10 days, 5 cities, 4 hotels in Japan.
by marseilles on April 9, 2012
Akihabara is techie geek heaven. Four or five streets lined with seven-storey buildings selling nothing but tech-related things. I've been to Hong Kong, with its rows and rows of ground-level camera and cellphone shops. I've been to the electronics malls in Singapore. But none of that prepared me for Akihabara. At Akihabara, each seven-storey building delights a different part of your geek personality. One building might be dedicated to everything anime and manga-related: comics, DVDs, video games, toys, models. A second might be all about cameras. A third might have nothing but second-hand computers.Some of the older buildings are especially for the truest techie: markets with tiny stalls crammed beside each other, reminiscent of a traditional wet market. Except that, instead of fish or food, each stall displays electrical parts--transistors, wires, and transformers--for building your own robot or radio.One of my most memorable sights in Akihabara was seeing maybe fifty or sixty people--children, teenagers, middle-aged men, a few moms with baby strollers--sitting or standing on a single street corner, all playing Nintendo DS. And why not? Akihabara is home for the "otaku," and an Akihabara street corner, I guess, is the perfect place for otaku to share their passion with each other. I guess what was true in the movie "Field of Dreams" is true for Akihabara: if you build it, they will come.
The Tokyo Prince Hotel is a business hotel that has seen better days. The rooms are tired, and there was a funky smell in my room when I arrived the first night: I'm not sure if it was cigarette smoke or strange-smelling cleaning solutions. The bathroom was okay, but not sparkling clean. There is no WiFi in the hotel; wired Internet is Y1050 per 24 hours.That having been said, there are a few of reasons to choose the Tokyo Prince Hotel the next time you're in Tokyo. The rooms are spacious--the most spacious rooms we stayed in in Japan--and well-insulated. The bathrooms are stocked with the usual supplies, plus bubble bath gel, and the Japanese toilet bowls have all the works. The hotel is right beside two major tourist attractions: the Tokyo Tower, and the Zojoji Temple. There is a good choice of restaurants in the hotel: Japanese, French, and Chinese. The buffet breakfast is decent, with the usual mix of continental and local breakfast options. The convenience store in the basement definitely made our stay a lot more convenient. The nearest train station is a few blocks away, but they have a free shuttle service that runs regularly between the hotel and the station.You can opt not to have your room cleaned everyday, and the hotel will give you a 500 yen voucher per day that you don't have it cleaned (though you must have it cleaned every three days, at least). The voucher can be used at any of the shops or restaurants in the hotel.
by marseilles on March 29, 2012
It's just a ten-minute walk from the JR Kyoto station, but if you have luggage with you it might be better to take the free hotel shuttle service or a taxi, because there is an overpass to climb and descend to get to the Kyoto branch of this hotel chain. Like other things in Japan, the hotel was a confusing combination of new and old. The lobby looks new; the elevators, with the mechanical "open doors" and "close doors" push-buttons seemed to be from a different decade. The bedroom door used a modern key-card entry, but the bathroom seemed older, with white 80s tiles. The walls and ceilings looked like they had been painted recently, and the bed and carpet looked relatively new, but the control panel on the night-table, with its mechanical dial, seemed like an anachronism from the 80s or early 90s. The lobby had free WiFi, but the Internet in the bedroom required the use of a LAN cable (provided at the front desk).The pros: The rooms were, thankfully, warm and well-insulated, both from the cold weather outside as well as from any noise. One of the best features of Japanese hotels--their multi-featured toilet seats--was a feature of the rooms as well: and the commode had heated seats, wonderful for chilly weather! The rooms were well-kept, and the staff members were polite and accomodating. The buffet breakfast, free with the room, was a decent selection of Japanese and Western food. The cons: It might have been because we were there during spring break, but the queue of people waiting to be seated for breakfast was rather long every morning. The business center wasn't great: a tiny nook on the first floor with two coin-operated computers (100 yen per 10 minutes ) and a coin-operated photocopying machine (20 yen per page). There was no one nearby to help me decipher the Japanese keyboard, nor make sense of the instructions on how to send a receipt to myself. The sauna in the hotel is for men only, and the swimming pool can only be used if you pay extra.
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