Unique Styles of Hospitality

UNIQUE STYLES OF HOSPITALITY

A collection of quirky hotels

There are a quite a few “interesting” hotels in Japan – from the good, old-fashioned traditional ones passed down through generations, to those with visions of the not-too-distant future racing ahead of the pack. Might I suggest you make your next trip to Japan all about staying at (and experiencing) these “unique” hotels?


BED AND CRAFT

BECOME A MASTER’S APPRENTICE AT THIS HOTEL

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BED AND CRAFT is located in one of the most prominent wood carving towns in Japan and isn’t merely a place for weary travellers to rest. This hotel gives guests the opportunity to become apprentices to artisan wood carvers and lacquer artists by participating in one of the workshops. A quick trip into town reveals cafés and izakayas (Japanese pubs) to stop by, as well as other tourists, and locals to mingle with. Drop on by to experience a hotel that has taken over a whole region.

BED AND CRAFT
●Address: 1896-1 Inami, Nanto-shi, Toyama
●Web: www.bedandcraft.com
●Email: info@corare.net

HENN-NA HOTEL

MEMORIES MADE OF DREAMS

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“The receptionist is a robot?!” – Henn-na Hotel promises to continue changing with the times and is recognised in the Guinness Book of World Records as “the first robot-staffed hotel” with its multi lingual robot. The hotel offers a comfortable place to stay using various different types of the latest technology. You’re guaranteed to have an everchanging experience weighted around the time of your stay and your particular needs.

HENN-NA HOTEL
●Locations: Hennna Hotel Maihama Tokyo Bay, Nishikasai, Ginza, Hamamatsucho, Asakusabashi, Haneda, Asakusa

KEIO PLAZA HOTEL TOKYO

THE PERFECT STAY

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Electric reclining beds? Electric-powered chairs? Look no further than the “Universal Designed Room” offered by the Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo, which aims to provide guests with “adjustability” and “adaptability” customisations to suit their needs. Other room types, such as the Japanesestyled tatami rooms, and “Luxury Fourth” rooms with 4 beds and 2 shower rooms, can also be found amongst a variety of others at this hotel.

KEIO PLAZA HOTEL TOKYO
●Address: 2-2-1 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
●Web: www.keioplaza.com

THE MILLENNIALS

THE FUTURE OF LODGING

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Do you want to stay somewhere homely? Play for work? Travel while you work? Do these modern lifestyles appeal to you? The work spaces, kitchen, and other common facilities that can be used 24 hours a day make up 20% of this hotel. Sleep is only a small portion of this whole experience. The true value in a stay at this hotel is in the lifestyle it offers.

THE MILLENNIALS KYOTO / THE MILLENNIALS SHIBUYA
●Address: [Kyoto] 235 Yamazakicho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyotoshi, Kyoto
[Shibuya] 1-20-13 Jinnan, Shibuyaku, Tokyo
●Web: www.themillennials.jp/enhome

HOTEL GRACERY SHINJUKU

BOOK A ROOM TO MEET GODZILLA

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There is only one hotel in the entire world where guests can get up close and personal with the one and only Godzilla – the HOTEL GRACERY SHINJUKU in Tokyo. This hotel features a “Godzilla Room” for a kaiju world experience, and another room with a Godzilla head poking outside. Zip over to Tokyo to see Godzilla for yourself!

HOTEL GRACERY SHINJUKU
●Address: 1-19-1, Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
●Web: shinjuku.gracery.com

BnA HOTEL KOENJI / BnA STUDIO AKIHABARA

SLEEP IN A MASTERPIECE

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A hotel where you can sleep in an artist’s creation. The concept behind the BnA HOTEL Koenji is “a hotel which incorporates the whole of Koenji with art rooms around the town” and the hotel is currently doing just that in a world first. The theme of the BnA STUDIO Akihabara is, “living with art, a next-generation Tokyo urban lifestyle”. Guests can stay in one of these rooms surrounded by the art of spirited artists.

