[top photo: The love hotel hill in Shibuya, Tokyo]
PASSION trumps recession in Japan.
While big-time Japanese multi-national firms are bleeding red ink, Japan's love hotels are in the pink.
Japan's 25,000 love hotels are making money even as job losses climb in the country's worst post-war recession, reported Bloomberg.
'It's a recession-proof industry,' said Mr Steve Mansfield, chief executive officer at New Perspective, which helps manage six hotels owned by Japan Leisure Hotels. 'We've even made some rooms more profitable by putting up prices.'
A three-hour stay - euphemistically termed a 'rest' - costs around 3,000 yen (S$50), while an overnight 'stay' starts at around 10,000 yen, reported the Telegraph.
Usually found clustered in the back-streets of the traditional entertainment districts of big cities, love hotels initially catered to prostitutes and their clients.
But the industry boomed in the post-war era due to the shortage of accommodation and couples' privacy needs, reported the Telegraph.
There are an estimated 25,000 such establishments across the country today, many fitted out with state-of-the-art entertainment systems, karaoke facilities, whirlpool baths and room service.
Analysts put the annual turnover of the industry at more than 4 trillion yen and that 500 million visits to love hotels take place every year.
At some love hotels, customers choose their room from a display with pictures of the suites. There's no check-in form and you pay a cashier hidden behind a screen.
'It can feel embarrassing to take people back home and so love hotels are popular,' Mr Mitsuo Seki, a 32-year-old bartender in Tokyo, who visits love hotels three to four times a month, told Bloomberg.
'They have lots of extras as well that are entertaining.'
High-end hotels, however are not doing so well.
They have seen occupancy rates drop for three straight quarters.
'It's a tough environment,' said Mr Yutaka Maruyama, an executive vice president at hotel management company The Chartres Lodging Group Japan. 'Corporations are cutting down on functions and stays.'
This article was first published in The New Paper.