While the hot sheet establishments in central Tokyo were pressured to close from early April, such as not been the case for love hotels located in prefectures on Tokyo's periphery. J-Cast News (May 9) reports that one establishment has seen a considerable upswing in demand from younger Japanese.
"Our staff has noted that they're seeing more cars from customers with license plates from outside the prefecture, particularly Tokyo residents who have been sneaking out. While under pressure from the metropolitan government to engage in 'self-restraint' and stay home, they've been quietly converging on hotels in certain locales."
The speaker, an employee at a love hotel in Kanagawa Prefecture, fielded questions from the net newspaper via Twitter on May 5, a national holiday and the penultimate day before the end of this year's Golden Week holiday period.
A main reason for the shift is that love hotels in Tokyo were pressured to cease operations since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. For example, the Bali Island group, which operates three hotels in Tokyo's Shinjuku district, shuttered its lurid love nests from April 6.
The Google Trends website, which tracks data search requests, confirmed this shift in demand. Looking at previous data, in addition to Golden Week, the other two busy times of the year for the hot sheet trade -- the mid-August O-Bon vacation period and the Christmas-New Year period -- typically see an upsurge in search requests.
In 2020, however, search requests from February onward dropped conspicuously, and around early March, the figures fell even further.
On the other hand, some places that have remained open observed few changes, if any.
"Even before the coronavirus outbreak we were often filled to capacity for overnight guests," the aforementioned hotel staff member relates. "So when the restrictions came into effect, we expected demand would taper off, but that wasn't the case. Things have barely changed, and most nights we have no vacancies."
One hashtag on Twitter, titled "Whispers by love hotel employees," often carries the details of weird or annoying things that happen at their place of employment. But most recently the posters have just been groaning not about a lack of patronage, but about how busy they've become.
One read, "I've been busy as s**t. Is the emergency declaration already over?? We're damn busy...full house. Man, I really need a break."
Or this post: "Demand at love hotels ought to have dropped, but from noon onwards short-time guests have doubled. Has anybody told Governor Koike?"
And this: "How much longer will Golden Week continue? (chuckle) We're completely full. (sob)"
Not only are hotels that have stayed open enjoying a land rush business, but the employees' tasks are assumed to have increased, since they are supposedly required to devote extra time to thoroughly disinfecting the rooms after use. Is that enough to consider establishments are safe and sanitary? Not according to one worker.
"We've been cleaning the rooms just the same as before. That means we arrange the room neatly and replace the sheets on beds and plastic wrapped items like towels used by the customers with clean ones. We also air out the rooms for 10 to 15 minutes after customers vacate them, and give them a perfunctory wipedown.
"Rather than 'cleaning' the room per se, it's more like just restoring it to the way it was. Assuming customers made physical contact with this place or that, and disinfecting them with alcohol, just isn't done. We just restore the room's appearance to what it was before."
Many of the custodial staff at these hotels are foreigners. One told J-Cast News' reporter, "Japanese are free to pick the jobs they want, and I landed this one because word is going around that it's not the kind of place where people should be working.
The source added, "Since love hotels in the present situation can't be treated as 'essential businesses,' I'd like to ask the hotel customers and general public why they think people should come here. Like those pachinko shops that stayed open and subjected to public shaming, perhaps these hotels ought to be accorded the same treatment."© Japan Today