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Ah, that's where those hotels are.
—Junpei properly censors himself
It's hard to have anything approaching an adult relationship in Japan. Especially the Japan of anime. Once you get past the obstacles of attracting any attention, actually getting around to encountering an amenable romantic interest without blowing it from the get-go, running the gauntlet of finding true love, and sidestepping typical anime romantic obstacles, there is still one suprisingly difficult issue.
Japan is crowded. Japan is expensive (well, Tokyo's expensive, and nowhere else counts, right?). As a result, even if you're of age to engage in certain physical activities, you probably don't have any private space in which to do that and not get caught. You may even be living with your parents, which is a whole other level of uncomfortable. Even if you can manage a rendez-vous, your six-tatami, underlighted, cluttered room with the one-person futon isn't likely to inspire romance. And unlike your North American counterparts, you likely don't own a car and only advanced, highly acrobatic positions tend to be possible on a bicycle, even with the kickstand down.
Enter the love hotel. Over the last number of years, the love hotel industry has become quite profitable. They are locations which specialize in providing a place for a couple to have sex.
In the west, hotels of this sort tend to be seedy, quasi-criminal affairs frequented by prostitutes and populated by unsavory characters, or motels far, far outside city limits, reachable only by car and the location of choice for affairs and civil servants. However, classic Japanese discretion and love of commercial pomp have made the typical Japanese hotel a combination of a well-run Holiday Inn, Disneyland, and an upscale adult toy store. Some are quite gaudy on the outside, while many are distinguishable from the outside only by the reduced number and size of windows facing the street. Some of the innovations that might be seen:
- Multiple separate entrance and exit points, to reduce the chance of running into someone you know.
- Automated key dispensers with visual displays of the rooms. When a room is paid for, the display goes dark and the key is dropped into a snack-machine style slot.
- Mini-bars and room options with an interesting list of purchasable items. Sometimes up to and including costumes and bondage gear.
- Truly creative theme rooms, often combined with the options above. This can of course lead to some questionable choices. (Warning: Link mildly Not Safe for Work)
Needless to say, love hotels get portrayed with that equivocated attitude that necessary but scandalous things usually inspire. For that reason, the Yakuza sometimes has a habit of camping outside the entrances with cameras, then demanding payment to keep the pictures confined.
- Maison Ikkoku had a number of adventures regarding love hotels. Akemi luring Godai to one in a failed attempt to get Kozue to dump him (and stir up Kyoko in the process) may be the most notorious.
- The OVA episode of Please Teacher featured a visit to a love hotel that was placed in a strangely rural, idyllic area.
- In one episode of Love Hina, Naru panics when it appears that Keitaro is dragging her towards a love hotel. It turns out, of course, that he's more interested in the sticker booth. Also, Mutsumi takes Keitaro to one, and he wakes up naked wondering what he's doing there. It seems that Mutsumi is pretty clueless about what they are.
- In the manga, Keitaro and Naru actually do go to a (tastefully decorated) love hotel to get funky. In typical anime/manga fashion, they are interrupted. By a giant tortoise and his looks-like-a-tan-Shinobu owner.
- Makoto and Yura go to one at the end of every date. There is even one on the street where they live. And Yuuko, a minor character, has been stated to have collected matchboxes from over 100 different love hotels she has visited with her boyfriend.
- Persona 4: The Animation has one in episode 15, complete with funky lights and a single rotating bed that the residents of each room have to share. Hilarity Ensues.
- In an episode of Ah! My Goddess, Belldandy is unwittingly brought to what appears to be a love hotel by the Casanova-ish Recurring Character. In the manga version of this incident, she recognized the decor once she was inside ... because Urd had earlier redecorated Keiichi's room to resemble a love hotel room.
- Episode 3 of High School Girls is focused on a love hotel.
- In the anime Planetes, something of a Lampshade Hanging occurs; on the crowded space station, non-work space is so limited that the hotels provided for transient commercial visitors are about the only place a couple can go and not be seen by half the station crew and all their workmates. Of course, it's understood that because of this, perfectly ordinary, casual, platonic dates happen in hotel rooms all the time.
- In the last episode of Excel Saga, Watanabe takes Hyatt (who is stuck in Excel's body) to a love hotel. Unfortunately for him, Excel (in Hyatt's body) interrupts before anything can happen.
- Dr. Shiouji takes Cosette to the same hotel, but leaves when he finds out she's fully consenting adult and not a child.
- In Ai Yori Aoshi, Kaoru Hanabishi and Tina Foster are caught without transportation home due to bad weather. The only place they can find for shelter turns out to be a love hotel.
- In Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid, Chidori Kaname invites a propositioning stranger to a love hotel. Then she knocks him out with a stun gun and handcuffs him to the shower, and takes advantage of the privacy of the room to check herself for tracking devices, having only asked the man to take her to the hotel as a means of trying to shake the person she's convinced is shadowing her.
- Used quite frequently in the OVA End of Summer.
- When Kagetora and Beni run away from Beni's father in Shinobi Life, they get stranded at a train station and look for a place to stay. The only option is a love hotel. Kagetora, being from the past (feudal Japan, it seems), has no idea what it is and innocently enters, asking for a room. Beni jumps through all kinds of hoops to keep him from finding out what the hotel is actually for. Hilarity Ensues, followed by Mood Whiplash.
- In the second season of Darker Than Black, upon returning to Japan and on account of being a fugitive, Hei takes up residence in an abandoned love hotel in a flooded and abandoned section of Tokyo.
