Japan ‘love hotels’ accused of illegally turning away gay couples

Lily Wakefield October 31, 2020
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A love hotel in Tokyo, Japan. (John S Lander/LightRocket via Getty)

“Love hotels” in Japan, where couples book short stays to have sex, have been accused of illegally discriminating against gay couples.

Love hotels began opening in Japan in the late 1960s for couples desperate for some time alone, away from their large families who at the time typically lived in one house.

Since then, the hotels have become a billion-dollar industry and tens of thousands have popped up across the country.

But when a gay couple in the city of Amagasaki decided to visit a love hotel together in May this year, they were not even allowed to enter, according to The Guardian.

One half of the couple, who are in a civil partnership recognised by their local government, told Japanese language newspaper Kobe Shimbun: “The receptionist was very polite. He just said men aren’t allowed.”

They tried another love hotel nearby, but were met with a similar response. They said the receptionist simply told them: “Gay men don’t use the facilities properly.”

The man said: “It was a clear case of discrimination. We were being treated like second-class citizens.”

Although the two hotels were admonished by authorities after the men filed a complaint, their experience is not unusual, said Akira Nishiyama, the assistant executive director of the Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation.

LGBT+ people are often turned away from love hotels, despite a 2018 law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity by hotels. 

With anti-LGBT+ prejudice still rife in Japanese society, Nishiyama said: “Places like love hotels where LGBT+ people can be guaranteed privacy are really important. They make it possible for them to be who they are, and to be with their partner, without fear.”

But one member of Tokyo’s queer community said that gay men in Japan rarely even attempt to stay at love hotels because discrimination is expected.

“Nothing dampens the prospect of a romantic evening out more than a homophobic hotel policy,” they said.

The president of the LGBT+ centre Pride House Tokyo, Gon Matsunaka, said he believes the discrimination will continue.

Matsunaka said: “They often get away with discrimination as they don’t give an explicit reason for denying rooms to same-sex couples. They make excuses, like claiming there are no rooms available.

“We could have people coming from all over the world to next year’s Olympics, and if gay couples are denied entry to love hotels it will not reflect well on Japan.”


Related topics: Japan

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