BnA HOTEL KOENJI / BnA STUDIO AKIHABARA
●Address: [Koenji] 2-4-7 Koenjikita, Suginami-ku, Tokyo
[Akihabara] 6-3-3 Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
●Web: www.bna-hotel.com
●Email: info@bna-hotel.com
RUGBY WORLD CUP 2019

RUGBY WORLD CUP 2019

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RUGBY WORLD CUP 2019

Wallabies “Once in a Lifetime Journey”

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From September 20th until November 2nd 2019, Japan will stage the first ever Rugby World Cup to take place in Asia. For those considering coming to Japan to support the Australian Wallabies, we’d like to offer information on what weather to expect during the tournament, how to access the venues and also local sightseeing recommendations. This will not just be a ‘once in every 4 years’ kind of trip, this will be a ‘Once in a Lifetime Journey’ to cherish.


QUALIFYING POOLS

MATCH 1 VS FIJI

September 21st (SUN)
Sapporo Dome, Hokkaido

①ACCESS TO THE STADIUM

If you’re heading to the venue from downtown Sapporo, it’s best to take the subway. From JR Sapporo Station, it’s a 13 minute ride to Fukuzumi Station which is also the terminus. After alighting, take exit 3 and you’ll reach Sapporo Dome after a 10 minute walk. For those flying into Hokkaido on the day of the match, the Sapporo Toshin bus service will run to Sapporo Dome at 15 minute intervals throughout the day with the trip taking approximately 45 minute

RECOMMENDED SIGHTSEEING EXPERIENCES

One of the most famous sports venues in Japan is the home of the Nippon Ham Fighters baseball club. It is worth a visit alone to Sapporo to watch the automatic transformation of the dome from baseball diamond to rectangular rugby field. Before and after the game Sapporo has so much to see and do. The night life and food in Susukino should not be missed and Sapporo is famous for its crab, beer and ramen. What a great combination. Don’t miss Nijo Ichiba for fresh seafood or for amazing ramen. No trip to Sapporo is
complete without a visit to the Sapporo Beer museum and eat like a Mongol Warlord with a feast of Genghis Khan BBQ. Drop by Old Town Hokkaido to go back in time and for one of the best night views in Japan head up to Mt Moiwa.

SPECIAL NOTE – Don’t forget you may want to visit Kamaishi on the east coast of the main island. Kamaishi is one of the cities destroyed on the earthquake and subsequent tsunami of 2011. Kamaishi is a beautiful town with wonderful people who will make you feel so welcome as the host of the Fiji vs Uruguay match on the 25th Sept at the newly built Unosumai Memorial Stadium.

WEATHER CONDITIONS TO EXPECT

The tail end of September in Sapporo sees highs of under 20 degrees and lows of 14 degrees with a distinct feeling of autumn in the air. The high pressure systems in the Pacific start to weaken at this time of year causing changeable weather and the potential for a lot of rain.


QUALIFYING POOLS

MATCH 2 VS WALES

September 29th (SUN)
Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo

②ACCESS TO THE STADIUM

The most convenient way to get to Tokyo Stadium is by train. During large scale events like this one, some of the rapid and semi-rapid trains make a special stop at Tobitakyu, which is the closest station to the stadium. This allows you to arrive within 20 minutes from Shinjuku Station on the Keio Line without requiring a transfer.

RECOMMENDED SIGHTSEEING EXPERIENCES

As you take the train out on the Keio Line to Tobitakyu Station from the hectic and fast paced downtown area you will pass through some of the nicest suburbs in Tokyo. West Tokyo is famous for some of the busiest urban lanscapes with famous names such as Shibuya, Harajuku and Shinjuku, home to the station that sees 3 million people a day pass through it. In the midst of all this you can still find Japanese serenity in Shinjuku Gyoen Park or Meiji Shrine. Between Tokyo and the stadium is one of the recommended places in Japan, Kichijoji. A cool and funky suburb and home to Harmonica Yokocho. “Yokocho” literally means “side alley” or “street” and are synonymous with Japan. A collection of all types of wonderful homestyle eating establishments where can have you own “culinary crawl” from shop to shop. Other highlights amongst just too many to list here are Golden Gai just near Kabukicho and Ebisu Yokocho, famous for being taken over by Masterchef Australia in 2017.

