness-like straps that can elevate a partner to a more comfortable, or stimulating, position. Also in each room you will find an “adult chair” (think tandem, face-to-face contact), and an exercise ball (your guess is as good as mine). It’s got all the trappings of a first-rate sex den, even if the décor matches a public gym more than a kinky cave.

Queen Elizabeth Sekitei

Image: http://www.tokyotimes.org

Japan’s most famous love hotel is strange for several reasons. First, it’s shaped like thecruise ship, Queen Elizabeth II. Second, it’s decked out with all the trappings of a first-rate cruise ship: the (sexy?) naval theme is consistent throughout the rooms, and there’s even a statue of Titanic’s Jack and Rose (Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) at the bow in their famous “king of the world” pose. Third, this place is leaving itself wide open for jokes about “seamen,” “poop decks,” and “dingies.” (One must assume that these puns don’t quite work in Japanese.)

But really, the strangest thing about Kanagawa’s Queen Elizabeth love hotel is that it’s proving to the nation of Japan that love hotels are a recession-proof industry. Amid recent layoffs at such giants like Toyota and NEC, the Queen Elizabeth has stayed afloat (sorry), consistently posting moderate profits while other industries have had to reinvent themselves. Just goes to the show: that’s the power of love.

WeGo & iMore

Image: gruntzooki/Flickr

Although Taiwan hasn’t been in the love hotel game for nearly as long as Japan or South Korea, new fantasy hotel chains are changing the rules of the game in the country, transforming the formerly skeezy love hotel into a luxurious, dream-like experience. Two hotel chains, WeGo and iMore, are snatching up land all over Taiwan (especially in Taipei) to build their opulent departures from the kitsch or downright sleazy love hotels found elsewhere.

Large beds, fully stocked bathrooms, private pools, and entertainment – like karaoke and large screen TVs – separate these hush-hush hotels from the pack. Along with the standard cheesy themes and kinky equipment, expect to find world-class service, fine dining, and first class accoutrements at these establishments.

Both still do put a premium on privacy, with a nod to those whose visit may be risking more than just an awkward morning after. For “guests in need of an escape route,” iMore offers a separate hallway; WeGo skips the secret passageways but offers the ability to pipe in background noise from a subway station, beach or office during those unexpected phone calls. It’s the little things that count.

Schoolhouse Rock

Image: http://www.tokyomango.com

It may look like a set from a cheesy softcore porno, but this love hotel room, designed to recreate a Japanese public school classroom, is available at “rest” or “stay” rates. A meticulous attention to detail – from the standard-issue schoolgirl sailor’s uniform to the desks with cubbies for keeping textbooks (or toys) handy – helps horny couples with extracurricular fantasies get in the mood.

Add to that the cuffs and restraints (and almost definitely a paddle or two in there somewhere), and you’ve got an ideal venue for some scholastic S&M!

Eden Exoticism

Image: http://luckyisle.com/

The “Jail” room is fitted with handcuffs dangling from chains, and is cordoned off by thick steel bars; the “Batman” room is a lifelike recreation of the Bat-cave, complete with Bat-signal embossed on the headboard; the “Japanese manga” room features a giant print of an anime girl in the classic money-shot, and a sculpture of gigantic cartoonish breasts on the wall; and the “Cat Woman” room is filled to the brim with leopard- and zebra-print plush furniture.

Asia’s most extreme themed love hotel? That’s a tough category to crack, but Taipei’s Eden Exoticism Motel – encouraging guests to “discover new sex world” – is definitely high on the list of places to kick-start your relationship, or shock it into complete remission. Although the Eden Motel’s rooms are heavy on the themes, they still maintain a certain level of classy, modern design elements… for now, anyway.

Gang Snowman’s

Image: Flashy.san/Picasaweb

It’s been widely reported that there has been a power shift in the choice of love hotels in Japan in recent years. It used to be that the male partner would be in charge of choosing the location for a couple’s kinky rendezvous, often going with the most macho option. These days, it is the woman in the relationship who is more and more in charge of making the call on where to stay and play.

Enter Snowman (Gang Snowman’s, that is): a perennial favorite among Japanese couples seeking cute and kitsch along with the requisite kink. Sure, there are bondage rooms and devices galore, but what sets this place apart is the hotel’s tongue-in-cheek approach to sexual diversion. There’s a mini jail cell, a vaulting horse with convenient manacles, an S&M jungle gym, and some seriously distracting black-light artwork. The pièce de résistance, however, has to be the rooftop bathtub in the shape of a Cadillac convertible, equipped with water guns and more bondage gear.

Korean Konventions

Image: http://tokyobling.wordpress.com/

Love hotels exist all over Korea, for the same reason they exist elsewhere: as cheap places for sexual play in a discreet, private environment. What makes them different from those found in Japan or Taiwan is their consistent mediocrity. No chain swings with holes in the seats; no cartoon characters in compromising positions; not even any phallic statues.

For the most part, Korean love hotels deliver the basics – a big bed, a bathroom large enough for a full wash-down, a condom dispenser – without many of the frills. It goes to show that Asia’s love hotels are not the salacious sex dens an outsider might imagine them to be, but simply a place for good couples to be bad, for a little while.

Tags: Bangkok, China, hello kitty, Japan, korea, love hotel, nanning, no-tell motel, taipei, taiwain, Thailand, Tokyo

    2 Comments

  • Dr. Dar says:

    What are the impacts to marital affairs/infidelity with the accessibility of love hotels in Asia? Has the accessibility of love hotels improved intimacy issues for married couples? Are there any stats/studies on the pros and cons of love hotels, the impacts on marriage, etc.?
    This was a very interesting post that conjured up many questions for me as a Relationship Expert and Coach.

  • Rachel Greenberg says:

    It doesn’t surprise me that love hotels are super popular in Asian countries where people live in tiny apartments with their extended families. Although that doesn’t begin to explain the carousel room…

    Great post Alex, loved the intro!! So funny….

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