We arrived at the hotel about 7:30 p.m. local time. This was 5:30 a.m. Mobile time and 3:30 a.m. in San Francisco, where we had gotten up at 6:30 a.m. the previous day. We’d been traveling through the day and an all-too-short night, and by the time our luggage was finally delivered (over an hour later), we were too tired to care what the room was like.
I suspect that during our stay in Osaka we did not appreciate how nice the room was. It was only by comparison with our much smaller room in Kyoto that we realized how large the room was for Japan. From our window on the 19th floor (#2001), we had a splendid view. Central to that view was an unusual structure that Glenn referred to as the “Tootsie Roll Building.” We later learned that it is the Osaka Daiichi Hotel, also known as Osaka Maru-Biru (“round building”). It is the first structure of its type in Osaka, perhaps in Japan, and, as you might expect, the guest rooms are pie-shaped.
Although we quite enjoyed our stay in Kyoto, this was our least favorite hotel. The room (#929) was quite small (much smaller than the one shown in the photo at the hotel's Web site), and the two beds were really twins rather than even “hotel doubles.” This became an issue because Barney and I had to share one the first night. There was so little space in the room for luggage that we had had to open one or our large suitcases on one of the beds. Later we moved it to a chair (I think we ended up with both chairs full of suitcases), but after splitting a twin bed lengthwise the first night, I opted to split it the other way the second night, pushing the suitcase to the foot and curling up as best I could at the head of the bed!
We had no view to speak of (tennis courts and trash cans) and again were grateful for the shoji screens. Storage space of any kind was severely limited, as half of the closet was taken up by the mini-bar and tea-making apparatus. It was in the bathroom of this room, however, that we first experienced a Washlet with a blow dryer!
Hotel Kowakien, Hakone
This hotel was the most “Japanese” of any we stayed in. I wondered briefly about the small vestibule through which we entered, but it wasn’t until one of the housekeeping staff, summoned to replace a burnt-out light bulb, meticulously removed his shoes before entering the room that I realized it was meant as a genkan. Mortified, I quickly removed my shoes and left them there!
The bathroom was also quasi-Japanese style, with the (handheld) shower outside the large, deep tub (in a separate room). I am sure one could learn to master this, but I had only one shot at it, and I don’t believe I’ve ever had quite so unsatisfactory a shower! The toilet was also in a separate room, and there was such an abundance of light switches for all these compartments that I never did manage to get the right one first.
The room itself (#830) was quite spacious and, unusually, had windows that opened. It had been raining when we arrived and soon started up again, but for as long as we could, we left the windows open and the welcome cool breeze billowing the curtains.
Kyoko provided the following written information about the hotel:
This hotel was amazing. Our room there (#2408) was easily twice the size of the one in Kyoto, and very well appointed. The lower level of the hotel had numerous restaurants (a couple of which we tried for breakfast), and the lobby was so vast that I got turned around every time I tried to enter or leave the hotel. Because the rooms were in two entirely separate towers, we had to pay attention to which bank of elevators to use.
The hotel was situated in the area of Tokyo called Shinjuku and was across the street from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office Building, as can be seen in this aerial photo. It was also within easy walking distance of many electronics and department stores, parks, and the Shinjuku JR (Japan Rail) station.
This was probably our favorite hotel in some ways. Certainly it was the only one in which we really spent much time. Because we were pretty much on our own in Yokohama, we returned to the hotel often. Although the room was not much larger than the one in Kyoto, it somehow didn’t seem as cramped. Perhaps the spectacular view over Yokohama Bay made the difference. And it probably also helped that we stayed in Yokohama long enough to unpack our clothes and stow our suitcases (and that the closet was more spacious).
The Novotel (formerly the Hotel Yokohama) is Glenn and Chie's “guest room,” where they have traditionally put up visitors, and its restaurant and bar are where they customarily entertain (their “living room”). The hotel was built on the site of the nineteenth-century Consulate General of the United States, and the lobby contains a photo of the original building, flanked by the two lampposts that stood in front of its entrance.
As of 2007, the Novotel has changed hands again and is now the Monterey Hotel Yokohama (or Hotel Monterey Yokohama).