[Accommodation Review] – Airbnb – Mitz’s Apartment (1-Bedroom Apartment), Osaka, Japan (19 – 26 May 18)


Facade of Mitz Apartment

When I was planning for my trip to Osaka, I wanted an apartment that has a separate bedroom from the living room which provides space for me to throw my shopping and have sufficient space to do the packing on the night before I depart Osaka. The apartment has to be near to Namba area as this is where I will be taking the train to Kansai International Airport on the day of my departure. Numerous listings on Airbnb around Namba area, but these listings are studio apartments and are very small. I found Mitz’s apartment on Airbnb that fits all my requirements. The price is very reasonable for the location and size of the apartment.


Mitz’s apartment is very well located. It is within 5 mins walk from the nearest subway station, Nippombashi Station, which is 1 stop away from Namba Station. It is also with 3 mins walk from Kuromon Ichiba Market (commonly known as Black Market). There are 2 convenient stores within 2 mins walk from Mitz’s apartment. The apartment is also within 7 mins walk to Dotonbori. Link to Mitz’s apartment can be found here: Mitz’s Apartment Listing on Airbnb.

The Apartment


The first thing that I come across as we entered the apartment is a small porch where I take off our shoes. It is customary that one takes off one’s shoes before entering any Japanese house. A small cabinet by the wall is where we found in-room slippers and where I can store my shoes as well. There is another cabinet where umbrellas are stored beside the shoe cabinet.


A little further from the porch are the bathroom and the toilet. The toilet is a separate room on the left of the corridor. The toilet is equipped with a wash bidet and has a sink on top of it that saves water. The bathroom is located opposite the toilet, on the right side of the corridor from the porch. The dry area of the bathroom comprises a sink, which Mitz placed a cabinet on top of the sink to create more storage space. Next to the sink is a washing machine. The wet area has a shower head and a bathtub. The bathroom in Mitz’s apartment looked modern and clean. As with most Japanese Bathrooms, Mitz’s bathroom has a heating function which can dry the bathroom in no time.




Dry Area of the Bathroom


Wet Area of the Bathroom


Mitz’s apartment has a separate bedroom, which is rare for housing in Osaka at this price point. The bedroom is just next to the toilet. The bedroom is rather small in size, Mitz has placed 2 king size bed in the bedroom, leaving it hardly any space to move around. However, there are 2 doors, one by the kitchen and another by the living room, which makes the bedroom rather accessible. There is a cabinet inside the bedroom, but this cabinet is not usable as the owner has used this as a storage space. The sleep quality on the beds is excellent. I had a great night sleep every night every night. The pillows are not too soft for my liking.


The bedroom that has 2 king size beds


Further down the corridor from the main entrance to the apartment, opposite the bedroom lies the kitchen. The kitchen is small but is well equipped with stove and a fridge. Mitz has readied some coffee and tea as well as some condiments that we could use.  The kitchen is well stocked with utensils and pots and pans which allows one to cook some simple meal. There are a microwave oven and an electric kettle in the kitchen that we used to make hot water every day.


Living Room

Mitz’s apartment has a separate living room, which is fantastic for us to put our shopping and pack on the last day. The living has an L-shaped couch that is capable of sitting up to 5 adults comfortably. There is a sizable coffee table in front of the couch which is very useful in putting out stuff onto. There are also 2 power sockets by the wall near the coffee table, which is perfect to charge our lifestyle devices. As the wardrobe in the bedroom was not usable, we used the living room to store our luggage.


Living room in Mitz’s apartment

Dining Room

The dining room in Mitz’s apartment is in front of the kitchen and beside the living room. There is a dining table good for 4 pax with 4 chairs placed at the dining table. Mitz is very thoughtful as he has placed a box of tissue as well as a box of wet tissues on the dining table. There is a full-length mirror placed by the wall next to the dining table. A TV is placed at the corner of the dining table, which is visible from the dining table as well as the couch in the living room area. A clothing rack is placed at the other corner of the dining room next to the kitchen.


Dining Room where the TV is placed


There is a balcony in Mitz’s apartment where a small table and 2 chairs are placed. This is an area where we can chill out and take in the sights of this area of Osaka City. There are some clothing racks in the balcony where one can hang their clothes to dry.




View from the Balcony

The Owner – Mitz

Mitz is a wonderful host. He is very responsive when communicating via the Airbnb app and he always responds to my questions within 1 hour of posting. Mitz is very accommodating towards our timing of checking in. We originally agreed to check in at 6pm, however, due to our travels, I arrived at Mitz apartment at 8pm. Mitz is very patient in waiting for my arrival at his apartment. Mitz is also very helpful in offering suggestions on where I can visit in Osaka as well as the amenities in the vicinity of his apartment during our conversation with him when checking into his apartment. Mitz even left a message on Airbnb app asking how was I doing in Osaka and if there is anything he can help to make our stay comfortable.


Mitz’s apartment is very well appointed. The location is superb, it is within 3 mins walk to the Black Market, and 5 mins walk to the subway station as well as 10 mins walk to Dotonbori. The apartment is very large for Japanese standards, I particularly like the separated bedroom from the living room, which gave me a lot of space. The bathroom is very modern. Mitz’s apartment is a very value for money for its location and the size. We are very comfortable staying in Mitz’s apartment. Highly recommend for anyone coming to Osaka. Link to Mitz’s apartment can be found here: Mitz’s Apartment Listing on Airbnb.


[Accommodation Review] – Ryokan Arima Gyoen (Japanese Room), Kansai, Japan (18 – 19 May 18)


Hotel Signage


Ryokan Arima Gyoen is located in the centre of Arima-onsen town. It is very convenient in visiting the town and the sights around the town. Ryokan Arima Gyoen is right next to the Taikobashi where the river stream park is located. The hotel is located within 2 mins walk from the bus terminal and the bus stop where we took a bus to Shin-Kobe. The train station is also located around 4 mins walk from the hotel. There are shops around the hotel and the only 7-Eleven shop in Arima-onsen is located right across the hotel. The hotel’s location makes it an ideal spot for exploring Arima-onsen town.


