China's weeklong lunar new year holiday began Feb 8, with predictions, based on the number of landing permits issued by Japanese consulates in mainland China, that a record-setting number of big-spending visitors were headed this way.
NHK was quick to juggle its news coverage between outrage over North Korea's test of a missile and reports of hordes of beaming Chinese visitors bent on shopping until they drop.
Friday (Feb 12) got wind of another activity designed to amuse its readers. It seems that Chinese tour groups are renting out entire love hotels. A photo accompanying the article shows a large bus parked adjacent to a hotel, where a sign has been posted to warn customers that the hotel is "kashi-kiri" (reserved or chartered).
This particular establishment -- the name was not divulged -- is located about 15 minutes by car from central Nagoya, in an area containing a cluster of some 20 such businesses. Apparently from November of last year, bus caravans of as many as 100 Chinese tourists, including families with children, began converging on the area.
"Around evening, a lot of Chinese walk into the shop in groups," says the cashier at a nearby convenience store. "If they're accompanied by the tour guide, he or she will interpret for them, but otherwise I have no idea what they're saying. They'll use their smartphones to tap out words like 'shokuji' (meal) or 'sempatsu-ryo' (shampoo), and I'll recommend what I think it is they are asking for. The most popular items are instant noodles and cosmetics. I've seen families literally clean off entire shelves of merchandise."
The buses typically arrive at the hotel in the early evening, following a day of sightseeing. Families, including parents holding their children's hands, can be seen descending from the buses and walking across the parking lot to the hotel entrance.
"We were first approached last summer by a Chinese tour operator, who asked if we were willing to accommodate their groups," the operator of a love hotel tells Friday. "Recently the business climate hasn't been very good, and thinking it might turn out to be a real godsend, we agreed, and they began booking space for groups of 40 people a night. By November, we were letting them reserve the whole hotel. Because there were small children in the groups, we removed the sex toys from view, and installed twin beds in the rooms. We also found a Chinese speaker to work at the front desk, so there have been no major problems at all."
One of the main reasons why Chinese have been turning to love hotel accommodations is simply a shortage of vacancies in conventional hotels, brought on by the exponential growth -- up last year by about 50% from 2014. With rooms at a premium, average prices at tourist hotels in Tokyo in the first half of last year increased to 17,500 yen -- up by 32% over room rates in 2011.
The love hotels have offered competitive rates to the foreign visitors starting from as low as 3,500 yen per night, with no additional charges for accompanying preschool age children.
"Many hotels in China are rather drab, and beholding the sight of Japan's glitzy love hotels makes visitors happy 'merely to be there' -- so they've got a good reputation," says journalist Satoshi Tomisaka. "In many cases, the love hotels are recommended by Chinese living in Japan.”
But according to Tomisaka, some newcomers, awash in cash, don't have a clear idea of what the going rates are for some services.
"They'll hire a taxi to take them from Haneda to the city center, and as opposed to around a normal fare of 10,000 yen maximum, they'll wind up paying three times that amount. Then as a gesture of good will, the driver will help them find accommodations at a cheap love hotel. They might think they're getting a good deal, but actually they're paying a premium," he said.© Japan Today