I’ve been fortunate enough to be doing a fair amount of domestic traveling these past few months. When I travel with my family, we usually pick an accommodation that best suits our toddler – rental apartments, hotel suites, any place that might mean my husband and I don’t have to spend an evening sequestered in a bathroom while our daughter beds down at 7:30pm.
On my own, however, I’m free to try a range of accommodation, from budget hotels (and one capsule ryokan I have booked for my early September weekend in Kyoto) to classy luxury or boutique hotels. Lately, I’v been staying in the properties that fall in between – independent establishments that would suit a mid-range budget*. Here are a few of my more memorable stays:
1. Hotel Koraku (Okayama) – From the friendly front desk staff to the killer location, there wasn’t anything I didn’t like about the Hotel Koraku. You’re steps from a tram stop, a ten minute walk from the main train station and in the thick of an excellent restaurant district. The front desk even provides its own hand-drawn, visitor and staff recommended map (in English!) of favorite local restaurants. Rooms are a very good size and the hotel’s position – set back a block from the main drag – ensures a quiet sleep.
2. The Claska (Tokyo) – This is probably the priciest hotel on this list for a solo traveler but it still doesn’t break the bank. There are even two single rooms on offer, both with unique decorations. In fact, in keeping with the “boutique hotel” theme, a different designer was hired to kit out each room. I stayed in a room that had soft carpet, a beautiful vanity and stuffed animals decorating the comfortable bed. Sounds odd but I had a thoroughly enjoyable stay. The only downside to this property is its distance from the train or metro (a 20-30 minute walk).
3. Hotel Arietta (Osaka) – This hotel billed itself as an Italian-inspired property, which when overdone (I’m thinking of you, Olive Garden) can make one cringe. However, the lobby was tastefully decorated in warm stone and black wicker chairs with cream cushions, an immediately-inviting atmosphere and the perfect place to settle in for the included buffet breakfast. The rooms are more standard, but I had plenty of space in the single and a rather large bathroom. The location in downtown Osaka – close to transportation links but away from the noise – was perfect.
4. Plaza Hotel Premier (Fukuoka) – This hotel, steps from the heart of Fukuoka’s trendy Daimyo district, looks swish but doesn’t cost a fortune. The lobby is marbled and staff are crisply attired, but the rooms are relaxed and comfortable. My single wasn’t huge and the bathroom slightly cramped, but the included breakfast was stellar – a full buffet of French toast, eggs, meat, soup, salad, vegetables, bread, coffee, juices and tea. Despite the central location in a lively district, I had a very quiet sleep on a Saturday night here. A sister property, Plaza Hotel Tenjin, is around the corner.
5. Park Hotel (Tokyo) – The Park Hotel is probably the priciest of the lot but worth it for the level of comfort and ease of access. I stayed here with a friend in a double room, which had enough space for us to pop up a porta-crib for my daughter as well. The views are stellar – you either get a bayside room which overlooks Hamarikyu Garden or a city room where the skyline at night is mesmerizing. The staff here speak excellent English and there is even a foreign concierge (American, I think), should you need him. The metro is in the basement of the building or the JR train is a 7 minute walk. Rack rates are high but if you book in advance and/or spend 3-4 nights, a significant discount is available. We spent $160 a night for a double (4 nights total) and split the cost.
*Mid-range in Japan is a fairly comprehensive term, covering hotels from $50-$150 per person. My priciest night in the above properties was $115. My most affordable was $68. The best deals to be found are often on the hotel’s website, though aggregate websites like agoda.com or rakuten.co.jp sometimes turn up a lower price.