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Reviewed November 2, 2016

I booked this place when the hotel I had stayed in on a previous trip was three times the price. JR Seta station is a bit over a quarter of an hour from Kyoto and the commute is OK if you don’t mind a Japanese commuter experience (think crowded trains at most times of day, and lengthy peaks). One morning during my stay there were no trains for more than an hour, and loss of service can apparently happen for extended periods on JR lines more than you might expect, so allow plenty of margin if you are planning time critical journeys, such as returning to the airport.

It cost me Y640 for the commute in and out of Kyoto each day, and considering the money I saved on accommodation, it was OK. The station is on the Biwa line; Biwa line trains leave from Platform two at Kyoto station — look for the “Local” sign on your train before you get on. “Rapid” trains might take you someplace else. Stops are announced (listen for “tsugi wa" — next stop is — followed by the name of the station), and also shown on electronic indicators within the carriage, in Japanese and English.

Japanese commuter trains are obviously public spaces, but are also places where people somehow retreat into their private selves. It’s easy to unwittingly become offensive or intrusive by not doing what the Japanese do: refrain completely from talking on the phone or making any other noise which others can hear (headphones, notifications or games that go beep). The only noise that is acceptable is quiet face to face conversation. If you’re with someone, talking quietly into each other’s ear is perfectly fine.

I find one of the most stressful parts of checking into a new hotel is carrying luggage around while looking for the place. Thankfully, this was a very easy place to find. From the platform, take the escalator up to the station concourse and then turn left. Go down the steps and then follow the road around in the same direction that you came down the steps. The road sweeps around and on your left you will soon see the Seta Urban Hotel. Smile hotel is on the opposite side of the road, on the same side of the road that you’re walking on. You’ll find the relatively small entrance almost directly opposite the Seta Urban’s. It really is only a couple of minutes walk from the station.

You’re not in a tourist hotspot, so don’t expect people to speak a lot of English. For the most part, locals don’t have a lot of spoken English ability.

Other posters have commented on the English skills of the staff — OK for checking in and checking out but not necessarily for a lot more than that. I dropped in a pair of pants and a shirt for laundry. Later in the day they were given back to me and it was suggested that I use the coin laundry (Y300, soap supplied) on the second floor instead. OK, I washed the pants but somehow managed to forget the shirt. Then there was a call from reception asking about “cleaning” to which I foolishly managed to reply “yes” - I truly didn't understand what was being asked. Then I became deeply puzzled when I was unable to find the shirt in order to wash it — it had disappeared. It was given back to me at reception a day later with a Y460 bill. After the phone call, the staff had removed the shirt and cleaned it; the communication was confusing, sure, but when I thought about it I realised that what happened was primarily about careful attention to detail and my well-being as a guest.

The small room is like most other Japanese business hotels (think two hooks and some coat hangers on the entry hall wall rather than a wardrobe), but unusually the entrance still requires a metal key, that, like a card, has two uses — entry to the room and electricity for the room. It took me a while to work out that I had to put the key into the internal lock in the room if I wanted to be able to see.

It was also only on my third day here that I realised the door did not lock automatically from the outside when the door shut. Not that this caused me any problems, but I then had to remember to lock the door each time I left the room.

Apart from a double bed, there’s an office chair, a desk, lamp and small TV, plus all the normal accoutrements: electric jug and humidifier etc, and you can help yourself to a trouser press from the hallway.It wasn’t that hard to work out how to boil water despite the jug’s highly detailed instructions being only in Japanese.

The small ensuite contains a deep bath and shower, bidet toilet, etc etc, typical for this type of hotel.

The hotel practically begs guests to come down to its free breakfast, the Japanese version of a western breakfast — think yoghurt, eggs (boiled or scrambled, depending on the day), steamed chicken, potato salad, sausages, pastries, decent self-service coffee from a machine, fruit drink (which I didn’t try). There’s a toaster oven if you want to heat up your pastries, and a microwave. It might not be a de luxe breakfast experience, but it’s a solid start to the day, and it’s convenient to be able to eat in the hotel.

