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The first thing you need to know about this hotel is that it is not in or even near any of Nikko’s celebrity sites but a half hour drive to the north in the Kinugawa onsen district. Kinugawa’s salad days as a hot springs resort are long gone and whilst the Kinugawa River gorge provides a dramatic centrepiece, many of the tawdry developments that crowd its precipitous banks are either derelict or gracelessly heading that way. Amid this architectural atrophy the Asaya Hotel stands like a stately citadel of opulence in exile. To be sure, it’s all a bit last century, starting with the stadium-size porte cochère leading off to a grand operatic atrium complete with pipe organ and Charlie & the Chocolate Factory glass elevators, but cutting past the cruise-liner glitz this is a well maintained, well managed, comfortable and good value hotel. There are a few shortcomings that deprive it of excellence, but if you don’t mind the commute to Nikko you would be hard pressed to better what the tariff buys you here.
The good: the front door staff were ever helpful and efficient. Reception was polite and informative with passable English which follows throughout the hotel. Our non-smoking Hachibankan Japanese Style Room with twin beds (#601) was bright, clean, quiet, comfortable and very spacious – indeed the size of a modest suite (57 sq. metres). Everything expected was there and it mostly worked as expected. The décor is a tastefully modern iteration of traditional Japanese furnished with a few Western comforts – like sofas and proper beds. Which beds were refreshingly comforting after a few weeks of futons. The bathroom ensemble was modern, roomy, well laid out and well finished in the best Japanese tradition. The included WiFi worked well on all our devices. Our room/suite opened to a balcony overlooking the river gorge but, for reasons already expounded, soft focus needs to be engaged there so the better views are within. We opted for the breakfast and dinner package both of which are taken in the hotel’s expansive Asaya Garden restaurant. Both are buffet meals which were well serviced and of the finest quality.
The not so good: in such a superior bathroom suite it was disappointing that the shower head was tiny and the water pressure anaemic.
The disappointing: it’s held to be a traveller’s hotel but there is neither a laundry nor any laundry service offered. When asked, the hotel will steer you to a local laundromat a couple of kilometres away.
The hotel has many facilities, an excellent buffet and extremely friendly staff. The rooms were average but perhaps we would have found them better if we had upgraded to a higher category. The area is extremely run down with many closed down hotels and shops further up the valley. We were disappointed that the swimming pool was still not open in the second week of July. The season apparently starts on July 20th. The bar was nice but it didn't open in time for us to have a pre-dinner drink which was surprising. There is a massive organ playing in the lobby which we found a little strange,
Overall the situation was good for the sites we wanted to see and the food and staff made this hotel experience.
The room is small for a westerner but normal for Japanese standards. This is a typical Japanese hot spring hotel. Very impressive inside and the cheapest of the high range in Japan. The price is average or maybe a bit low for this kind of hotel in Japan but the dinner buffet is top. It has a massive choice of quality Japanese food (and non) and has the Atlantic giant crab (only that cost 100 usd in Japan) We had so much to eat that we did not feel hungry until the next dinner that we re-booked....
We stayed here for two nights and I highly recommend it. The hotel is positioned on the side of a gorge with bright blue melt water running through it. It's huge and has a small army of people who will take care of you when you arrive. For example there were three women in full kimono bowing when we turned up in our car! We stayed in a room with a private outdoor bath and it was lovely. Big tatami room with a separate lounge area with sofas and a big bedroom. It's a very modern room with the best appliances and fittings but all done in a classical Japanese style. There are sliding doors which look like the paper screens of old, and carved wood panels. It could be kitsch but it really isn't, it's a lovely place to be. There are several public onsen baths which are free to use, as well as 4 which can be hired privately. These are great for couples who want to bathe together as all the public baths are gender segregated. The private baths cost 4000 yen for 50 minutes so not cheap. We had a private outdoor bath which was lovely and had a cold water tap for altering the temperature. The hot water was still the volcanic onsen water so it still has all the theraputic properties. There are restaurants here but most people go for the buffet breakfast and dinner. Buffet doesn't really do this justice as it's absolutely huge! There are so many types of food available it's a lot of fun trying them all. The dessert bar alone was bigger than most buffets I've seen in other places. One word of warning, this is a busy hotel with lots of guests. The buffet is pretty much always busy and if you don't cope well with lots of people it can get annoying. This is a fun place to stay and relax. Pretty much everyone walks around in the hotel supplied yukata dressing gowns. They have sizes for giant foreigners too so we did this as well, it's a nice Japanese experience.