Japanese Love Hotels: Legal Change, Social Change, and Industry Change
58 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2003
Date Written: November 26, 2002
Throughout Japan, people frequent hotels at which the primary purpose is not sleep, but sex. Although some establishments offer such non-sexual amenities as tanning beds, fitness equipment, and large-screen televisions, there is little question that the raison d'etre of a love hotel is, well, love (or something like it). In this Article, based largely on field observation, interview data, and quantitative analysis, I show that law has played an important but unrecognized role in the development of the love hotel industry (determining love hotel population, location, and form), and by default in the sex lives of many people in Japan. Specifically, I show first how social changes gave rise to a recent scheme to regulate love hotels. Second, in large part because of the underbreadth of the resultant controlling statute, the law invigorated the love hotel industry by creating a new class of "extralegal" love hotels and erecting barriers to entry sufficient to ensure greater market power for some surviving hotels. One underlying reason for these effects appears to be the capacity of the law effectively to "legitimize" enterprise in the minds of the public.
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