Ryokan Arima Gyeon is located beside Taikobashi, one of the landmarks in Arima-onsen


Hotel facade next to Taikobashi


Ryokan Arima Gyeon entrance

The Room

We booked a night’s stay in the Japanese Style room, which comes with breakfast and dinner. Ryokan Arima Gyeon is a modern Ryokan style hotel.


Entering the room, we were greeted with the front porch, where we took off our shoes. It is customary for guests to take their shoes off when entering a Japanese style room in the hotel. This area is small but functional. There is a shoe rack tucked by the wall, where the staff helped us placed our shoes inside. We wore the slippers that the hotel provides while going to the Onsen in the hotel. The futon closet is found in this part of the room, where such as the futons and blankets are stored in. As with Japanese style rooms, staffs will come into the room and lay the beddings in the evening.


Porch and entrance to the room


A little further from the porch is where the bathroom is located. The bathroom is rather small, as with most Japanese Hotel standards. Despite its small size, the bathroom is equipped with a bathtub, a sink and a toilet bowl. The standard amenities such as shampoo, conditioner, body wash and hand soap are placed neatly on the sink countertop. However, no toothbrushes are being provided. There is a rack for hanging towels outside the bathroom.


The bathroom is a tad small but functional

Sleeping Area

A wooden sliding door separates the porch from the sleeping area. The main part of the room doubles up as a lounge area in the day and a sleeping area in the night. To the left from the sliding door, a small table top where the TV and phone are being placed on. There is a 2-panel cabinet at the bottom of this table top. This area is where the hot flask is also located. I find the placement of the TV here a tad off as we were not able to watch the TV when the futons are being laid on the tatami mats. Tucked by the wall along the length of the room until the balcony area is the tokonoma or an alcove where a vase and a painting is placed on to. Between the TV console and the tokonoma is a small area which has sufficient space for us to stow our luggage. As it was still daytime at the time of our checking in, there is 2 knee height coffee table placed in the centre of the sleeping area. 2 legless chairs are being placed on either side of the tables. There are the tea set and snacks placed on this table at the time of our arrival. The sleep quality on the futons is superb. We were able to get a good night sleep on these futons. The pillows are not too soft for my liking.


The lounging cum sleeping area


TV console


Furthest away from the entrance to the room is a small area. There is another wooden sliding door that separates this area from the sleeping area. Here is where we find a small bar fridge and a couple of armchairs, together with a small coffee table. The closet in the room is also placed here, where we found yukatas as well as the towels. A safe box is hidden inside this closet. A glass door separates this lounge area from the balcony.


The balcony area


The fridge is located in the balcony area


The wardrobe is located in the balcony area and is a tad small


View of Arima-onsen from the balcony

The Onsen

Ryokan Arima Gyoen has its own onsen, though not very big. Located on the 7th floor, the onsen is in the main building. The onsen is separated by sex and has a small Kinsen and a large Ginsen in the enclosed space. There is an outdoor Ginsen next to the changing room. The changing room has amenities such as body lotion, shavers, combs and cotton buds.



The plan we booked came with dinner and breakfast. The Japanese dinner was served in our room where the staff would show up at the arranged time to set up for dinner. The dinner consists of multiple courses that included sashimi, hot pot and rice to name a few. The dinner was delicious and the sashimi tasted very fresh. From time to time, the hotel staff would come into our room to clear the empty plates and served up the next dish. We were very full after having the dinner.


Dinner being set up


Breakfast was served in the dining rooms in the annexe building. The breakfast served was Japanese style where we were given rice with fish to grill on amongst other food. I am not very used to the Japanese style breakfast, despite they are delicious.


The service in the hotel is superb. We experienced Japanese hospitality throughout our stay in the hotel. Staffs welcomed us the moment we step into the hotel. The hotel has strict check-in timing hence we were not able to check-in early. However, the staff was happy to look after our luggage while we explored Arima-onsen. The staffs were always wearing their smiles whenever we walk past them or approach them. When we returned later in the afternoon to get our keys, we were surprised that our luggage has already been placed in our room. The staffs were very attentive and would somehow know when to appear, especially during meal time. During dinner, the staff would appear on the dot as we were finishing up our meal and present the next course. After the meal, the staff promptly moved everything to one side and set up the futons in under 10 mins. During breakfast, the staff would sit by the side after bringing us to our table and noticed that our rice bowls were empty and offered to top up the rice without us even asking. Even the cleaning staff in the public area smile and greeted us whenever we bumped into them. The staff at the lobby even gave us sound advice on what to see in Arima-onsen and were never stingy in offering information.


A staff of the hotel set up for dinner


Ryokan Arima Gyoen is located in the centre of town and is a good base to explore Arima-onsen. The room is very well laid out and the sleep quality is very good on the futons. The service we had received at the hotel is nothing short of excellence, every staff in the hotel made us feel welcome. I would come back here to stay the next time I visit Arima-onsen.

