My standard hotel reviews include a breakdown by the following topics. Feel free to skip to whichever section you find most interesting.
- Lobby & Check-in
- Hotel Space / Ambiance
- Food & Drink
Highlights: Gion Hatanaka, Kyoto
On to Kyoto! This stay in a traditional Japanese hotel, or ryokan, was a very interesting experience. Highlights include the amazing multi-course dinner and breakfast the next morning. Service as always is impeccable in Japan, and this was no different. The host was also gracious to share local knowledge of places to go and things to see, and we appreciated that help for us new tourists.
Lobby & Check-in
Gion Hatanaka is a more upscale ryokan, in a nondescript building just off the main streets in Kyoto. Up the cobblestone steps you go, to a small check in desk at the front of the building. We were then shown to our room, conveniently also very close to the entrance. It was a very interesting experience, much different from any traditional hotel.
Pro tip: for those who are tall (like me) be sure to watch your head! Many buildings in Asia were designed with short people in mind, and be cautious lest you bump your head (as I did, several times). Like the Park Hyatt Tokyo, this hotel also operated on traditional turn-key rather than a key card. Another one I cannot collect!
We got a traditional Japanese Style room, measured in mat sizes. It was small and cozy, more like a tiny single-family home. Leading to the main room was a small hallway with closets, and doors to the washlet and bath/shower room. Through the main room was a small seating area, with a closet and wash area flanking the nice outdoor view. It was very spartan and different, with little decoration or furnishings.
At night the service comes and sets up mats on the floor to sleep. It was very painful and hard to sleep on the hard floor surface. Thus, it was not an easy or enjoyable sleep.
Hotel Space / Ambiance
We saw other tourists at Gion Hatanaka, including families and other couples. It is a quiet little place, tucked away from the hubbub of shopping and touristy exploration, yet close enough to reach all the interesting things to see. The lady explored the hotel further, checking out the remainder of the facilities.
Food & Drink
Dinner and breakfast were elaborate multi-course meals with many different items, some of which I had trouble identifying. It was very enjoyable to sit on the floor and have the hostess set up dining tables and each individual course throughout the evening and following morning. Breakfast was included in our stay, but dinner was separate and an additional $100+ per person. Pricey, but a great experience to have.
As the traditional ryokan is a non-traditional hotel, there are no fitness facilities present. I was sure to use the gym at the Park Hyatt Tokyo the morning of, to get my workout for the day.
It is maybe a 15-20 minute bus or taxi ride from Kyoto Station, where the Shinkansen bullet train (amazing, amazing Japanese innovation) drops you off. There are several bus routes that will take you close enough to Gion Hatanaka– all of which can be found through Google Maps. Several tips regarding wi-fi, if you don’t have data: Kyoto Station has wi-fi on the property, to help your navigation.
At Gion Hatanaka, the wi-fi was spotty at best in the room. The front desk hostesses encouraged me to be closer to the window for better wi-fi service, or use the lobby’s faster network if necessary. This was a great experience to try. Perhaps in the future I will try different ryokans throughout Japan, to compare their experience and offerings. Gion Hatanaka cost $383 on Agoda, which was the best price I could find. However, ryokans range widely in price, from as low as $40 to hundreds of dollars. See what you can find!
Stay tuned for the other hotel reviews of my amazing Japan trip! You’ll be able to find them all on my TravelUpdate page.
Featured Image is the first impression of the ryokan room – setup for working & meals, before sleep time.
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