Many Western guidebooks only include Toba as a brief footnote to Ise, and only one that I've seen specifically mentions Toba International Hotel by name, which is a shame. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous, and you can go on bay cruises and tour the several local museums like Toba Sea Folk Museum and Mikimoto Pearl Island over a couple of days.
After rescheduling several times, I finally made it to Toba. I was only able to stay one night at the Toba International Hotel, but I wish it had been longer! After sightseeing around Toba (Mikimoto Pearl Museum and the Toba Aquarium), I caught the shuttle bus to the hotel. It's up on a headland overlooking the bay, so unless you like very steep walks on narrow shoulders, I recommend taking the shuttle!
The hotel has two wings: the Ocean Wing (which contains the lobby and Seahorse Restaurant) and the Harbor Wing (which is located below the Ocean Wing; the two connect at the fifth floor of the Harbor Wing). I had a Harbor Twin Room on the third floor. The bay view was absolutely spectacular, and there were two armchairs, a throw, and a small table in front of the windows so you can sit, sip wine, and drink in the amazing scenery. There are Japanese-style tatami suites as well as western-style suites available, but even the standard twin rooms are incredibly luxurious.
Although older, the rooms (and public rooms) are well-maintained and everything is classy down to the smallest details (the hotel was renovated in April 2010). Numerous dignitaries have stayed here; you'll see their photos lining the corridor connecting the two wings. The bathrooms contain Mikimoto Cosmetics made with pearl luster that will leave your skin feeling silky soft. There's also a Mikimoto pearl spa on-site with a view of Toba Bay. As usual for Japan, service was prompt and courteous, and all the hotel staff I encountered spoke English.
My room rate included breakfast, and it was a lavish Viking-style spread (buffet) of traditional Japanese dishes liked stewed baby bamboo, seaweed, several fish and chicken dishes, rice and various Japanese pickles as well as an omelet station, yogurt, and salad bar. They even use vintage Noritake china. The Seahorse overlooks Toba Bay, so the view, like the room view, was incredible.
I will definitely return here on my next trip to Toba, and next time I look forward to spending more time exploring Toba and Ise Shrine (Ise is only about 20 minutes away by Canbus). Toba is well worth an overnight (or longer) if you're in the area (it was about 1.5 hours from Nagoya via Kintetsu Limited Express or 2 hours on the JR Limited Express).
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