In front of small business hotel. Ueno.  2008.

I don’t really have the time or memory to do a run-down of all the hotels, inns and ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) I’ve stayed at over the years visiting and occasionally living in Japan.  This will suffice, though.  And in a few weeks I’ll add a couple more to the list and report on those.  Maybe a good or interesting story awaits.  While in Tokyo I’m booked at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel and for five nights in Kyoto I and the group I’ll be guiding have reservations at the Hotel Fujita (with which I’m very familiar, but have never stayed at, until now).

Also in Kyoto, I’ve stayed more times than I can count (and have referred many people to), the quirky and iconic Three Sisters Inn, Annex, “Discovered” in autumn 2001.  Its major drawback is (I kid you not) an 11:30 curfew which can be easy for even (sometimes especially) a businessperson to break.

Another oft-used, and more “Western-style” Kyoto hotel used is theKyoto Royal Hotel on Kawaramachi Boulevard.  The Royal can’t be beat for it’s location — within walking distance of so very, very many parts of Kyoto any visitor wants to see — but it’s been getting pricier and pricier over the years.  It’s only about a 5-10 minute walk from the old hotel Fujita, which I stayed in for a few nights in 2010. The next year it was torn down to its foundation and a gleaming new Ritz-Carlton took its place.

I’ve stayed in my share of the more upscale hotels, too.  I’ve stayed a couple of times at The New Otani in Osaka, as well as the original in Tokyo.  My former spouse and I went to the Osaka New Otani about 2 weeks after 9.11 2001 (once air traffic resumed in the U.S.) and I’ve never been treated so well by hotel staff the conference I was to attend there had been canceled (like so many around the world that September and October) and, so, we almost had the run of the hotel to ourselves, along with an incredibly grateful staff, a staff that was already top-shelf.  We stayed there again in 2002.

View from room at The New Otani, Osaka. Autumn 2002. Note Osaka Castle to the left.

In 2005, at the Tokyo New Otani, I and some friends — and several hundred other people sitting in the first floor restaurant, the one the has the huge glass windows overlooking that hotel’s famous garden — experienced a nice little undulating, shaking earthquake.  I was, shall we say, concerned that those same huge windows were going to shatter.  A little later, as I went up to one of the top floors to check on my then-business partner (on his very first trip to Japan), it occurred to me that he probably felt the shaking a lot more, be high up in a hotel tower.  As earthquakes in Japan go, it was not a Big One (lasted about 10-15 seconds), but my business partner was visibly shaken when he came to the door.  He told me that he “screamed like a little girl.”

Two years later the same conference was booked at Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel.  Very luxurious and shockingly expensive (for a small businessman on a budget like me), right across from Hibiya Park, and within a few minutes walk of Chiyoda’s famous “Gahdohshita” (under the train tracks) restaurants.  The conference lasted a few days, but I needed to be in Tokyo for a couple more days after the conference’s end.  So, following the last reception (where, for the first and likely last time I interpreted for the Governor of Alabama), I checked-out, left out the north-side exit, walked to the back of the Imperial, took a right and with my luggage in tow strolled on down to the quick clean and respectable Daiichi Hotel Annex business hotel, where I stayed for two more nights and paid a fraction of what the Imperial soaked me for.

Typical “Business Hotel” room: very small by U.S. standards, but very clean, comfortable & efficient. This one happens to be at “Sutton Place” in Ueno. 2008. Not the same hotel as that whose sign’s featured atop this post.

My least expensive night in Tokyo:  autumn 1999.  I had a late night with old friends and an early morning train to catch up to Narita Airport for my return back to the U.S.  I walked around and around central Tokyo, Chiyoda, Ginza, looking for an reasonably-priced place to lay my head for a few hours.  Such places, notably several around Ueno that I know about, do exist in Tokyo, just not really near where I was.  At least not that I could find.  Not even one of those capsule deals.  So I just walked and walked and walked and drank coffee at a few different all-night diners.  And I saw an amazing thing outside of a closed-for-the-night Tokyo Station: a couple dozen men, in dark blue suits, stretched-out asleep on sections of cardboard laid on the ground.  They were businessmen who had missed their respective last trains home and were sticking it out through the night, waiting for the first trains of the morning.

The best value, the best deal I’ve found (or which has been found for me):  the ANA Crowne Plaza in Hiroshima.  Within just a couple of minutes’ walk from Peace Park, the Museum and “Atomic Bomb Dome” (原爆ドーム)。 A very nice ryokan to stay at while in Kinosaki is Mikuniya, where I and a previous “she” enjoyed back in 2001.

View from my room at the ANA Crowne Plaza. Hiroshima. 2008.

.  .  .

One kind of hotel not featured above are Japan’s (in)famous “Love Hotels.”  That’s a whole other subject.  I admit to never having patronized one.  The Love Hotel article linked says, “Nearly every foreigner in Japan has a love hotel story to tell . . .” and that’s true.  And I have mine.  But, again, I’ve never stayed in one.  But I have my story nonetheless…

    • letsjapan
    • April 30th, 2010

    John P. just posted this comment under my post dedicated solely to the Three Sisters Inn (link to that in the story above). I quote John’s comment in its entirety:

    One of the highlights if not THE highlight of our second trip to Japan. I have never felt more at home away from home then with Kay, and her amazing ability to make first time guests feel as though you have known her and the Inn all your life. Since neither of us speak Japanese she made it her mission to give us notes in Japanese of the places we were to visit each day, and even walked us down the street to catch a bus telling the driver exactly where to drop us off, and provided signs to get back. The place is wonderful, the garden view ageless, the service superb, and the friendliness something I had never had before or since. You owe it to yourself to become a part of Kay’s world if only for a few days.


    “Kay’s World.” That about sums it up.


  1. This is one of the things I look forward to the day i go to japan. The hospitality of people, and the clean cut designs of there rooms, especially it seem at the hotels ( Sure there must be bad ones as well, just like everywhere, but I am talking about the good ones 😀 ). Thank you for this post I truly enjoyed reading it.

    • letsjapan
    • May 2nd, 2010


    I think anyone from Scandinavia would feel very “at home” in a Japanese hotel, especially the “business hotels,” which make VERY efficient use of small spaces. That’s a European, Scandinavian and Japanese architectural norm that’s just beginning to catch on in the U.S.

    Of course, you’d loved the cleanliness and neat and simple lines of the ryokan, too. The best of them interconnect beautifully with their natural surroundings in a way that would, indeed, eventually influence Frank Lloyd Wright. I’m not necessarily talking about just ryokan, here, but many Japanese design archetypes.


  1. June 15th, 2010
  2. August 5th, 2010
  3. November 30th, 2010

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