[Accommodation Review] – Kohan Tei (Japanese Style Room), Lake Toya, Hokkaido, Japan (22 – 24 Feb 17)

Kohan Tei in Toyako Onsen


Kohan Tei is located in the East part of Tokyoka Onsen, which is about 25 mins bus ride from Toya JR Station. There is a bus stop, Moto-machi where buses run from Toya JR Station, right in front of the hotel. Kohan Tei is situated right in front of Lake Toya and has a 24-hour convenient shop within 2 mins walk from the hotel. However, there are not many restaurants around the hotel. Most of the restaurants are located near Toyako Bus Terminal, about 15 mins walk from the hotel.
Reception at Kohan Tei

The Room


A common feature with Japanese style rooms in most hotels, the porch is the first thing I came across inside the 15㎡ Japanese Style Room in Kohan Tei. This is an area where shoes are to be removed before entering the room through another Japanese style door. The futons are kept in the cabinet on the left of the porch, while the bathroom is located on the right side from the porch. There are no shoe ranks for us to put our shoes.
Porch area of the room in Kohan Tei

Sleeping Area

Passing through the Japanese style door, a small knee height table with 2 chairs are placed in the middle of the sleeping area. The wardrobe is built into the wall on the left after passing through the Japanese style door. The cabinet is rather small which can only hold up to 4 winter jackets. The yukatas are found in the wardrobe. To the right of the inner Japanese style door, the in-room safe sits in an open space in one corner of the room. The TV console is placed along the wall on the right side of the room with an old school dial in-room phone. There are only 4 power sockets in the entire room, 2 are located in the sleeping area, where one of which is used for the TV. There is another door separating the lounge area from the sleeping area.
The sleeping area
Futons set up for sleeping at night. The futons were left there throughout our stay. The staffs did not keep it away
A small wardrobe where one can find yukatas
TV console and safe in one corner
Tea set for guests to enjoy

Lounge Area

The lounge area overlooks Lake Toya with the floor to a ceiling glass door that opens into the small balcony. There are 2 armchairs and a coffee table placed here. The in-room fridge is placed in the lounge area, behind one of the armchairs, along the wall on the right side of the room. The lounge area is a great place to relax in as it looks out into the beautiful Lake Toya. There are 2 more power outlets here, one of which is used for the fridge.
Lounge area overlooking Lake Toya. The fridge is placed behind 1 of the 2 armchairs
View of Lake Toya from the lounge area


The bathroom in Kohan Tei very small and looks like it needed an updating. There are no washlet toilet bowl, just regular toilet bowl which is very cold to sit on in the cold winter. The sink is located next to the toilet bowl and the panel on the sink looks as if it is going to fall off any moment. The bathtub is next to the sink, where showering is to be done with the only shower head in the bathroom.
Small bathroom in the room


The rate that I booked included breakfast and dinner is served at either the buffet hall on level 2 or the restaurant at level B1. We were initially assigned the buffet hall at level 2, where the hotel caters mainly to tour groups or non-Japanese independent travellers. There is a large variety of Japanese and Chinese food served in the restaurant at level 2. Tempuras are freshly fried in the buffet hall, which makes it rather smokey and clothing will rake of fried smell. The food is good but due to the hordes of Chinese tourists assigned to this hall, dining here feels like a race. Forget about obeying the queue as the tourists tend to cut queue and shove themselves to get the food they want.

Buffet hall has a great selection of food for dinner. However, our visit was marred by the staff from China at the front of the dining area and the hordes of tourists from China who cut queues and shove their way to grab food

We were subsequently assigned to the restaurant in B1 due to service we received at the buffet hall (read about it below), which serves mainly Japanese guests. The restaurant is smaller in size but the variety of food is generally similar to that served in the buffet hall. Food is fresh and delicious.

The restaurant at B1 that mainly serves Japanese guests. The food offering is the same as that in the buffet hall but tastes better due to the more “cultured” patrons in this restaurant
Restaurant at B1



The gender-separated onsen in the hotel is located on the 9th floor. The onsen water comes from the nearby hot spring around Lake Toya and has a mixture of Chloride Spring, Sulfate Spring and Hydrogen Carbonate Spring, effective for skin conditioning and cuts and burns. There are a total of 5 onsen pools, 2 of which are outdoor. All the onsen pools face Lake Toya. The largest onsen pool is indoors. The outdoor onsen pools are placed in a balcony of some sort, which doesn’t really feel outdoor to me.

Onsen in Kohan Tei is located on the 9th floor
The waiting area outside the onsen
Male onsen
The corridor that leads to the onsen in Kohan Tei

Souvenir Shop

There is a souvenir shop in Kohan Tei on the 1st floor, next to the reception. There is a good selection of souvenirs from the local area, but mainly from all around Hokkaido, which can be gotten from elsewhere.

Souvenir shop that is closed at the time we arrived at Kohan Tei


Service was more negative than positive. As I arrived earlier than the check-in timing, the staff at the reception appeared irritated when seeing me at the reception trying to check if I can check-in. Without a smile and without checking, she stuck to the policy of checking-in at 2pm. When I checked with her regarding the nearby sights, she merely said she don’t know. When asked if we can leave our luggage at the reception until we come back later, the staff at the reception told us to bring our luggage to the end of the counter and just leave it there. No one attempted to bring our luggage and store it securely. When returning some hours later, our luggage is still outside the reception counter. There is no attempt to help guests secure their luggage by the hotel.

Staffs are knocking on our door at around 6pm asking to set up the futons for us. As we were preparing to head out for dinner, we told the staff to give us 5 mins. Before we leave the room, we approached the staff to get him to help us set up the futons in our room. We got the signal from the staff that he will set it up later. However, when we returned to our room later at night, our room was not ready for sleep. Futons were not set up and everything was in its “day time mode”. We called the reception, somehow the staff at the other end of the line did not seem to understand us. My friend and I headed to the reception and told the staff about our situation. The staff left the reception and set up the futons for us, which was supposed to be set up some 3 hours ago. The next day after returning from our travels in Toyako Onsen, we were shocked that our futons were not put away, as though no one has come to make up our room. The futon was left at the room for the rest of our stay, signalling that no one bothers to clean up our room.

