5 CURIOUS FEATURES OF A JAPANESE STYLE ROOM

On the 25th of December 2015, I received an e-mail from The Overseas Human Resources and Industry Development Association (HIDA) of Japan inviting me to join nine other Experts to experience a place called Gifu.  Gifu Prefecture is located in Central Honshu, Japan’s main island and has played an important role in Japan’s history because of its strategic location.  But honestly – why haven’t I heard about this place even before this invitation?  I was excited anyway and was very eager to learn about Gifu so I packed my clothes way before my scheduled flight!

I skimmed through the documents that came along with the invitation to search for our accommodation since I committed to writing about hotels and restaurants.  You know what I found out? We will be hotel hopping for the five day trip! This is going to be an adventure!

From the list of hotels, HOTAKASO YAMANO HOTEL particularly caught my attention because their website gave an option for guests to choose to book a western style room or a Japanese style room.  I emailed, Yuki Tanaka, one of the the organizers and requested for her to book me in a Japanese style room and I was elated to find out that there was one available for me!

To cut the story short, let me just bring you to HOTAKASO YAMANO HOTEL.  Have fun with me as I explore their Japanese style room.

But before that, here is how the hotel looked like when we arrived:

hotel yamano snow
The Magical facade of Hotakaso Yamano Hotel!   Embraced by the pure white powdery snow.  As I have earlier written in one of my articles, it was like watching a Disney movie in 3D!  This resort is ideal for honeymooners!  The hotel is located at 577-13 Okuhida Onsengo Kansaka, Takayama, Gifu Prefecture 506-1421, Japan 🙂

The hotel looks heavenly right?  But that will be for another article.  Now, let me walk you through my one-of-a-kind room.

Ooops, before we get inside, I would like to remind you to leave your shoes outside.  An inside slipper will be provided for you.

shoes 123

Doozo ohairi kudasai! Please come in!

IMG_2880
I was amazed at how many sliding doors there were when I took a peek at the room. When I realized that I will be staying here alone, I could not help but imagine the Japanese horror movies that I’ve seen especially “The Ring”. But let’s not talk about that, I am here to have fun and experience how it is to sleep in an authentic Japanese Sytle Room! haha. 🙂

To start with the experience, you must first wear a YUKATA:

yukata
YUKATA is a night clothing that is usually provided in spa resorts. They looked like Japanese costume to me so I am really in to wear it. Click this site to see how these clothes are worn.
japanese room alone 1
Here I am donning a YUKATA. (Photo by Roxy Navarro)

I could not stand being alone so I knelt down to summon some of my friends. And with a blink of an eye…

Tada!

happy friends
From left to right: Roxy Navarro, me, and Kenneth Del Rosario.(Photo by Roxy Navarro)

Now, I’m ready to show you around!

A Japanese style room is called washitsu or nihonma and has these five distinctive features:

  1. Tatami flooring –
tatami flooring
You can find this type of flooring in Japanese style rooms. It is a type of woven mat using rice straw.  Tatami floors used to be found only in the home of the wealthy and it only reached the commoners home by the end of the 17th century. (Photo by Dexter Diwas)

These days, it is not unusual to find only one room with tatami flooring in Japanese houses, this is where they usually entertain guests or have special gatherings just like what is depicted below:

serving tea
Oh yes! I normally look at the camera when serving tea. haha (Photo by Roxy Navarro)

2) Sliding doors or fusuma

sliding doors
Fusuma are rectangular panels that you can move from side to side for the purpose of defining spaces within the room. The one in the picture separated where my futon is from the area where I entertained some of my guests during my short stay at Hotakaso Yamano Hotel.  (photo by Kenneth Del Rosario)

Well, I discovered that a fusuma can also be used as a backdrop for taking pictures. Whether whole body…

back drop fusuma
Fusuma as a backdrop. (Photo by Kenneth Del Rosario)

Or half body…

half body fusuma
Fusuma as a backdrop..in sepia. haha (Photo by Kenneth Del Rosario)

3)Futon – Futon is a special japanese mattress that you can lay on the floor by night and fold by day so you can use the room for other purposes.