WEATHER CONDITIONS TO EXPECT

September in Tokyo sees average temperatures of 22 degrees and lows of 19 degrees along with calm conditions. However, with humidity still running at 70%, the last remnants of summer can still be felt at times and it can be a little sticky. Precipitation is also heaviest at this time of year so it’s a good idea to have some wet weather gear ready for both match day and any sightseeing.


QUALIFYING POOLS

MATCH 3 VS URUGUAY

October 5th (SUN)
Oita Stadium (Sports Park), Oita Prefecture

③ACCESS TO THE STADIUM

Getting to the stadium in Oita Sports Park requires taking a bus then a short walk. From JR Oita Station, buses leave from platform 3 or platform 6 and run to ‘Oita Sport Park East’, the nearest bus stop. The trip should take between 35 to 45 minutes and there will also be shuttle buses operating from JR Beppu Station during the event.

RECOMMENDED SIGHTSEEING EXPERIENCES

A lot of Aussies think of Japan as being the area between Tokyo and Osaka (the Golden Route) or a ski resort in Hokkaido. Japan is incredibly diverse and around every corner is a new adventure. Welcome to “Hot Springs Heaven – Oita”. A truly unique Japanese experience awaits you. Downtown Miyakomachi is a great place to start and grab some local dishes. Being off the beaten track people from Oita pride themselves on their hospitality and it is not just Kobe that you find good beef. Oita has some of the best. Enjoy the outdoor hot springs at Suginoi with magnificent views over Beppu Bay. One of the “only in Japan” experiences is Jigoku Mushi – beautiful seafood and vegetables steamed in the natural hot springs. Don’t get caught out with staying away from Oita as you will be spending all your time travelling and not enjoying all that Oita has to offer. Trekking on the Kunisaki Peninsula and a very tasty Japanese BBQ at the newly opened Yakiniku Yokocho! Ask a local, they will love to help you.

WEATHER CONDITIONS TO EXPECT

October in Oita sees cooler air flowing into the local area with average temperatures below 20 degrees. However, warm air can also cover the region at times pushing daytime highs above 30 degrees. The weather is generally stable with few rainy days, but as it’s also typhoon season, be aware that heavy rain can also hit the region.


QUALIFYING POOLS

MATCH 4 VS GEORGIA

October 11th (FRI)
Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, Shizuoka Prefecture

④ACCESS TO THE STADIUM

For those who wish to access Ecopa Stadium using public transportation, JR Aino Station is the closest station and from there it’s a 15 minute walk to the venue. If you’re coming from Tokyo to Aino Station, get off at JR Kakegawa Station then take a Hamamatsu bound train on the Tokkaido main line and you’ll arrive in 5 minutes. If coming from Nagoya, at Hamamatsu Station change to the Okitsu bound train at on the main Tokkaido line and you’ll arrive at Aino Station in approximately 20 minutes.

RECOMMENDED SIGHTSEEING EXPERIENCES

Japan has 47 prefectures, each with their own individual highlights. Shizuoka is the spiritual home of one of Japan’s biggest exports – green tea. The meticulously manicured tea plantations sit at the base of Mt Fuji and make for one of those holiday photos you have to see to believe. Just over an hour by bullet train from Tokyo, Shizuoka sits between the coastline and Mt Fuji. Kakegawa is the station you want which is closest to the stadium and is famous as a green tea town. Do not miss Honjin Dori – a collection of little restaurants and bars just 8 mins walk north of the station. Shizuoka is famous for its oden, a mixture of different foods in a steaming broth. Other must do’s are the Kakegawa Bird Park and the Mishima Skywalk for incredible views of Mt Fuji.

WEATHER CONDITIONS TO EXPECT

The weather in October in Shizuoka Prefecture sees average temperatures of 18 degrees and lows of 14 degrees and with little temperature variation between day and night, conditions are very comfortable. However, according to meteorological data taken from early October 2017, which corresponds to the same time of year the match will be played, days above 30 degrees are possible and measures to avoid heatstroke should be considered.


