A famous love hotel
Some 15 years ago I happened to receive prominent guests from the US and accompanied them from Narita International Airport to Tokyo. When we were approaching Tokyo one of the guests noticed a tall tower on the left hand side which was like a castle in France or Germany. He asked me what it was. I was a bit embarrassed, but answered immediately with the pride of a Japanese who was confident in his knowledge "That is a so-called LOVE HOTEL!"

Soon after I arrived at a hotel in Tokyo, I explained this to a colleague so as to confirm my explanation. BUT, I discovered that I had made a terrible mistake. The high tower was in fact Disneyland which just opened at the time. I of course rectified my information, but then I was forced to explain the guests much more in details about "love hotels" which apparently made our guests more curious than the tower of sleeping beauty.

Some about its history:
Love hotels are very Japanese facilities. Yes, they are hotels. However, they are almost solely used by couples, mostly not married, to spend some time by themselves. Therefore, in addition to overnight charges they always indicate the prices for 2 hours rest.

I don't know the situation before the War. But, as far as I recall, hotels or rental rooms of such a kind existed already in the 1950s. However, till the late 60s most of the hotels were rather in the traditional "Ryokan" style. When I was a student in Kyoto there were many such tiny Ryokans along "Philosophers' Path" near Ginkaku-ji temple(*). When the students passed by the hotels after drinks, they used to shout "Ganbare yo !" ("Do it hard ! ") over the fences to the couples who might be in there.
Ginkaku-ji temple is located in the East of Kyoto and was originally built by a Shogun of the Medieval Asikaga Shogunate as his villa. The area is near Kyoto University and many students lived around the temple. The nearby Philosophers' Path is a narrow but beautiful path along canal and philosophers and scholars including many Nobel prize winners are said to have enjoyed taking a walk and pondering over their theories here.
Around that time modern type constructions appeared. They were at the beginning rather modest in their decoration.
Kansai is courageous.:
However, soon their facilities became radicalized. If not mistaken, new trend came from the Kansai area especially Osaka. ( Osaka people are very imaginative in entertainment and amusement trades :-p ) Many castle-like new hotels mushroomed and special interior lightning, rotating bed, gorgeous bathroom, sound effect and all other ideas created fantastic spaces and exhilarated the mood of the people using them.

Facade of an another
love hotel at night
Recently the interior has become more ordinary and efforts are made to have extravagant atmosphere similar to that of first class city hotels so that timid ladies (Who are timid in such hotels !) can accept the unusual situation. However, the exterior appearance has become more and more fantastic and gorgeous. It is strange that such hotels stand mostly near highway exits. Therefore when you come to Japan you would find many castle-like buildings in Japan. Please note that they are not castles except for the castle of sleeping beauty in Disneyland.

Shame or imaginative creation?:
I used to think that they were so ugly and we should destroy them and that it was really a shame if the foreigners saw such impossible and ridiculous facilities. When I was asked why there were such incredible things in Japan, I used to explain "Because our houses are so small, couples need places to protect their privacy." However, nowadays I think slightly differently. Though there is a space factor, more essentially it's because Japanese like such fantastic and extraordinary experience (^^;;).

Therefore, though I still think they should have better appearance so that they can be in harmony with the surroundings, I believe that we have to allow the existence of love hotels.

As love hotels are hotels, you can use them just as usual overnight lodging. And usually the overnight prices are cheaper than the usual hotels. However, be careful ! If you are seen by Japanese friends when you come out of the hotel, your excuse will never be accepted.