The worst service I have gotten in Kohan Tei is the staff from China at the buffet hall. We were not made known that the meal coupons will be replaced the next day (the staff at the reception did not brief us about it), we surrendered one meal coupon. The staff from China shouted at us and told us there should be 2. When showed her both coupon and explained our assumptions, she shouted at us again and told us the coupons will be replaced the next day and told me to check my facts with the reception. Before we were granted entry into the buffet hall, she shouted at us again and told us to take off our shoes before entering. I raised this issue with the reception and wanted to speak to the duty manager of the hotel, but was told that there are no duty managers in the hotel. Instead, she got the restaurant manager to speak to me, with another staff from China acting as translator. Before the manager came, the staff from China questioned me in a hostile manner why do I want to complain, but her attitude changed when the duty manager came.

The only good service I have gotten in the hotel is from the restaurant manager. When made known what had happened, she apologised profusely and instructed the reception to change the place we would dine for the rest of our stay immediately. The staff at the restaurant in B1 was amazing and welcoming. They were very friendly and greeted us as well as bid us farewell whenever we enter or leave the restaurant. The service in this restaurant is heaven and earth from that in the buffet hall.


The rooms in Kohan Tei are ageing and the toilet is very dated and small. The sleep quality on the futon laden tatami floor is good, and the views from the room are excellent. Other than that the hotel is the worst I have been in Hokkaido. The service is horrid except for a handful of staffs, the futon was not set up at night and not kept away in the day. The onsen is rather small, despite boasting to have a rooftop outdoor onsen, the outdoor onsens for males are merely placed in a balcony. I would avoid this hotel at all cost.


[Accommodation Review] – Dai-ichi Takamotokan (Japanese Style Room – West Wing), Noboribetsu, Hokkaido, Japan (20 – 22 Feb 17)

Dai-ichi Takamotokan


Dai-ichi Takamotokan is about 1-hour bus ride from New Chitose Airport and about 20 mins bus ride from Noboribetsu JR Station. The hotel located at the end of Gokuraku Shopping Street in Noboribetsu Onsen. It is the closest hotel in town to Jigokudani or Hell Valley sitting right at its entrance. Noboribetse Onsen is a very small town, walking from on end to the other along Gokuraku Shopping Street takes mere minutes.
The lobby of Dai-ichi Takamotokan
Dai-ichi Takamotokan is a large hotel and has a few wings. The west wing is the closest to the onsen

The Room


We checked into the 27㎡ Japanese style room in Dai-ichi Takamotokan in its west wing. The hotel is a large hotel with several wings, the west wing is the building closest to the onsen in the hotel. As with most Japanese style rooms in other hotels, there is a small porch area when we entered the room. This is where we take off our shoes. There is a 3 tiered shoe rack stocked with sandals that we used while in the hotel grounds when we were in our yukatas. The bathroom is on the right side of the porch. Further into the porch, before the Japanese style doors, is where the minibar and wardrobe are located. Other than the mini-fridge, the room is stocked with kettle and green tea at the minibar area. The wardrobe is rather small, which can only hold 4 pieces of winter jackets. The in-room safe is found in at the bottom rack of the wardrobe.
View of the porch area from the entrance to the room
Shoe rack at the porch, next to the entrance to the room. We used these sandals while walking in the hotel in our yukatas
The mini bar is located at the porch area, next to the bathroom
The wardrobe is rather small and this is where the yukata is found. The in-room safe is found at the bottom rack of the wardrobe

Sleeping Area

Passing the inner Japanese door inside the room, we entered the sleeping area. The tatami floor is furnished with a short table and a couple of chairs in the middle of the room. At the side, placed by the wall is a small cabinet which guests can use to store some small items on one side and a 2-tier TV console with a LED TV placed on top facing the small table. The Japanese style room feels spacious due to the use of futons instead of beddings. In the evening, staffs of the hotel would come into the room (while we were out for dinner) to set up the futons, converting the space for sleeping. The small table is being shifted to near the lounging area to create the space. The futons will be kept away in the day. The sleep quality on the futon over the tatami floor is excellent, I got great rest at night and woke up feeling refreshed. However, I do find the pillow a tad too soft for my liking and had to request for additional pillows.

The sleeping area in the room
TV console at the side of the room
Futon being set up at night for sleeping
Snacks placed on the small table at the time we entered the room

Lounging Area

The lounging area is a small area at the far end of the room, just by the window, with 2 armchairs and a coffee table. Dai-ichi Takamotokan thoughtfully placed a neck and head massager here for guests to relive any aches. The lounging area is a great place to sit by with a cup of hot green tea in the cold winter especially at night when the futons were set up. The view of Noboribetsu overlooking the mountains is beautiful.
The lounge area is at the end of the room right by the window
View from our room


As with most Japanese hotel, the bathroom is small but functional. It has all the essentials that are needed for one’s bathing. The toilet bowl with washlet, sink and a bathtub is tightly fitted into the bathroom. Despite the small size, there is still space for one to move around in the bathroom. Showering has to be done in the bathtub as there are no separate walk-in showers. Dai-ichi Takamotokan provides the essential bathing amenities for the convenience of guests.
The space in the bathroom is very small but large enough for one to move around


Dai-ichi Takamotokan has one of the largest onsens in Noboribetsu Onsen. Due to its proximity to Hell Valley, the onsens here offers one of the best views in town. Dai-ichi Takamotokan has a total of 7 different types of onsens spread over more than 10 onsen baths. All 7 different onsens have different properties that promote good health and blood circulation. The onsen water mainly has sulphuric properties, a signature of Hell Valley.
Entrance to Male Onsen
Map of the onsens in Dai-ichi Takamotokan

Breakfast Service

Breakfast is served in Gensirin Restaurant on level 3 of the main building. This dining hall is large enough to cater to a large crowd. There is a good mix of Japanese and Western cuisine for breakfast. Despite having to cater to a large crowd, the quality of food is good.

