Japan’s vanishing vintage “Love” hotels

Japanese Love hotels are truly unique. The name originates from “Hotel Love” in Osaka, which was built in 1968, although the history of Japan’s Love hotels can be traced back to the 1600s when establishments that appeared to be inns or teahouses had peculiar procedures for a discreet entry and exit.

They were a Japanese solution to the practical problem, where do couples go to consummate relationships? A problem for an island of 127 million where it’s common for several generations to live together.

Japan’s Love hotels can usually be identified in the heart of the city using flashing signs and symbols such as hearts and they offer an hourly room rate. The period of “rest” can range from one to three hours, reservations are not usually required and guest interaction with staff is minimal. Love hotels are still a booming business.

Vintage Love hotels are usually ostentatiously decorated, featuring fanciful or themed rooms and dimly lit seductive décor, equipped with rotating beds and ceiling mirrors. But, these vintage hotels with their kinky-kitsch beauty, may soon be a thing of the past.

With the 2020 Olympic Games set for Tokyo, Japan’s government is cleaning up the city ready for the onslaught of visitors from all over the globe and that may mean saying goodbye to these gaudy vintage gems.

Many vintage Love hotels have already been renovated into more uniform or utilitarian Love hotels or standard hostels and backpackers. Others like Khosan in Asakusa, Tokyo, a typical example of a Japanese Love hotel is now operating as a hostel. It is a valuable building, open about its colourful history and promoting its Love hotel past by keeping some of the seductive décor, while offering family and dorm rooms to tourists and backpackers.

Before it all disappears, Playboy was inspired to join Osaka-based photographer Rik Sanchez, to capture the sensuality and seductiveness of the iconic Love hotel, Hotel Fuki – one of the last remaining Love hotels in Osaka.

The deconstruction of this tradition and these vintage hotels spurred Mr Sanchez, the Osaka-based photographer to capture the ornate interiors and nostalgic kitcsch of these Love hotels before they vanish forever.

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