Want the ‘love hotel’ experience? Tokyo’s shortage of lovers means you must head to Japan now

Japan’s demographic shift means Japan’s love hotels – which have long been a feature of tourists’ must-do lists – might not be around for much longer, says Merryn Somserset Webb.


Love hotels may not be around for much longer

Japan is cheap, Japan is fun, Japan is beautiful, Japan has the best food in the world. So why not go on holiday there? After all, everyone else seems to be. I wrote about this here, but a small news story by Robin Harding in today's FT makes the trends in the country pretty clear.

Back in 2010 there were 6,259 love hotels' in Japan (these are themed hotels in which you can rent rooms by the hour). Today there are only 5,940. That's a fall that partly reflects the dropin the number of young lovers in Japan: the number of people in their twenties fell from 18 million in 2000 to 13 million in 2013. So five million fewer people need to escape crowded family homes for the odd intimate hour here and there.

However, it also reflects the need to create accommodation for the surge in young foreign visitors (who like to stay in hotels for more than an hour a day). Entrepreneur Hiroshi Kozawa has created the Khaosan brand, which he is using to buy up love hotels in Tokyo and convert them into cheap hotels for backpackers bunks cost a mere 2,000 (£10) a night.

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So there you have it.

That's one more reason to visit Japan sooner rather than later: the love hotel experience which has long been on gaijin must-do lists might not be around for much longer. The lower the yen goes (and we reckon there'll be a ramping up of Japanese QE again soon) the more tourists will arrive and the more love hotels will turn into cheap hostels for Chinese shoppers.

It also gives us a nice new economic indicator: as one of my Twitter followers suggested this morning, if we want to judge the success of Abe's drive to open up Japan to tourism, all we need to do is count the love hotels.

Merryn Somerset Webb

Merryn Somerset Webb started her career in Tokyo at public broadcaster NHK before becoming a Japanese equity broker at what was then Warburgs. She went on to work at SBC and UBS without moving from her desk in Kamiyacho (it was the age of mergers).

After five years in Japan she returned to work in the UK at Paribas. This soon became BNP Paribas. Again, no desk move was required. On leaving the City, Merryn helped The Week magazine with its City pages before becoming the launch editor of MoneyWeek in 2000 and taking on columns first in the Sunday Times and then in 2009 in the Financial Times

Twenty years on, MoneyWeek is the best-selling financial magazine in the UK. Merryn was its Editor in Chief until 2022. She is now a senior columnist at Bloomberg and host of the Merryn Talks Money podcast -  but still writes for Moneyweek monthly. 

Merryn is also is a non executive director of two investment trusts – BlackRock Throgmorton, and the Murray Income Investment Trust.