Breakfast served in Gensirin Restaurant 
There are quite a huge choice for breakfast at Gensirin
Japanese cuisine for breakfast at Gensirin

Dinner Service

Our room rate includes dinner at Yunosato Restaurant located on the 5th floor in the main building. Each meal is 10 course and the menu varies every day. The food quality is excellent and the sashimi is very fresh. Guests are brought to a semi-private room to have their set dinner served to them course by course. Dinning in Yunosato Restaurant makes one feel pampered.
Entrance to Yunosato Restaurant
Menu for the first night of my dining at Yunosato
Sumptuous dinner served in Yunosato
Menu for dinner served on the second night
The menu differs each night when I dined at Yunosato


Dai-ichi Takamotokan is a huge and self-contained hotel. Other than having 3 restaurants, the hotel has a souvenir shop that sells a huge variety of local produce guests do not have to leave the hotel to get souvenirs. The shops here offer a tax rebate to tourists. There is also a karaoke and a game centre for children to entertain at the basement. At certain timing of the day, a huge 2 storey statue will come to life with music and dolls singing and dancing to entertain guests.

Yunomachi Gift shop where guests can get souvenirs without having to leave the hotel
Entrance to Yunomachi Gift shop
The 2 storeys high statue that comes to life at a certain time of the day to entertain guests


The service in Dai-ichi Takamotokan is nothing short of excellent. I was made to feel welcome the moment I stepped into the hotel. The staffs I met will always smile and greet me “Konichiwa”. Check-in was very efficient and the staff ensured that I do not have to wait longer than necessary to hand over the keys to my room. I was escorted by another staff to my room and along the way she gave me an orientation of the facilities around the hotel.

Service at Yunosato is exemplary. I was warmly greeted every time I went there for dinner. The manager at the front desk saw me once and can remember which room I was from the next day. The staff serving me food introduced every dish that was being brought to me with a smile. At the end of the dinner each night, the staffs asked how the dinner was and even thanked me for having dinner there.

Check-out was done efficiently, without much delay. Before I depart the hotel, the staff checked if I needed help with my luggage. The staffs at the entrance of the hotel bowed and thanked me for staying with Dai-ichi Takamotokan.


Dai-ichi Takamotokan is a great place to stay in Noboribetsu Onsen. It has the largest onsen bath and is right at the entrance of Jigokudani or Hell Valley. Dai-ichi Takamotokan is conveniently located at the end of Gokuraku Shopping Street in town. The room is of decent size and the sleep quality on the futon over the tatami floor is excellent. The staffs made me feel welcome and are always smiling and helping guests. I would return to this hotel the next time I visit Noboribetsu Onsen


[Accommodation Review] – Hotel Route-Inn Abashiri Ekimae (Double Room), Abashiri, Hokkaido, Japan (18 – 20 Feb 17)

Hotel Route-Inn Abashiri Ekimae viewed from Abashiri JR Station


Hotel Route-Inn Abashiri Ekimae is located directly across Abashiri JR Station, where most of the visitors coming to Abashiri will step through. There are bus stops around that brings visitors to the major sights in Abashiri. The hotel is within 15 mins from Abashiri city centre by foot and 5 mins by bus to the Ice-breaker cruise terminal. There are some food options around the hotel and one of them operates 24 hours. There is also a 24-hour convenient shop opposite the hotel.
Abashiri JR Station is directly opposite Hotel Route-Inn Abashiri Ekimae
There is a bus stop opposite Hotel Route-Inn Abashiri Ekimae which terminates at Abashiri Ice-Breaker Cruise Terminal
Hotel Route-Inn Abashiri Ekimae signage

The Room

Sleeping Area

The double room I checked into Hotel Route-Inn Abashiri Ekimae is very small, measuring 12㎡. Entering the room a small passageway with the bathroom on the left, leads into the room. The room is very simply furnished. A double bed placed by the wall to the left, facing a 2-panel window, took up most of the space in the room. There is a small table placed by the window. Along the wall on the right side of the room placed a small dressing table with a mirror hung on the wall. This 2-tiered table has a lot of stuff placed on it. The in-room telephone and a small TV is placed on this table together with some brochures on Abashiri City. There is a vending machine in front of the lift on the level our room was assigned selling pay-per-view outdated Hollywood movies. There is a hairdryer mounted on the wall, between the TV and the mirror. Electric kettle and tea are placed on the lower tier of this table. At the end of the table, placed on the floor is a small mini-fridge. A small wardrobe, which can only fit 2 large winter jackets, is found sitting in the corner after the table. There are not much space for us to stow our 28″ luggage, we had to shift the small table beside the bed to make space. There is no in-room safe in the double room.
A small passageway leading into the room
Double bed in the room
Dressing table which doubles up as a TV console. The mini bar is found here as well
A small wardrobe that can only hold 2 winter jackets placed in one corner of the room
View of Abashiri from the room


The bathroom in Hotel Route-Inn Abashiri Ekimae is very small. The toilet bowl with washlet function is located right at the entrance to the bathroom, with a sink beside it. Further into the small bathroom is a bathtub where one would have a shower in. The tap and the shower head shares the same pipe, one would need to flip the switch for water to flow out of the showerhead or the tap. There isn’t much space for one to put many toiletries. Despite the small bathroom space, Hotel Route-Inn Abashiri Ekimae provides essential bathing amenities.
Bathroom in the double room


The rate I booked includes breakfast in the hotel. The restaurant that serves breakfast is very small. As we arrived at the restaurant 30 mins to the end of breakfast service on the first day, my friend and I had a hard time looking for an empty table and had to eat whatever was leftover as the food was not replenished perhaps due to nearing the end of breakfast service. On the second day, we arrived early and had no problems looking for seats. My advice is to arrive at the restaurant for breakfast early. The food was mediocre and the selection is limited. Most of the food served are Japanese cuisine and the only western food are the assorted bread and some salads but it does the job of filling my stomach.
The restaurant serving breakfast has limited seats
Some of the food served during breakfast