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A fresh futon on a tatami floor is so inviting!
futon model
I always dreamt of becoming a futon model and my travel to Gifu made this dream come true! Just a reminder: Futons must be brought outside to be aired in sunlight regularly, otherwise, it will accumulate dust and whatever dirt. Also, to prevent the futon from matting, they usually beat it using a futon tataki that is made out of bamboo. The same process we do when we beat our carpets. 🙂

4) Zaisu – another distinctive feature of the room is a zaisu, a chair without legs but with a comfortable backrest.

IMG_2895
A zaisu in my Japanese room. At first, it would look uncomfortable to be sitting on this chair but the back support and the cushiony seat gave me the much needed comfort after a busy day. (photo by Dexter Diwas)
comfortable in a zaisu
Roxy the web developer and videographer, Dexter the blogger, and Kenneth the writer are seen here being comfy using a zaisu! (Photo by Roxy Navarro)

5) Kotatsu

kotatsu
Kotatsu. A low wooden table frame. I am not sure if this has a heater underneath it but kotatsu usually has a heating device that is used during winter. They cover this with a thick blanket to capture the heat coming from underneath.
tea parties japanese style room
Kotatsu is perfect for tea parties! (Photo by Roxy Navarro)

You might wonder, how about their restroom?  Well, it looks pretty much western to me.  The only difference is that the toilet is separated from the shower.

restroom japanese style room
The floor in the restroom is covered with straw mats and that gave me the feel of the continuing Japanese theme.

I also enjoyed the regular soaking tub..

soaking tub japanese hotel
This is not a screen grab from a horror movie. That was me enjoying the soaking tub!

Those are the five distinctive features of a Japanese style room.  Throughout the night, I could not hide my amazement at how rich the Japanese culture is and I am truly blessed to have experienced it through an overnight stay at HOTAKASO YAMANO HOTEL at Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, Japan.

Thanks to The Overseas Human Resources and Industry Development Association (HIDA) for a successful tourism program! My “Japanese Style Room Experience” was worth accepting your invitation!

To learn more about the wonders of GIFU, visit the following facebook pages: GIFU GETAWAY and GIFU CROSSROADS.

by: Dexter Duclan Diwas


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GRAND PRIX, PASAY: CONVENIENCE FROM A TWO STAR HOTEL

Part of my blogging hobby is to rate hotels, inns and other types of accommodations and so I am starting with the first one that I tried this year – the GRAND PRIX HOTEL.  Hotels are rated with 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 stars, but what do these stars really mean?

Based on my research, this is how hotels are rated:

5-Star Rating: These are hotels that offer the highest degree of pampering.  They are luxurious hotels where elegance and style overflow.  You will find rooms with quality linens, VCR, CD stereo, jacuzzi tubs, and video on-demand.  Dining won’t be a problem because there are multiple restaurants on site with extensive gourmet menus.  Room-service is also available 24-7. A five star hotel has a fitness center, valet parking, and concierge service.

4-Star Rating: These are formal and large hotels, with top of the line customer service. These hotels are usually found beside other 4-star rated hotels and are usually very near establishments for shopping, dining, and entertainment.  You should expect rooms that are elegantly furnished.  They also house restaurants and likewise offer room service. Services such as valet parking, a fitness center, and a concierge are a given.

3-Star Rating: These are hotels that are usually very accessible to business people and are strategically located near major streets and malls. They have appealing lobbies where business people usually entertain or meet with their clients. They have in-hotel restaurants that offer offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You will also expect valet and room service, a small fitness center, and a pool.

2-Star Rating:  These are hotels for people on the go.  They are generally part of a hotel chain or franchise and they offer a uniform quality of service but with limited amenities. The rooms are just enough for sleeping, usually small or medium in size and will only have a phone and TV. There is no room service but should have a small restaurant on site.

1-Star Rating: These are family owned and operated hotels. They only provide the basic needs, such us bed and shower.  There should be restaurants nearby, should be very accessible to public transportation and should be surrounded with affordable entertainment.

Now, we traveled from Baguio City to Manila to process some documents with a plan of heading back again to Baguio City on the same day.  Considering that we arrived at around 4am at the bus terminal, we needed a place to freshen up and to take a quick nap.  The closest that we found is of course – GRAND PRIX, PASAY –

grand prix hotel pasay
Grand Prix Hotel, Located at Victory Liner Station EDSA, for. Tramo St. Pasay City. Tel No. +632 886 5159

the hotel is just within the Victory Liner, Pasay Terminal Compound.

