OSAKA--When a gay couple went out visiting cultural attractions one Sunday last October, they planned to end their date at a love hotel. But that was when their romantic day turned sour.

The 31-year-old and his companion had done their research on the Internet and found an establishment in Osaka Prefecture which said it accepted gay couples.

When they arrived at the hotel, they saw that its name had changed. It soon transpired that its inclusive policy had been dumped along with the old moniker.

After helping themselves to free juice and ice cream on the first floor, the couple went to a room on the top level.

However, they encountered a member of staff in the corridor who stopped them in their tracks and told them: “We do not accept male couples.”

“Really?” replied the 31-year-old’s boyfriend in disbelief. Dejected, the pair returned their refreshments and left the hotel.

Back at home that night, the 31-year-old man could not sleep, and so he vented his frustrations by writing a blog entry.

“At first I felt ashamed, and then, it occurred to me that we had been discriminated against. A dark feeling overcame me, as if my entire body was painted with black ink,” he wrote.

He has told only close friends that he is gay. In his daily life, he is seldom aware that he is part of a sexual minority.

However, he told The Asahi Shimbun: “Told clearly (by the hotel employee), I faced a barrier in society that I probably knew existed, but had not encountered before. It is unreasonable for a group of people with certain qualities to be cast out all together.”

His post attracted numerous comments. One of them read: “Even if the love hotel did not have malicious intent, its treatment is discrimination.”

Another read: “Why do only gay people have to have difficulties in using love hotels?”

A further comment stated: “Love hotels are under the jurisdiction of public health centers.” Acting on this information, the man contacted a local public health center through the Osaka prefectural government’s website.

The man wrote to the health center, saying: “Please help us so that other people do not have the same sad experience as we had.”

Six days later, the health center conducted an on-the-spot inspection of the love hotel.

The man followed up his previous blog post with another entry. He wrote: “What’s most important is to gradually dispel the misunderstandings that come from prejudice and ignorance. I hope for an increase in love hotels that accept same-sex couples even if the change comes slowly.”

The Osaka prefectural government, which operates public health centers, instructed the love hotel not to turn away same-sex couples, reminding it that such treatment violates the Hotel Business Law.

That law and a prefectural ordinance both stipulate that hotels must not reject customers unless they are suffering from infectious diseases or are engaged in illegal gambling.

“We issued the guidance so that this will not happen again,” said an official of the prefectural government’s environment and hygiene department.

The love hotel later told The Asahi Shimbun that it does not reject gay couples but only ask the two individuals to stay in separate rooms.

“We are not discriminating (against gay couples),” it said.

An executive of a love hotel-related organization said, “There have been many cases in which love hotels do not accept male couples as a custom of the industry.”

However, it is extremely rare for the Osaka prefectural government to intervene with love hotels over their treatment of same-sex couples because few cases are reported to public health centers.

Maki Muraki of Nijiiro Diversity, a nonprofit organization that aims to create workplaces comfortable for sexual minorities, said: “I think that the gay couple who were rejected by the love hotel felt as if they had been assaulted from behind.

“The hotel may not have had a sense of discrimination. But it should know same-sex couples love each other, and should offer nondiscriminatory services.”

Kim Ik-kyon, lecturer of human cultures at Kobe Gakuin University and author of the book “Love Hotel Shinka-ron” (Theory on the evolution of love hotels), said: “Many love hotels shun male couples, thinking that they could cause trouble. I think they do not have a sense of discrimination.”

She said some love hotels began accepting same-sex couples only during the past 10 years or so.

Kim added: “It is a very good thing that the 31-year-old man raised his voice against the treatment he and his partner received. Love hotels should use the case as a good opportunity to understand same-sex couples.”