(Note: please read to the end for booking tips.)
You didn’t even have to set foot on the pavement of Nara to get to JR Super Lohas Hotel Nara. Just hang a right past the second floor ticketing windows, up a slight ramp, and into the hotel, or more properly into one of the two access points (the other is down a floor at ground level) to the hotel via an elevator which carries us to the lobby on 4. There we discover to our dismay that a very great many other tourists from all over the world have figured out that this hotel is a good choice (it’s all TripAdvisor’s fault), and all are waiting to check in.
Lohas has a sort of industrialized system to handle the mobs: preliminary welcome and vetting by a greeter, then passed through to the multilingual check-in staff, then turned over to a sort of concierge for an obligatory orientation session which does drag on, for ten minutes at least. We’re lectured about details ranging from the use of the no-key, password door locks to the hours when the onsen is available and for which sex, to the breakfast timings, and a great deal of other info. The housekeeping routine is explained in detail - choose which days you want the room to be cleaned (which in fact amounted to a lick and a promise at best, until we raised the issue) get instructions about leaving your towels outside the room on the days it’s not cleaned and receive a bottle of mineral water as a gift for each day of no cleaning. [Other strange “gifts” - if you return the provided toothbrush, you get a cookie; if you are a woman you may select five (count them, five) items from the amenities cart. (We stayed five nights - am I allowed only 5? Of course, the included breakfast was a boon. Arriving at the dining room early is recommended - it gets crowded quickly. Arrive before opening and there is a line waiting at the door, late and there may be no seats. Food never seemed to run out. Pastries and breads were excellent; cold dishes OK; slow cooked meat options not so good; soups from the dispenser varied in quality; drinks available from the coin machines - not great, but free during breakfast. During our five day stay the options rotated but reappeared after a day or two]
After the preliminary information, we were shepherded into the pillow and yukata room to select from a sort of bookcase wall of pillows of every imaginable sort and possibly pick up a yukata of a different size in case the standard ones provided in the room don’t fit. At which point we rally sufficiently to assert ourselves and declare the idiocy of grabbing either pillows or yukatas now without knowing what’s been provided in the room. And we are sent away to our room with only a slight stiffening of the pleasant demeanor of the concierge, who later proves quite friendly and useful.
Finding in the room that he was right all along – the factory knows. The only provided pillow is a six foot wide monster filled with rice hulls or buckwheat husks or some such (the Japanese are uncommonly fond of these rock-solid things that make scratchy noises whenever you move your head). No doubt the factory concierge is right about quickly selecting our pillows, too, as they were going fast with the invading mob of tourists. Later we discovered that the distaff half needed a smaller yukata as well.
Back then to assess the room, our smallest on this trip. It’s given as 300 square feet in the lit, but one has to subtract from that an unusually large bathroom and generous entrance hall. If the actual bedroom exceeds two hundred square feet by much we’d be very surprised. For once, however, the room is well thought out. This hotel has stripped things down to a bare minimum. There is no closet, only a rack on the wall with four hangers. There is a queen sized bed stuck into a corner, a narrow desk stretching from wall to wall opposite with fridge beneath, a desk chair, and that’s it. Because there’s so little furniture, there’s ample floor space to open a large rollaboard suitcase at the foot of the bed, another tucked in the corner at the other end of the desk, small bags laid open atop the desk, and still plenty of room to set up computer and tea boiler. Clean and spare and workable, with a window (with a solid panel that slides shut to block light completely).
After the initial shock of check-in and the surprise at how snug this room is (we had just come from a room in Marugame that would do for a tennis court if it had a higher ceiling), we come grow fond of it. Good thing, as it was our cubby for five nights.
Booking specifics: We wanted a twin rather than a double since the twins are much larger. All the non-smoking twins were either booked or not on offer even though we were making our reservation many months prior to our arrival. We booked the room through the hotel’s English language website. Afterwards, we found their Japanese website offered a 30 day advance booking discount for the weekday nights (this was not offered on their English website). This amounted to about a ¥3480 savings - not huge, but noticeable. Rakuten had the discount price only for one of our five nights.
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