They have small rooms at P525.00 for 3 to 5 hours.  Not bad because we are just going to wash up and rest a bit.  Unfortunately, we were told that they only have big rooms available at P1,000.00 for 3 to 5 hours with no breakfast and Superior Rooms at P1,455.00 for 12 hours including breakfast.  We opted for the Superior room since it included breakfast and we might come back for a shower before going back to Baguio City.  After booking, we were disappointed when we were told that we had to wait for 30 minutes for them to set up the room.

The good thing is, they have a waiting area where at most 6 guests could comfortably be seated while waiting for their room to be ready.

lobby grand prix
The Grand Prix Lobby, not so grand but it could comfortably accommodate up to 6 guests. That’s my wife covered in her blanket. Feeling so comfortable indeed. 🙂

After 30 minutes of waiting, we were ushered to our room…

hallway grand prix
Nope.  This is not the room.  This is the Grand Prix Hotel Hallway, it was like a maze. Without the staff, we wouldn’t be able to figure out where our room was. lol.

Finally…

grand prix bed
The Grand Prix Hotel Superior Room. It was a 4 meter by 4 meter room with a single bed, 2 pillows, and a very thin blanket. If this is how their Superior room looks like, I wonder how small is their small room? hmmm.

towel grand prix
Don’t worry if you did not bring with you your toothbrush, toothpaste, or towel. They have you covered complete with condiments!  Lol. Nope, those are not catchup, coffee, or salt, but shampoo, toothpaste and soap.  They look like condiments though. 🙂

Want to be organized even for that short stay?

storage grand prix
The room has a space for your bags and your clothes when you need to hang them. It also has a flat screen TV to entertain you if you get bored. hehe. No tables or chairs are provided, so if you need to work on your laptop, you can do it on the bed.

Need to freshen up?

bathroom grand prix
Bathroom is dry and clean.   They don’t have an absorbent rug or slippers that you can use.  So after taking a bath, the bathroom will be soaked.

no water problem grand prix
No water problem in the room.  Don’t be tempted to drink this though…

Because you are given these…

mineral water grand prix
2 complimentary bottled water from Grand Prix Hotel. Yehey!

After washing up and taking a quick nap, we headed to their dining hall- the Grill Circuit Restaurant, to have our complimentary breakfast…

the resto
You need to get your breakfast stub from the front desk before heading to the breakfast bar.  If you didn’t get a room with free breakfast, you can still have it here for around P100.00 to P125.00.  Do the math, we decided to get the superior room for P1455.00 just because we wanted breakfast.  Turns out that we can have the big room for P1000.00 and still have breakfast for a cheaper rate.

What did we have for breakfast?

tapa grand prix
Tada! The Tapa Breakfast Meal! Enough for the day’s errand.

Things you need to know:

De Luxe and Superior are based on Single or Twin Occupancy;

Family and Studio Room rate are based on Single, Twin and Triple Occupancy;

Rates are inclusive of daily breakfast for Overnight Stay;

Children Ten (10) years old below are free of charge when sharing room with parents, minimum of two (2)n kids in a room.

Property Features Include (according to them):

Flat Screen TV, Individual Controlled air-conditioning unit, Hot and Cold Shower (our room didn’t have hot and cold shower though), 24 hours security system, standby genset, Fully automated fire safety system (imagine yourself asking a hotel before checking in – “Before I check in, I would like to know if your fire safety system is fully automated”) , WIFI (but unreliable).

So what’s the verdict?  This hotel is a TWO STAR HOTEL.

Cleanliness:  It was ok.  The idea that someone used the room immediately before you made me think twice, especially when they told me that they have to set it up first. But when we got to the room, it was spick and span.

Location: It actually depends on where you need to be.  We were there to process some documents at the Japanese Embassy so the hotel was really close to our intended destination.  Less than 15 minutes drive without traffic.  The hotel car brought us to the Japanese embassy for P300.00. We later on realized that we can actually hail a cab and pay lesser than that.  But we felt safe so we didn’t mind.

Price: If you are just looking for a decent room then the price is just ok.  There are other fancier hotels nearby at a higher rate but you won’t have the time scouting for these hotels especially that Grand Prix Hotel is close to the place where you need to do your errands.

Customer Service:  The staff are very friendly.

Wifi: Very slow.

So, will I be recommending this hotel?  Yes, if you are just there to wash up and be on the go.