There are very limited facilities in the Hotel Route-Inn Abashiri Ekimae. As the rooms in the hotel are non-smoking, the only place to smoke in the hotel is in the smoking-room on the 2nd floor, where the reception is located. There is a coffee machine in the hotel lobby, providing complimentary coffee to hotel guests. The public bath is located on the 2nd floor as well, past the reception. Due to the small public bath (can take up to 6 person at any one time), I did not use the public bath here. There are laundry facilities in the hotel, located outside the public bath.
Complimentary coffee provided by the hotel


Service is a mix at the hotel but still acceptable. Generally, the staff at the reception are welcoming. As I arrived in the hotel 2 hours earlier than the check-in timing. I was not allowed to check-in and was told to come back at the check-in timing. However, the staff took the initiative to suggest some sights I can visit in Abashiri and provided me with some brochures. The staff offered to take care of our luggage. We were greeted with a smile at times when we walk past the reception. Checking-in was done efficiently, however, we were required to pay the room charges at the time of check-in. Check-out is a breeze at the hotel.
There are hardly any staff at the restaurant, except for one who appears to be coordinating the food and other busy replenishing the food. Empty plates were not cleared and guests are expected to place their empty plates in a trolley in the restaurant. The housekeeping staffs were very friendly and greeted us on occasions we passed by them. These industrious staffs kept our room clean and tidy.
The reception was not manned at the time of our arrival at the hotel.


Hotel Route-Inn Abashiri Ekimae is a business hotel and does the job of providing guests with a place to rest at night. The room I checked into is very small but functional. Sleep quality in the hotel is decent. The service is a mix in the hotel, with the friendliest staff found in the reception. Having said that, Hotel Route-Inn Abashiri Ekimae is one of the better hotels in Abashiri City that is close to Abashiri JR Station.

[Accommodation Review] – Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings (Japanese Style Room), Lake Akan, Hokkaido, Japan (16 – 18 Feb 17)

Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings Hotel in Akanko Onsen


Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings Hotel is located at the west of Akanko Onsen Town, by the shore of Lake Akan. The hotel is conveniently located in Akanko Onsen with numerous souvenir shops right opposite the hotel. There are a couple of 24-hour convenient shops opposite the hotel. It would take one 5 mins to walk to Ainu Village and 7 mins to the Akan Tourist Information Centre from Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings Hotel. Akanko Bus Centre is 10 mins walk from the hotel.
Ainu sculptures placed in the lobby of Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings
Ainu artefact on the ground floor of Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings
More Ainu artefacts on the ground floor of Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings
Entrance to the smoking room on the ground floor of Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings
There is a large TV inside the smoking room for guests to enjoy

The Room

Sleeping Area

I checked into the Japanese style room in the hotel, instead of sleeping on a bed, guests will sleep on the futon over the tatami floor. A small front porch greets guests when entering the 30㎡ Japanese style room. As the futon will be laid over the floor in the evening, guests are expected to remove their shoes before entering the room. To the left of the porch is a row of large cabinets where the bedding items are being stowed, and the toilet is to the right of the porch. A Japanese style door separates the sleeping area from the porch. Passing through the Japanese style door from the porch, guests enter into the room sleeping area. The light brown woven tatami floor looks very traditional and clean.

The corridor outside my room
I like the use of the Japanese style wooden gate outside the room, with the wooden roof, gives the room a zen and Japanese feel
View of the room from the lounge. From this angle, the front porch of the room can be seen

To the right from the Japanese style door, placed next to the wall is a built-in wardrobe where one can hang some clothing. As the wardrobe is rather small, it is full when 2 winter jackets are being hung. The in-room safe is tucked into the bottom of the wardrobe.

Wardrobe in the room

Further, into the room, a small knee height table and a couple of chairs are being placed in the middle of the room. Along the wall to the left of the room is where one can find a small table. There is a couple of power outlets by the wall, making this table a great place to charge mobile phones. The TV console is further down the wall to the left of the room.

The empty space along the left wall of the room provided me with a place to stow my luggage
TV console where the phone is located

In the day, only the table and the chairs will be in the room. In the evening, hotel staffs will come into the room and set up the room for sleeping. The small table will be shifted neatly to one side and the futons are being laid over the tatami floor. The sleep quality on the futons is excellent. I was able to get a great night sleep at night. The pillows are perfect to my liking as it is not too soft.

The sleeping in the day is furnished with a short knee height table and 2 chairs for guests to relax
The table is pushed to the side of the room and futons are laid over the tatami every night for guests to sleep

Lounge Area

Further into the room, next to the windows is a 3 seater L shaped couch. This is a great area to rest in the day and provided extra space to stow one’s day bag. There is a small coffee table placed in this area. A cabinet, where the mini-fridge is tucked, is located opposite the couch. This is where one will find the kettle and tea. The hotel placed some sweets on top of the cabinet.
The couch area at the end of the room next to the window
The mini bar area where the fridge and tea making facilities can be found
Teacups and tea together with some snacks that the hotel places for guests to enjoy
View of the frozen Lake Akan from my room


The bathroom inside the Japanese style room in Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings Hotel is rather small, much to the Japanese standard. From the entrance of the bathroom, at one glance, one can see the entire bathroom. Despite being small, it has all the essentials of a bathroom such as a toilet bowl with washout, a sink and a bathtub. There are no separate walk-in showers, guests would have to shower in the bathtub. Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings Hotel stocked its bathroom well despite the size, it has all the standard bathing amenities that one would find in a 5-star hotel.
The bathroom is rather small


Onsen is located on the 3rd floor for male guests and 2nd floor for female guests. The onsen is rather small in Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings Hotel. In the male onsen, there are 6 onsen pools with temperatures varying from 38.5 ℃ to 40.5℃. A steam room and sauna are built in the onsen area. Guests in the hotel can also use the onsen in the sister hotel next door. The onsen in the hotel next door is bigger and has more onsen baths, located on B1 and 8th floor.
Information on the onsen found in the lift of  Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings Hotel. I did not manage to take photos of the onsen due to the no cameras allowed in the onsen area policy.

