As usual, I'll provide "+" for plus points, and "-" for negative points, and "=" for neutral points. Positive and negative points are personal and of course subjective. Review is based on one instance of stay at the hotel, so YMMV.
Features or attractions not used may not be mentioned nor rated.
Hotel Monterey La Soeur Osaka
(Upgraded to larger room - 2 semi double, plus a single bed, 26 sqm - up from 22.)
Nice big room. But I paid for the upgrade. So not an unqualified plus. Still, the standard room (22 sq m) would have been closer to western hotel standards. So that's a plus.
+ big (22 sqm upgraded to 26)
+ hot cold bath/shower mixer is integrated.
+ temperature override for hot water (bath shower) >40 C
+ allows for distinct shower or bath water flow selection
+ bath is long and deep.
+ quite a lot of power points for charging devices. Bedside nightstand even has a split three way power point (for personal devices).
- not enough hooks for clothes n towels. Or could be more. Minor point.
= Three pillows. One extra. But I paid for an extra bed.
Some background on this hotel booking.
We had originally booked an AirBnB apartment for about $440 (SGD). However, the day before we left for Japan, the apartment owner emailed to say that he had to cancel the booking because the condo was cracking down on Airbnb rentals. So he could no longer rent out his apartment, he offered a few other apartments, which were about 14 km from the original booking. Those were too far from the city centre, so I turned those down, and found Hotel Monterey, which were having a last minute "sale". So I got it, and upgraded when given the option.
And I was impressed by the faucet/mixer. It is FANTASTIC! Let me explain. I have seen hot water controls that have a "safety" button for over 40 C. This is a red button on the faucet that you have to manually depress to over-ride the safety and get hotter than 40C water. So that in itself is not new. But I like these sort of controls because it provide a precision in the temperature control, and a steady, reliable hot water.
What was interesting was the water outlet control - it integrated the spigot for the tub, and the handheld shower head. Up for shower and down for tub. Most systems have a faucet for the water, and then you need to switch the water up to the shower head. And if there is a bit of cold water stuck in the hose, you get an uncomfortable blast of cold water before the hot water gets through. I thought that was exceedingly well thought-out and well-designed.
And the hot water pipe (the short length that was exposed as it emerged from the wall before mixing with the cold water) was insulated against any accidental scalding.
Of course, you are NOT going to select a hotel based on the sophistication of its bath water system, and this "review" is overly detailed. So feel free to roll your eyes and move on. I had to note this because, there are many times when someone takes particular pains to consider the needs of the user, but their efforts are not recognised. I just felt the need to recognise this.
Taq-Q-Bin one suitcase to Nara Washington Hotel Plaza from this hotel. Asked the front desk for help with this. Again, with Agoda, the check-in voucher has address in Japanese script so that is helpful.
Hotel 123 Kobe
I forgot I had booked a "suite" of sorts - there was a bedroom, and a tatami room. This was a much more spacious layout. Loved it!
But it is only a three star hotel.
So the room looked a little worn.
But I'm old and worn too, so I've learned to appreciate the scars of experience.
The room had one large bed (a double, or semi-double), and a tatami room with 3 futon mattresses. Technically, you could sleep 5 adults in the room.
Hotels like these often provide complimentary breakfast. And it was pretty decent. It is usually a mix of western n Japanese breakfast items - rice with various traditional condiments, and bread and spread. The fried chicken (tori karaage) was pretty good.
+ Spacious (but I did choose a larger room/suite)
+ 5 pillows!
+ Complementary breakfast.
- Location was a bit of a walk from train station. But there is a bus that stops right outside the hotel. If you know which bus (Service 7), and where to board it (dunno). After checking out, used bus to get to train station for next journey.
- need to set up futon for sleep. This may not strictly be a negative, but in this case, the futon mattresses are thinner, more compact and modern (not traditional heavy thick mattresses which are filled with cotton, I believe). But they are provided with a simple sheet - unfitted. Which I cover the mattress with every night, and in the morning I folded up the futon. Housekeeping put away the mattress. So every night I had to set up the futon mattress anew.
= Tub was a little shorter but still possible for me to sit in.
We booked this because my wife was concerned about my daughter rolling off the bed. So if the bed was not against the wall, we would have put the child on the futon on the floor instead. But as it turned out the one bed was against a wall, so that was not an issue.
