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Shibuya love hotels clean up

Shukan Post June 28
Shukan Post June 28

Pedestrians veering to the right before reaching the top of the always busy Dogenzaka slope — yes, past the Chinese massage parlors — will encounter a network of alleys lined with more than 100 love hotels.

According to the Shibuya Hotel Ryokan Association, the reason for this cluster of inns goes back to 1960, when construction of the Miboro Dam in Gifu Prefecture necessitated the relocation of ryokan owners whose properties were to be submerged. As a part of a compensation package, the innkeepers — included among the 1,547 people impacted — were provided land in this part of Shibuya Ward, specifically the district of Maruyamacho, to establish new businesses.

Since then, the area, whose inns typically charge between 3,000 and 5,000 yen for a two-hour stay, has developed a negative reputation for having a large selection of dirty and decrepit lodgings.

Love hotel critic Kotoko Hyuga (@cotocoh on Twitter) tells Shukan Post (June 28) that changes are afoot: A battle is developing among the innkeepers to appear more sophisticated.

“Dirty, stinky conditions — that’s not the Maruyamacho of today,” she says. “The hotels are paying careful attention to women. They know that tobacco smoke is not tolerated and a sense of cleanliness is desired. Furthermore, they are now holding hospitality as a priority in customer service.”

They are also seeking to suit a number of differing tastes. For those who appreciate art, there is the glitzy Hotel Paris. The Dixy Inn is a throwback, featuring rotary dial phones and jukeboxes. “The two themes appeal to women interested in 1950s American pop culture and men with an affinity for the retro look,” says the critic.

Also finding favor is a sense of luxury. All of the rooms in the Hotel Villa Giulia are equipped with hot springs baths. For the suite rooms, the bathrooms are spacious and the interiors have natural touches, says Shukan Post, which provides the feeling of a resort right in the heart of Shibuya.

For those engaged in an affair, the magazine recommends Two Way, which has two entryways to allow for discreet arrivals and departures.

“Just as people make up a town,” says Hyuga. “The characteristics of a hotel reflects that of its customers. As for Maruyamacho they continue to hold the glory of the old days.”

Source: “Shibuya no yoru no kao ‘Maruyamacho’ kanzen gaido,” Shukan Post (June 28, pages 174-175)