Breakfast and Dining

Meals are served in Hapo Restaurant next to the lift lobby of Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings Hotel. The restaurant is very big and seems to be able to cater to all the guests in the hotel at one go. There are Japanese and western options for both breakfast and dinner. For breakfast, there is the standard American style with dishes like croissant, danish, and assorted bread. There are also things like eggs on offer for breakfast. Japanese options such as sushi, miso soup, rice and onigiri etc are available. The spread for dinner is even more lavish. Other than cooked dishes, there is an area serving cook to order dishes and a sushi station. There are Japanese options for dinner as well. There is also another station with waffles and ice-cream. The food is delicious and the sushi tastes fresh in Hapo.

Hapo Restaurant where breakfast and dinner are served
Dessert area in Hapo Restaurat
The cook to order section  of Hapo Restaurant
Cook food section in Hapo Restaurant


The service in the hotel is excellent, starting from check-in. Although the staff spoke very little English, this does not seem to be a barrier for them to deliver excellent service. The good service started at the reception during check-in. The staff, always with a smile, expeditiously processed my room and handed over the key to the room without having me staying there for longer than necessary. The staff also carefully brief me on the onsen arrangements and the place for dinner. I requested an extra pillow in the room and the staff responded to my request within minutes. The front desk staff were also seen helping guests with their luggage. After checking out, when boarding the bus arranged by the hotel for my next stop in Hokkaido, staffs were seen braving the cold weather sending guests off with the Japanese bow.

The service at Hapo is excellent as well. The staff at the front of the restaurant, always smiling, quickly got another staff member to show me to my table for dining. The staff who showed me to my table took the trouble to explain where various food is located and departed with a bow and a smile. They did this every time I went to the restaurant for food.

The housekeeping team relentlessly prepare the futon in my room every evening, ensuring they are ready by the time I return after dinner. Futons are put away every morning, the room is ready for day lounge mode after I returned from breakfast. Rooms are kept spick and span every day, with bathroom supplies topped up.

The reception area in Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings Hotel


Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings Hotel is a great place to stay in Akanko Onsen. The hotel lobby is practically an art gallery showcasing Ainu sculptures and Ainu artefacts. The sleep quality is excellent and the room size is great. I particularly like the lounge area in the room, which is a great place to relax in while the view of Lake Akan from the lounge area is fantastic. The service rendered by the staffs is exemplary. They made me feel very welcome in the hotel. Despite the small onsen in Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings Hotel, guests are welcome to use the onsen facilities in the sister hotel next door, giving guests more than 20 onsen baths to enjoy. At the price, with the half boarding arrangement, Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings Hotel is a value for money stays in Akanko Onsen.


[Accommodation Review] – Tomamu The Tower – Hoshino Resorts (Standard Fourth Room), Tomamu, Hokkaido, Japan (14 – 16 Feb 17)

Hoshino Resorts – The Tower in Tomamu


Tomamu Ski Resort is located about 2 hours East of New Chitose Airport via JR Train. To get there, hop on the JR heading towards Kushiro from Minami Chitose Station (one station from New Chitose Airport) and alight at Tomamu Station. From the JR station, there are complimentary buses provided by the resort to pick guests up. Shuttle buses are timed according to the arrival and departure of JR Trains. No pre-booking for these complimentary shuttles are needed. Hoshino Resorts has 2 properties in Tomamu Ski Resorts, namely The Tower and Risonare Tomamu. The Tower is located about 5 mins bus ride from Tomamu JR Station and is at the heart of the resort. It is conveniently located with access to restaurants and other facilities in the resort. The only supermarket in the resort, as well as the Ski Academy, is located on the ground floor of The Tower.
Hotel Signage
Wooden Carvings at the hotel lobby
Map of the entire Tomamu Ski Resort
Lift lobby in Tower 1

The Room

We booked a twin room and were given an upgrade to the Standard Fourth Room. The 50㎡ contemporary room is very spacious with 4 single beds for 4 adults and comes equipped with 2 toilets. There is sufficient space for guests to open up their luggage on the floor. Entering the room, the first toilet is immediate to the right of the entrance (more on the toilet below), to the left, flushed into the wall is a cabinet that guests can hang up their clothing. Alongside the wall next to the cabinet are 4 mounting hooks, great for hanging winter jackets.

One of the 2 cabinet space for guests to hang their clothing 
Entrance to the room. The hooks on the wall for guests to hang their winter jackets

Bedding Areas

There are 2 bedding areas in this room. One of them is immediate to the right of the entrance to the room, after the toilet. 2 single beds are placed in a corner, next to the large window that looks out into the ski resort below. This bedding area is brighter due to the proximity to the window in the day. There is a small powder table beside one of the beds. The sleep quality on the bed is excellent, I always have a great nights sleep resting on them. The pillows are not too soft, to my liking.

2 single beds immediately next to the large window
We got exceptional views from the room that we were assigned

The other bedding area is tucked further into the room, at the corner behind the living area. There are another 2 single beds placed next to each other here. The bedding area benefits from being directly facing the TV, however, due to the distance from the window, it lacks the natural light in the day. The lightings in the room sufficiently brighten this area. There is another wardrobe beside this bedding area creating more space for guests to hang their clothing.

