This 3.5 star hotel in Otsu, Shiga prefecture, Japan has special place in our heart. If a man could build a nirvana, this probably one of the best of such thing on Earth. The view of Biwako (Lake Biwa) from this high rise tower is amazing. It is a jewel hidden in this city called Otsu, which is just a stone throw away from north of Kyoto.
Before coming to this place, I had no reason of staying in Otsu. However, after reading the reviews and seeing amazing photos of this hotel, I immediatelly cancelled my previous plan of staying in Kyoto. Also it only takes about few minutes train ride from Kyoto station to Otsu station (i.e.: JR Biwako Line). This hotel provides a free area shuttle that can pick people up at the Otsu station. Despite of the shuttle only runs every hour on certain day (please refer to hotel official website since schedule may change in future), I did not mind a short wait when I arrived at Otsu station.
While waiting, I was at the Starbucks near the station, sipping Sakura Frappuccino while looking at the shuttle stop across the street). It is probably nicer if the area shuttle can pick up people in front of the Otsu station but the shuttle stop area is just across the street. There are few other area shuttles belong to other hotel (Biwako Grand hotel is one of them). So make sure you choose the right one that has the right hotel name (I may try staying at Biwako Grand hotel in future visit and will post a review when possible). Since I only carried my small luggage with me at that time, it was not difficult to get inside the shuttle since it was a medium size bus. My bigger luggage was already sent to the hotel from their “Welcome Counter” service at Kyoto station. My Japanese friend who told me about such service. I found their service was superb. They were located near the Kyoto Station South Exit, JR Shinkansen Hachijo Exit. Be mindful about their availability hours since they have a 2PM deadline on sending luggages to the hotel from the station.
I had opportunity to stay at two different rooms in this hotel during my short stay in Otsu. The first one was Sky floor suite at 22nd floor. And the second one was at the 35th floor. The first room was overlooking the center of the lake and the other one was overlooking the east side of the lake (I prefer the first one since I could see the west side of Otsu city and the lake Biwa better but the second one had a good view of the Omi Ohashi bridge, Yabasekihan park/island and east side of Otsu city, as well as Kusatsu city from distance since the room was is at much higher elevation).
When I arrived at the hotel, I saw bunch of umbrellas placed on bins near the entrance. At that time, I guess it’s probably raining a lot in this area. I was greeted by a lady at the Concierge and she showed me to the receptionist counter for check-in. The person at receptionist counter spoke to me in Japanese, and I politely informed him that I’m from USA and only can speak a little bit of Japanese. And then we started conversing in English. The check-in time was brief. After giving my passport to let him get a copy and filled in the guest info form, I was given card key to the room. I asked about my big luggage that was sent earlier from Kyoto station and he told me that it’s already in my room. Whoa! What a nice service!
A bell boy took me to my room at 22nd floor and I found my luggage already parked inside the room. The room itself was amazingly huge. I fell in love already with the room. Upon walking inside, I found the bathroom, sink, toilet room, and closet were in the middle of the hallway. The bedroom was very spacious with sofas, cabinets, flat panel TV and all amenities there. The windows were even more amazing since they have unobstructed view of the lake and surrounding cities with mountains in the background. The lake Biwa was almost like sea since I can’t really see the other side of it.
I couldn’t really wait for me to try the Japanese style bathroom. The tub was big enough for my tall body to sink in, but as I remember, I had to wash my body first. There was a small plastic chair for me to sit down while washing my body before entering the tub. I really like the design of the bathroom and the faucets. All of the shampoo, liquid soap, conditioner were very well made and I felt like I was in a spa. While enjoying my bath, I was still in disbelief that I was in Otsu and found such hotel.
After I went back from dinner with friends, I was quite tired from my journey. The bed was very comfy. After watching TV, I felt a sleep like baby and did not wake up until around 8AM the next morning. After a quick shower, I went down to receptionist and asked them that I will have to move to different room. They told me to leave my luggage in the room and it would be delivered to the new room. I went up to 37th floor to get breakfast at “Lake View Dining Biona” restaurant. Breakfast time was only until 10AM, so I only had a little bit over one hour to enjoy the breakfast buffet. I only needed to show the breakfast coupon that was given inside the check-in package. The waiter showed me to my table and gave me a card to place on the table to indicate it’s occupied.
The Biona restaurant was magnificent on service, food quality, as well as the grand view of Lake Biwa. That morning, a good amount of fog was coming from the mountain on west side of Otsu city. The view was simply astonishing. I couldn’t stop taking photos and videos from the window, almost forgotten about the breakfast if I did not hear my stomach’s sound. The food choices in Biona were quite rich. From Western style on the left side to Japanese style on the right side, I had difficulties on determining which one to get first. I normally do not eat a lot for breakfast but that morning, I was able to eat two plates and some fruits. They had a special drink (I forgot the name) with purple-ish color that was made from mix of veggies and fruits, which I really enjoyed drinking it. The pastries were also quite tempting but I only tried two of those.
While eating my breakfast, I started to notice a very beautiful instrumental music that really compliment the atmosphere in this restaurant. I can’t forget the sound of piano, strings and guitar that were playing very softly and had Japanese nuance in the melody. It was a mixed of easy listening, jazzy, japanese and new age. Since I was so curious about the music, I had to ask the lady at the cashier counter about what songs were being played. She showed me that it was played using streaming device. I had opportunity of taking snapshot of the name of the music but until now, i still couldn’t find the music. I did find (by some luck) of music that’s almost similar with that.
What’s missing from this hotel were there was no coin-operated laundry facility nor Sento (japanese public bath). The number of elevators were sufficient and fast enough to go the upper guest floors. The service from all workers was superb. The hotel was clean and has very good amenities. Wifi/Internet was fast and the rooms were huge for a hotel this class. I noticed all the cups in the room’s cabinets were ceramics with hotel’s logo on it. Certainly I was extremely satisfied with my stay during spring season in this hotel. It really made my visit to Otsu a very good experience. You can’t go wrong by staying at this hotel when visiting Otsu. My japanese friend’s parents also always choose this hotel to stay when going for vacation at Otsu.
As an update: Upon my return to Seattle, few months later, I received an invitation to stay in this hotel from Shiga prefecture – Biwako Tourism Bureau. It was as a result of my submission about Shiga and Biwako that I did during my stay in Japan. It was a very unexpected gift! I will post my story and my 2nd review of this hotel later.
Official Lake Biwa Otsu Prince Hotel website:
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