IF THEY PROGRESS TO THE KNOCK OUT MATCHES…

SEMI-FINAL AND FINAL

October 27th (SUN) & November 2nd (Sat)
Yokohama International Stadium, Kanagawa Prefecture

⑤ACCESS TO THE STADIUM

For those wishing to head to Yokohama International Stadium using public transportation, train is the best option. The 3 closest stations are JR Shin Yokohama, the Yokohama Municipal subway and JR Kozukue Station which require a further 14 minute, 12 minute or 7 minute walk respectively to the stadium. If coming from Tokyo to the venue, it takes 20 minutes on the bullet train to Shin Yokohama Station or, if travelling by regular train, take the JR Keihin Tohoku Line to Higashi Kanagawa Station (approximately 35 minutes) then transfer to a Hachioji bound train on the Yokohama Line and you’ll arrive in 10 minutes.

RECOMMENDED SIGHTSEEING EXPERIENCES

Yokohama is truly a wonderful city with easy access, great food and excellent accommodation. In 1868 when Commodore Perry sailed into Yokohama Bay to open up the country after 100sof years of isolation it started the Meiji Revolution and the transformation of Japan. Parts of Yokohama have a distinctive western feel and if you are feeling nostalgic go and have a beer and a meal at the Yokohama Country and Athletic Club near Yamate Station. The oldest expat club in Japan and there is conjecture with Keio University that this is where rugby was born in Japan. If Australia finds itself playing in Yokohama on either of these weekends there is plenty for you to do and see. Here are a few examples for Yokohama.
1. Check out the unique experience of the Ramen Museum near Shin Yokohama Station. A tribute to the different types of the noodle dish from all over Japan set in a throwback to the 1950s and 60s.
2. Minato Mirai – harbour of the Future and the area around it. Great shopping and check out the view from the Landmark building. On a clear day you can see Mt Fuji.

WEATHER CONDITIONS TO EXPECT

In Yokohama over the course of the semi finals and final, the average temperature will be 15 degrees with lows of 12 degrees and you can definitely feel the coolness of autumn. However, daytime temperatures usually rise to 18 or 19 degrees making it feel very comfortable.


Two-Day Photo Shoot in Aizu

Two-Day Photo Shoot in Aizu

MAKING THE MOST OF THE BEST POWDER SNOWS IN MAINLAND JAPAN

Words and Photography: Kazuya Baba

Now is the perfect chance to have this powder snow heaven all to yourself.

In February 2018, I went from the middle of summer in Sydney, to the middle of winter in Japan. My destination was the Aizu region of Fukushima Prefecture. Situated in the Tohoku region at the northernmost reaches of Japan’s main island, Aizu might conjure up images of being far away from the gateway to Japan that is the metropolis of Tokyo, but Fukushima Prefecture itself is the gateway to the Tohoku region as seen from Tokyo, and in a location that is both close and easy to access. 

The flight from Sydney to Haneda Airport arrives early in the morning, and you can get to Aizu itself by as early as 9:00 am that day via the bullet train. Not only easy to access, the inland position of Aizu means the humidity there is low, making for fluffy, excellent powder snows that have earned the area a reputation as a hidden powder snow heaven among Japanese skiers.

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Something I should mention up front is the matter of radiation that might come to mind when the name Fukushima is mentioned. It is because of this concern that the number of people visiting Fukushima Prefecture has greatly declined in the time since the Great East Japan Earthquake, but the level of radiation is being closely monitored, and your safety is assured. Fukushima is also the third largest prefecture in Japan, and while Aizu might be in the same prefecture where the incident occurred, it is far away from the affected areas, so there is no need for concern. Since overseas skiers have yet to realise this, now is the perfect chance to have this powder snow heaven all to yourself.

