Furtively nestled in an overgrown, tropical-like section of Ueno Park in the nethers of northern Tokyo, this rather tarnished concrete establishment does one service with butterfly beauty. If you’re an indigenous wayfarer travelling with just a single overnight suitcase, and arriving on a domestic tour bus - to which you will quite religiously repatriate, after one day or two, - you will be just fine. You have the advantage, when in Rome, do as the Romans – i.e. be a link in a mechanistic, if not, robotic MO.
But, right now, let’s examine the basics – the hotel staff is courteous, yet quite reserved, but – surprise - will converse with you in Japanese, provided you have a fairly good command of the language. The hotel’s main attraction, its onsen (hence, the vast number of domestic tour buses) is scrupulously clean, albeit unimaginative in decor. But, be ready for the big marketing signature: the famous Japanese author/physician Ohgaisou, whose home this establishment once was, is as omnipresent as Wolfgang A. Mozart’s image is in Salzburg.
Now, the coin’s verso: If you are an international traveller, solo, and toting a 20 kg check-in and a 38 kg carry-on, the scenario above may have a bit of a bitter lemon twist.
Bound for your room, ascending to your floor in the tight, stuffy little elevator, and keying into what will be home for a few days, you will pause after opening the door, and take stock. Manoeuvring your suitcase and that carry-on (which at 38 kg, is essentially, Samsonite no. 2), might prove to be a test, since the Western style room width including the bed, will measure 1.5 widths of an International Samsonite, and, in its length, slightly more than two Samsonites end-to-end.
The contents of your carry-on (Samsonite no.2) will be more than enough to commandeer the entire desk surface with no room to spare. So, Toto (the Wizard of Oz, here, not the domestic toilet brand), you aren’t in Kansas, or Minsk or anymore with oceans of space. The advantage, however, is that the plastic bathroom cell is only ½ step away from the bed. So, there is a built-in convenience of sorts.
The next morning, when you produce your Breakfast Voucher (don’t forget this one, the staff gets slightly derailed, if you do) to the hand-covering-mouth giggling waitress staff, you will be greeted to a fare, which is more or less standard staple – fish, cucumbers, pickles, and rice. And a bancha. Not a bad way to start the day, by any means.
If your trip itinerary, notes, research on Japan, etc. is not on hard copy or archived seamlessly between your ears, but finds itself floating around in some iCloud, you will be in for Test no. 2.
When I stayed at Suigetsu Hotel in 2009, the internet for hotel guests constituted two coin-operated, DOS-era Compaq machines. Maybe this setup is still the same now in 2012. So, with a large stack of 100 Yen coins, and feeding these hardware albatrosses like nickel-and-dime slots in Vegas, you can tend to your internet needs, perched atop a mushroom head stool, in the privacy and comfort of the hotel lobby. Additionally, if you are not versed in how a Japanese keyboard can abruptly slip into Kanji, whoops, well, be sure to have another stack of 100 Yen coins for figuring out that one – not exactly easy if you can’t read the keyboard.
Logistics may prove to be Test no. 3. Of course, you can squeeze your way on the Metro or densha for travel into town. If memory serves, it’s about 20 or so minutes to Ginza, and 40 min to Roppongi. When (or if) you return to Ueno late at night - the hotel, happily, has no evening curfew (remember summer camp?) – and, on a bitter cold night (or early morning), you might opt to hop into a warm taxi (warm because all taxis at all stations all over Japan are always waiting with their engines long running – the Kyoto Protocol alive and engines revving), cabbing back to the hotel is simple.
However, if you want to scrimp on the cab fare and hoof it back to the hotel at night, wending your way there through Ueno Park may prove more than you bargained for, unless you know your way very well.
Sleeping could be chalked up as Test no. 4. Sound travels on cold, pristine November nights and the nearby Ueno Zoo is within easy earshot, i.e. yours. Caged in an urban jungle environment, the wild animal residents of this traditional establishment may amply voice their opinions about being held hostage and none are particularly keen on being there. Like denizens at any zoo (or prison), they do tend to get vocal about their misfortunes at night. Call this a serenade if Lost-in-Translation-jetlag-induced insomnia (which you may well experience) grabs hold.
OK. Let’s recap. The bottom line, really? There is nothing inherently wrong with the Suigetsu Hotel. If you are in Tokyo specifically for the museums, exhibits, and the Zoo, (already discussed - in part), Ueno is an address. If you travel very lightly and prefer that section of town, fine.
However, if most of your travel memory (or collective memory, anyway - be honest) resides on the internet and demands convenient log-on access, and if you are carrying the entire inventory of a camera store in your carry-on, well - wake up - accommodation downtown, i.e. Ginza, is more geared to the international traveller, offers more space and amenities and is closer to the action. (And, guess what, not that much more expensive).
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- Also Known As:
- Suigetsu Hotel Taito
- Suigetsu Hotel Ohgaisou Tokyo, Japan