Eating breakfast is also an opportunity to see Japanese business types at the beginning of their work day. There are lots of small tables designed for just one person, or two. In the four days I was in the hotel, I noticed only one other European guest, and a couple of people from other parts of Asia.

The hotel only offers breakfast; lunch and dinner need to be bought elsewhere, although you can use the coffee machine in the late afternoon if you really want. Besides breakfast, I only ate one meal in Seta, and that was from a convenience store. Seta is one of many dormitory suburbs, and not really great eating territory, although I’m aware other posters have found good places.

One advantage of staying near Lake Biwa was that Seta station is just two stops away from the home temple of the poet Basho. The rather small temple is not even 500 metres from Zeze station, and for me was definitely worth the visit. From the temple, a somewhat longer walk takes you down to a park on the lake; the foreshore is very different from what it was in Basho’s day, but still a very relaxing place.

I noticed bicycles in the hotel lobby, presumably for rent. I didn't try them because I was in Kyoto for family reasons and spent most of my time downtown. If I had more time, I would have looked at exploring Lake Biwa around Seta, although I have no idea how practical that might be.

Overall, I would prefer the convenience of a downtown Kyoto hotel (not to mention the convenience of being able to eat in places where English is more readily spoken), but this place might be a good choice at times of high demand and high prices elsewhere.

Date of stay: November 2016
  • Trip type: Traveled solo
    • Value
    • Sleep Quality
    • Service
2  Thank Ron W
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 8, 2016

Stayed 2 nights in August for travelling around Shiga. Hotel is 2 minutes walk from JR Seta station very convenient, with a few restaurants around. Apparently this hotel is a bit dated you can tell from the lobby and the fact that you need to use key (not card) for hotel room, was nicely surprised when got to the hotel room as it looks quite modern & renovated. We booked deluxe twin and the room is so spacious, rarely found in Japan hotel, recommend you to pick this room type. Hotel staff is friendly and helpful. Simple breadfast included, and they provide free coffee at the restaurant until around 10 pm.

Room tip: Deluxe twin very spacious yet good price
Date of stay: August 2016
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Thank Zoe_lum
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 19, 2016

Generally we only slept here during sightseeing in Kyoto.
For this purpose hotel is fine (good to be out of the city vibe)

Staff does not speak english very well but tries to help were needed

Deluxe Rooms are spacious (for japanese standards) Bed comfy and not so hard like in most Japanse hotels, offered us a good night rest. Rooms are quiet

Room was somewhat dusty, bathroom rather small for 2 eurepeans.

Breakfast offer is oke (as published) but not very fresh and the breakfast room old and uninspiring.
Free coffee troughout the day is nice

Date of stay: April 2016
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
1  Thank FamilieHotello
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 18, 2016

I stayed here with my family for 4 night. I choose this hotel because it near JR train.

The hotel is very close to the seta station. There are two mini-mart near the hotel.
There are many restaurants near the hotel also but they are closed early.

The breakfast is breads, salad, sausages, soups, coffee.

If you have JR pass and would like to travel in kyoto, I recommends this hotel.

Date of stay: April 2016
  • Trip type: Traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Service
3  Thank Mahitorn K
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 12, 2016

Being the high season, prices in Kyoto were ridiculous so decided to stay in the suburbs....17 mins by JR train from Kyoto (so if you have a JR pass, it is included)..get out at Seta station (5th stop). It is 1 minute walk from the station so ideal. Room was small (as per all Japanese hotels) but very clean and comfortable. bathroom small too but had toothbrushes, razors, etc. plus a fridge. Breakfast was included which was a bonus and very adequate. Staff lovely. Free wifi in the rooms. Great local restaurants nearby...try Masun about 2 streets away, a fantastic teppanyaki restaurant which specialises in okonomiyaki (Japanese savoury pancakes)....amazing...went there twice and locals were thrilled to have some Aussies in their restaurant and gave us food to try! Wonderful 3 days.

Date of stay: April 2016
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Service
3  Thank Wokka25
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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