For those complaining about room size, two things: A) This is a Japanese boutique hotel set up for Japanese business travelers who are smaller in stature and size. B) Price-wise, very reasonable for a small boutique hotel (perhaps expensive compared to average/lower end hotels). At under $100/night we found it more than exceeded expectations, and in general, hotels in Japan are quite expensive.
We chose the standard double room with a queen bed. It came with a small desk and a small table with two chairs. There is a tiny closet and very little drawer space - again, this hotel is geared for business travellers, so if you plan to be in Kobe for a long period of time with an extensive wardrobe, you may find yourself using your suitcase quite a lot. We travel light, so found we had more than enough room for a few days.
The bed at first seemed hard, but we both slept really well and didn't have sore backs or necks like we thought we might. Some reviewers complained about the beds, but we found them quite comfortable.
Location is excellent, an easy 10 to 20 minute walk from "everything" - i.e., the Kitano trendy district, Sannomiya train station (central), shopping centres, restaurant row (Sankita Ave), the cable car to Herb Gardens, etc. Steps to the City Loop bus (with stops at all the tourist and main locations), it couldn't be more convenient and just far enough way to be quiet and removed from the noise and bustle of the busy areas. For those reviews saying it's "too far", they must be tourists accustomed to bars, restaurants and shopping located in the hotel lobby. Hotel Piena has none (and none of the associated noise and heavy traffic).
Hotel Piena has a lovely little coffeeshop with great pastry - the French influence is very strong in Kobe with excellent French restaurants and patisseries (there is even a French College of Patisserie near the hotel). The restaurant La Patric has received glowing reviews here and in local Kobe press, but with the set menus ranging from $58 to to $90 per person, we chose small local eateries where spending $8 to $10 generously fed two of us.
About 4 or 5 doors down from the Hotel Piena (exit front door and turn right), there is a delightful Okonomiyaki shop (in Japan, restaurants tend to serve only a very few dishes, sometimes only one and specialize in making it the best possible). Anjimura-san has had her shop for more than 13 years and this delicious cabbage pancake - trust me, it's so good and not cabbagey at all - was our favourite meal of the trip. It can be made with pork belly (like bacon), shrimp, chicken, octopus or squid and spicy or sweet & sour. I recommend the sweet & sour, as it tastes rather like barbecue sauce and goes great with the seafood and cabbage. Open from 11-2pm and from 5-9 pm.
And just a few more doors further, on the corner of Flower Road, is the Isuzu bakery with excellent pastries, breads, and a delicious classic fried chicken sandwich which was really good. We stocked up on biscuits and snacks for our plane ride home. Open from 9am to 9pm.
The Hotel Piena makes an award winning Milkish Jam, rather like a dulce de leche or milky caramel sauce. Made in a variety of flavours (green tea, chocolate, vanilla, etc.), you can sample them all at the wonderful breakfast buffet (included in the price of your room about $28 if bought separately). The breakfast buffet has Japanese traditional breakfast (rice porridge, fish, vegetables) as well as a few French/Western dishes (French toast, croissant, roast potatoes and frittata). With fruit and a delicious array of desserts, we found that the Japanese are not shy when it comes to a buffet - at first we were polite taking only a few pieces but when we saw neighbouring tables with plates piled high, we helped ourselves to seconds!
The staff speaks sufficient English, but don't expect to have detailed conversations with them. Friendly and accommodating, they are very professional and exhibit the Japanese politeness in all regards (bowing to you when you step out of the elevator in the lobby, for example). A 10-minute walk to Sannomiya station will find you the tourist information centre and they have excellent English and are of great help.
We got to the hotel early and they stored our luggage for 6 hours before our room was ready for check-in, so we could walk around the city. I felt comfortable leaving my computer as they locked it in the office and while they took our luggage up to our room before we got back to the hotel, they kept the laptop locked in the office until it could be handed over personally to us. I liked that service touch.
There is no room service but from 10am to 6pm there is complimentary coffee and tea in the lobby coffeeshop, plus a selection of sweets and treats all day for guests, great to enjoy when working on your computer using the free WiFi (also available in all rooms and was fast for both the computer and IPad).
There is a small fridge in the hotel room where we stored bottle watered, and a kettle with complimentary tea. There are robes and slippers for your use, plus travel slippers you can take with you. The bathroom is equipped with all the toiletries you will need. The soap and shampoo are those produced for the Herb Gardens - like that local touch.
An unexpected perk was a heated toilet seat which was lovely in the middle of the night. There is a heated bidet, so if you've never had that experience, it's a bit of a shock. (NOTE: We found that in most places with Western-style plumbing the toilets had a bidet attached - there are still, however, many squat toilets so be prepared for that.)
Highly recommend Hotel Piena and we will absolutely stay there again for our next vacation.
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