Second bedding area

Living Area

Further into the room between the 2 sleeping areas is the living area. A stand-alone cabinet forms a separation to the living area. The mini-fridge (which is empty) and complimentary tea and coffee is well hidden in the compartments of the cabinet. A large LED TV is found on top of this cabinet. There is another table placed behind the cabinet, which can be used as a place to charge one’s lifestyle devices. There are 2 power outlets (Japanese plug) at the side of the cabinet.

The cabinet where one can find the fridge and coffee and tea. The TV is placed on this cabinet

Behind the cabinet is where the living area is located. A 3 seater couch facing the TV and another large window with a small coffee table allows occupants of the room to sit around and mingle. There is a 2 seater stool placed by the window.

The living area in the room. A perfect place to hang out and mingle


The 2 bathrooms in the room are identical. The first bathroom is located next to the entrance of the room, while the other is tucked into a corner of the room beside the second bedding area. Both bathrooms are large in Japanese standards. Entering the bathroom, the sink area, which is large enough for 2 guests to put their toiletries on (depending on how much toiletries one has). The hotel is thoughtful enough to provide 4 different coloured toothbrushes for guests. Next to the sink area is the toilet bowl, which has an automatic washlet, a common feature in Japanese hotels. The seats on the toilet bowl are heated, perfect for cold winter weather.  Next to the toilet bowl is where one can find the bathtub. This bathtub is rather deep and can provide guests with a good soak in. The bathtub also doubles up as a shower.

Sink in the first bathroom. The amenities are placed in this bathroom
Toilet bowl and bathtub
Second bathroom. Other than hand wash, this toilet has no amenities. However, it is still functional
All 4 towels are found in the first bathroom beside the entrance to the room. This second bathroom looks empty but comes with bathing amenities such as shampoo, conditioner and shower gel


Guests who booked the bed and breakfast package were given 1 ticket to breakfast for each day. What I like about the breakfast arrangement is that guests are not restricted to having breakfast in one particular restaurant. We were given the liberty to choose any restaurant that opens for breakfast in the entire resort to have our breakfast. I went to the Mikaku restaurant, which is located below Tower 1 to have breakfast. Although the restaurant is small, there is no lack of quality food here. The food offering is delicious and has both Japanese and the standard western breakfast offering. I tried another restaurant – Nininupuri, which is some 7 mins walk located between The Tower and Risonare Tomamu. This restaurant is bigger and has more food offerings, but I find the food here not as good as Mikaku.

Restaurant Mikaku
Inside Restaurant Mikaku, a small cosy restaurant that serves quality breakfast. Onigiri is made on the spot to order
Inside Nininupuri Restaurant. There are more food offerings here for breakfast and a large dining area


Hoshino Tomamu Resorts is built on a ski resort, there are plenty of facilities around to cater for both skiers and non-skiers. For skiers, 29 courses are catering to all levels of skiers. There is even an academy that offers lessons to non-skiers at a reasonable rate. For non-skiers, there are sights such as the ice-village and Unkai Terrace that will keep one occupied. Non-skiers can also enjoy their time in Tomamu Ski Resort with facilities such as the Mina-Mina Beach, sledging and snowmobiling. I tried skiing here for the very first time and as a non-skier, I do not find the resort boring.

At The Tower, there is the largest retail shop right on the first floor of the hotel, where people all over the resort would congregate to get things from food to ski gears. There is also the Foresta Mall within 3 mins walk from The Tower Hotel, where one can find reasonably priced food.

Gondola Station that brings guests in the resort up to Unkai Terrace
Mina-Mina Beach, one of the largest indoor heated pool in Japan
Ice Village which opens at night where guests can spend their time


The service at Hoshino Resorts The Tower is nothing short of exemplary. There are staffs all over who are ready to help any guests at any time. The great service started at the check-in. Despite being very busy whenever a shuttle bus pulls into the hotel from the nearby Tomamu JR Station, the staffs handled check-ins with a smile and with the signature Japanese efficiency. Despite being earlier than the check-in timing, we were given our room. The staff at the reception spent some time briefing us the facilities in the resort and how to get there. The hotel took note of my request when I booked my room with them, they assigned me the room that I requested.

There are staffs placed at the shuttle bus stop in front of the Hoshino Resorts Tomamu The Tower, welcoming guests and helping them with the bus timing despite the cold weather. These staffs are ever so friendly and that smile on their faces never ceases.

The housekeeping staffs were excellent as well. Not only did they did a great job cleaning our room, whenever we bumped into them in the corridor outside our room, but they will also always greet us with a smile and asked how was our day. There is always at least a staff standing in the lobby, announcing the next shuttle bus to Tomamu JR Station tirelessly. The staff always looked out signs of guests being lost and I witness a staff approaching a guest who appears lost and helped her.

The staffs at the restaurants throughout the resort were friendly too. During breakfast service, they made me feel welcome and the empty plates on my table were always promptly cleared.

Staffs at reception are very friendly despite being busy with the check-in
Our check-in was very efficient and we did not spend a lot of time before getting our keys to the room


Hoshino Resorts Tomamu The Tower is a fabulous hotel. The room was very well designed and is fairly large. The sleep quality in the room is excellent and provided me with a great rest so that I can enjoy my time at the resort. The view from the room I was assigned was great, with views of the ski area and Mt Tomamu. The resort is built for skiers with a large number of ski slopes and the soft snow. Non-skiers were not left out as well with the numerous facilities to ensure everyone can enjoy a great time here. Service rendered by the staff was excellent. They always make me feel welcome and every staff were not stingy with their smiles. I would come back to this hotel the next time I visit Tomamu.

View of Hoshino Resorts Tomamu The Tower
The snowscape around the hotel is beautiful