Love Hotel Hill
is one of Tokyo
's quirkier places.
Better known to the Japanese
The Hill Where the Road Begins
-- although what road, I know not),
the Hill is located in Shibuya
and, as the name promises, it has
the highest density of love hotel
s in Japan.
I used to go to Dogenzaka quite often, sometimes even twice per day...
but not, alas, only due to my irresistibility to
the local ladies, but because it was on my way home from work.
If you walk from Shibuya to Komaba, a 20-minute exercise with
little point unless you live at the other end and are too cheap to
fork out 120 yen for two stops on the Keio Inokashira line,
your path will pass right by Dogenzaka. But no need to retrace
my steps all the way: just pick the leftmost
of the three streets radiating out from Hachiko square and
keep to the left at the next fork -- the street itself is named
Dogenzaka and Love Hotel Hill is on your left, starting immediately after
the Bunkamura department store. The hotels don't open out into
the street though, so pick any of the little alleys going up the
hill and wander around. Some of the hotels are little architectural
marvels, with their castle spires and virtual drawbridges, while
others tackle the other end of the kitsch spectrum with names like
Let's Strawberry and megawatts of blinking pink and purple neon.
It's perfectly OK to take a peek
inside the hotel lobbies, most have displays of all their
rooms right on the inside for this very purpose. You will
also see a sign on the outside with two prices: the first is
the price of a "rest", usually up to two hours, and the
second is a "stay", or overnight. Dogenzaka's lovel hotels tend
to be on the expensive side, most are around Y5000 for a rest
and Y10000 for a stay (and these are starting prices, fancier rooms
Still, the price is naturally for two, and thus quite competitive
considering that an ordinary youth hostel might set a couple
back over Y6000.
Alas, some humorless bureaucrat who is obviously not getting any
has set out to make life more difficult for love hotels in Tokyo.
Already hurting from the recession, new legislation has been
enacted to tax love hotels more heavily and (effectively)
prevent the construction
of new ones. And just how do Japanese bureaucrats distinguish
a non-love hotel from a love hotel, I hear you ask? The logic
is as obvious as it is boggling: any hotel with a condom
vending machine in the lobby is now considered a love hotel.
Hooray for bureaucracy and STDs!
While the love hotels may be filled with wholesome family
entertainment like pink Hello Kitty vibrating beds and
fully-equipped S&M dungeons, there is no Kabuki-cho-type
sleaze whatsoever in
Dogenzaka itself. (If you insist, you can find some nearby at the
amusingly named La Ruelle de la Lettre d'Amour -- the Alley of the
Love Letter, and yes, that is French -- itself worthy of a
Instead, mixed in with the love hotels are a number of good clubs,
and nearly all of them of the "underground music" variety.
First and foremost in my book is Tokyo's first shot at a superclub,
Womb, a featureless concrete monolith with a gargantuan
three-story dance floor inside. Club Asia mostly features live
eclectic (non-Japanese) world music with a weekly excursion into
psychedelic trance, while ON AIR WEST and ON AIR EAST
cater largely to fans of rock and alternative.