The suite set-up provided ample space for the toddler to run about, and the tatami floor was a forgiving surface if she fell.
It was easily our favourite room of our two week stay.
My girl loved to stand on the window ledge (with my support) and look out at Isogami Park. Which is a ball park - there were kids and adults playing soccer or practising on the field every evening.
Nara Washington Hotel Plaza
We've stayed here before and found the location very convenient. But the amenities leave room for improvement (e.g. ice machine. Or lack of).
+ Location! Right on Sanjo Dori!
+ Dual USB ports by bedside for charging mobile devices!
- Small room - one double bed only. (I usually book twin rooms, but none were available.)
- Small tub - Daughter couldn't "swim" in it.
- No ice! Not that I needed it, but shouldn't this be standard at a decent hotel?
- Mini fridge was ridiculously small (the smallest capacity I have seen), and almost unusable - held maybe 5 cans/bottles.
Re-united with the one luggage we sent by Taq-Q-Bin. And of course, it would be with at the hotel with the smallest room (Murphy's Law).
"Kokoro House", (AirBnB one-room "studio" apartment).
We were impressed by the "visuals" when we booked. And yes, we were aware that it was a AirBnB type accommodation. And it would have been the second apartment we rented (see above) if the first had not cancelled.
- no tub. Incredibly, there was no tub in this Japanese home. I had expected a short but deep tub. Oh well. I guess I wanted to believe that the owner had left out mention of a tub because it was a standard feature in Japanese home. Or so I thought.
- Hot water was unreliable. I'm not sure how the hot water is supplied (I suspect a central heated tank), but on cold, cold days and nights, you needed to run the water for some time before the hot water kicks in. And I think quite a lot of the initial hot water would be warming up the cold pipes before some warm water gets to you. Then sometimes the hot water "runs out" for a short while. I have no idea why. But it was unreliable. Which was why my wife wanted a tub or basin (see next point) so the bath water for my child would be uniformly and reliably warm and we don't inadvertently freeze my child.
- smallish space. In terms of actual size, it was larger than most hotel rooms, and I would consider that the space was quite roomy. Mostly. There were compromises. the kitchen was small, but we didn't try to cook. Although there were utensils if we wanted to. The passageways were narrow and we tried to stay out of that as much as possible, except when we were getting ready to go out, in which case, we ended up in each other's way. Minor issue, but irritating nonetheless. But then again, probably not more so than say a small hotel room like Nara Washington Hotel Plaza (above). Maybe I am being unfair as this is the ONLY AirBnB apartment we have stayed in.
= location. Okubo Dori is quite touristy and there are quite a few Korean and Chinese run businesses and restaurants. And a few convenience stores, at least one tax-free shop, and one 100-Yen shop (where we bought the biggest basin for my daughter to bathe in, for 100 yen (S$1.30, $1.50 with tax). We left the basin when we checked out. The owner can now advertise the property as having 'one portable tub'. Maybe.) But it was off the main tourist area and transport hub. Minor inconvenience.
= Recycling. If you've never had to recycle the way Japanese do, this will be an eye-opener. Living in an AirBnB apartment there was two ways this would affect you. One, the owner could do the necessary. Which seems like what the first AirBnB apartment was offering (the one that cancelled). The instructions was to leave all trash or recyclables in the balcony. Presumably, the apartment owner would then deal with it. Two, get the visitor to comply with the recycling rules/protocols. Which was rather detailed. (note the bit about removing the filth from disposable diapers first).
= Heating. There was an air-conditioner which also heats the room up. However, it was not very effective beyond 2 - 3 metres. We closed the dividing doors to keep the warm air in the tatami (living/sleeping) area (leaving the kitchen and dining area cold). Fortunately, my wife liked it hot and she slept close to the heater. I did not care for the direct heat, so I slept further beyond the direct venting of the warm air. So that worked out fine for us. The problem would be if both wanted the full effect of the heater. Maybe.
I think to be fair, I would have like an AirBnB apartment. If it were just my wife and me, with no kid. And the apartment (with cooking facilities) were in Kobe (where there were lots of Kobe Beef sold in supermarkets at very reasonable prices for me to buy and bring home to cook. But with a child, we preferred the convenience and pampering of a hotel - uniformly heated room, reliable hot water, and not having to mess about with recycling and trash disposal rules.