I decided to take a taxi from Haneda Airport to Tokyo Station, instead of braving the potential difficulties of the standard railway lines, because of all the photographic gear and other luggage we had in addition to our skiing gear. The cost came to around 5,000 yen, but it’s a reasonable price if you’re travelling in a group. Changing over to the bullet train from Tokyo Station, we arrived in Koriyama City, the largest city in Fukushima Prefecture, in an hour and forty minutes. Changing back to the standard railway lines once again from there, we then travelled on to Inawashiro Station, the gateway to Aizu itself, and arrived at around 9:00 am.

It was a strange sensation to leave Sydney not only the night before to find myself in a world of snow by 9:00 am the next morning, but this only served to reinforce the idea of how easy it is to get there.

Aizu is home to 22 skiing areas all up, but with only two days to see the sights, we would need to head on to our next spot the following evening, this time by rental car. With a goal of visiting as many skiing spots across the country as possible in a few short weeks, such a tight schedule was impossible to avoid. At Inawashiro, we met up with snowboarder and guide Kei, an expert on the local area and one of the subjects for our photo shoot.

With the help of Kei’s advice, we put together a plan that would allow us to make the most of our limited two-day schedule while getting the best possible shots. On the first day, it was Nekoma we decided upon as the place to enjoy some of the best and lightest powder in the area.

The sheer size of this resort offers a great many places to enjoy.

NEKOMA, HIDDEN SKI RESORT WITH FIRST-RATE POWDER

It was a trip of thirty minutes from Inawashiro Station to Nekoma in Kei’s car. Here, we met up with another skier who would be a subject for us, and took the lifts right away to the tops of the mountains. Since Nekoma is situated deep in the very heart of the Aizu area, it takes a little longer to access, and the skiing area itself is not so large at 6 lifts in total, so it sees fewer skiers coming to visit. It would be no exaggeration to say the area is almost completely unknown overseas. The only visitors that come to this spot are locals who know it well already, and hardcore skiers from overseas who simply happened to hear something about it.

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Nekoma is said to have some of the highest quality snow in Aizu. The reason for this is because of the thick and frequent snowfalls it experiences, the northern-facing aspect that keeps the snow out of direct sunlight and makes it hard to melt, and the long period that fresh snows remain. While the quality of snow in other areas might gradually deteriorate, it is quite often that Nekoma alone remains fresh.

The weather when we went was, again, snowy. Not the best conditions for taking photos, but the best possible conditions for fresh snow to continue building up while you’re hitting the slopes. The easy nature of the land makes Nekoma home to many readily enjoyable sidecountry areas, and it is for this reason that it has earned the position of a much-loved spot among hardcore skiers. This was no exception, we took the best advantage of the sidecountry areas as possible, coming across natural jumps and tunnels created by the forms of fallen trees and taking shots of skiing and snowboarding side by side. The snows only grew heavier as the afternoon arrived, putting an end to our photographic endeavours in a matter of hours, but we were still able to get a number of good shots.

THE MASSIVE SKIING AREA OF ALTS BANDAI

Still fresh from the excitement of Nekoma the day before, the next morning, Kei came to pick us up at the hotel where we were staying. That day, Kei was dressed in a bright yellow, newly acquired getup given the previous day’s difficulty in showing up on camera. Our destination for the day was the largest skiing area in all of Aizu, Alts Bandai, whose main attraction is the cat ski tour held only on weekends. Inaccessible via the lifts on weekdays, this tour allows a small number of people to access an area via snowmobile (cat) on the weekends. Getting to ski down this course where you can enjoy snows built up all through the week is quite the experience.

While our schedule didn’t fall on a weekend this time, we were able to get some shots out in the sidecountry areas and skiing fields thanks to recommendations from our local expert, Kei. The sheer size of this resort offers a great many places to enjoy. We were able to get some great shots in addition to the ones we captured at Nekoma the day before, and I hope they convey a sense of the sheer potential of the snows that Aizu has on offer. Finishing up our two short, but full days of shooting, I took the wheel as we drove onwards. There are a great many wonderful skiing areas in Japan, but those that match the quality of Aizu are few and far between.

In addition to the skiing resorts of Hokkaido and Nagano that are already popular among overseas skiers, why not add Aizu to the list of areas to visit this coming season?