- For secrecy/to annoy his love interest, Kazuma of Kaze no Stigma arranges a meeting with the Fair Cop at a love hotel.
- Takamura Mamoru from Hajime no Ippo attempted to drag a girl he hooked up with on a group date. He got outright rejected for it.
- In Juzo Itami's A Taxing Woman the heroine gets a line on the bad guy's criminal empire by auditing the bedsheets and laundry at one of these. Also, the theme rooms depicted have to be seen to be believed, at least if your upbringing was anything like mine.
- and yes, these hotels are even clearly visible IRL from the Narita Express train (or at least they were back in 1995).
- In the final Patlabor OVA, Captains Gotoh and Nagumo take shelter in a Love Hotel during a rainstorm and almost get involved in some hanky-panky... but the restraint they show makes the episode one of the most mature and heartwarming episodes of the franchise.
- In one chapter of Psychic Academy, Ai takes Orina to one. However, his mental link with Orina's roommate causes him to realize that Mew is in trouble, and they leave to rescue her before anything actually happens.
- In Baby Pop, the main characters - for lack of an actual hotel room - race a Salaryman and his lady friend for the last room in a Love Hotel. That said main characters are father and step-daughter only makes it funnier/more awkward.
- Syuri and Syusuke are accused of being seen coming out of a love hotel; since they're twins, it kicks off a shitstorm that results in the two of them running away to avoid being separated.
- In Koibana Onsen, Gin and Moeka go to a love hotel when they first try to have sex.
- A French graphic novel about a Westerner in Japan is actually titled Love Hotel. The protagonist, somewhat acquainted with Japanese culture but fairly clueless, ends up using one as a regular hotel, and later on mistakenly gives the hotel's card to a business contact.
- There's a cute scene in Jab We Met where the male and female end up at one of these. He knows what it is, she does not. The owner asks him for how many hours does he want the room? The guy tries to tell him "all night", but she protests saying "We only need it for a few hours!" And "Why pay for the whole night?" She is a very pretty, obviously upstanding girl, and the hotel owner beckons the guy closer and whispers "Wherever did you find her?"
- In City of God, the big robbery by the Trio Ternura occurs in the Brazilian equivalent (a cross between the Japanese and Western ones; it is outside the titular slum, but built for a specific purpose - including mirrored ceilings). There is a humourous moment where one of the gang members walks into one of the rooms and tries to figure out exactly what and how the several people occupying the bed are doing.
- And later in the movie comes a deeply disturbing scene that explains why the Trio Ternura were wanted for mass murder when there was supposed to be no killing.
- In Dumb and Dumber, Harry and Lloyd stayed in one while on a roadtrip to Aspen.
- In William Gibson's Idoru (Literature), several characters rent a room at a Love Hotel, mostly to make use of their room's internet connection.
- Plenty of these turn up in Deep Love. Justified because the main character is a prostitute.
- The adventure "Colors of Sacrifice" for the Trinity RPG includes a scene set at Chain Hotel. (On the moon!) The name does not come from it being a franchise.
- In Persona 3, one of the areas you face the Arcana Shadows in is a love hotel. The Shadow dwelling inside attempts to make the protagonist and one of his teammates use the hotel, but the attempt fails (despite the player's best efforts). It's hardly difficult to work out which of the Shadows tries this. (Though oddly, this is after you fight Hierophant - it's unclear why that one would come to a hotel.)
- Ironically, the teammate in question shares the same arcana herself.
- What's doubly funny is that several transmogged (coffin-changed) people can be seen in various rooms, some of the coffin placement is... suggestive.
- And as an added bonus, the Shadow tries to accomplish this through a Shower Scene.
- The same thing happens to the female protagonist, but with one of the male teammates.
- The sequel has everyone staying in one after your homeroom teacher rents it out, completely oblivious to what kind of a place it actually is.
- And no one could forget the Honey Bee Inn, which is also famous for having a lot of dummied-out content that was even more extreme than what ended up in the game proper and thus didn't make the final cut.
- Okashina Okashi/Strange Candy had one. The portal to the next world turned out to be in the ceiling mirror of one of the kinkier rooms.
- Megatokyo features a scene where the sweet virginal (Ahem?) heroine Kimiko notes that she hasn't been to one in years, not since dragging her drunk roommate Erika out of one. Erika quickly informs her that, yes Kimiko has, twice that Erika knows of, and that she wasn't fooling anyone. Kimiko reluctantly concedes that it was "Once. Maybe."
- Western Animation example: In The Simpsons episode "Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy" Homer and Marge go to the western version of one these (the Aphrodite Inn), they have themed rooms (Camelot, Pharaoh, Caveman etc.) but the only one left is called "The Utility Room". It turns out be the Hotel's actual Utility Room with a couple of camp beds in it.
- The show also plays with the "seedy motel" end of the scale. Every time the Simpsons have to leave Evergreen Terrace, they end up staying in the "Sleep-Eazy Motel", where part of the sign is burned out. And every time, Mayor Quimby is in a nearby room with a bimbo.
- Nintendo tried branching out into this. This was well before they found out toys and games were a much better business. Also means that anyone who claims Nintendo has always been into kids' stuff Did Not Do the Research.
- However, the reason why Nintendo's love hotels bombed was because (according to people who have gone there in the past) was that the people in the said hotels can not have... well, you know, and bombed because of it.