Business hotels are one of the most common types of hotels available across Japan, offering no-frills accommodation with a very affordable price tag.
But not all business hotels are created equal, and the hotel boom in Japan has left tourists spoiled for choice, with some now offering a few exciting features.
JR-East Hotel Mets Utsunomiya sits around the mid-range level and is a hot pick for travellers in this region.
Owned by Japan Railways Group, JR hotels typically have the best locations as they to be annexed to train stations, with this particular one having a direct link to the West Exit of JR Utsunomiya Station.
An escalator away from the hotel’s main lobby is also Paseo, a multi-level shopping arcade with departmental stores and souvenir shops selling limited edition Utsunomiya snacks and drinks.
Upon check-in, we were greeted by the friendly hotel staff, who directed us to an impressive display of toiletries and amenities. The receptionist at the front desk advised us to help ourselves to as much as we needed, as the room would only have the absolute basics in the bathroom.
Travellers who tend to travel light will also be pleased to find all manner of skin care products available also including facial wash, toner, lotion and make-up remover.
Personally, we were impressed with the selection of bath powders and salts – a testament to how important bathing is in Japanese culture, as well as the opportunity for a bit of luxury after travelling!
The single room we had booked was simple, modest and felt slightly larger than the average business hotel room.
Also available are your usual deluxe, twin and residential rooms. There’s also a ‘Ladies Room’, available only to women and complete with extra features such as feet warmers and back-light mirrors, perfect for applying make up.
Exploring other floors of the hotel led us to find a fitness centre, laundry room, and vending machine corner on the 4th floor.
The fitness centre was well-equipped with both cardio and strength training equipment. It also had a golf putting corner complete with an impressive array of putting clubs.
A lounge on the 5th floor offered complimentary coffee and tea, as well as a collection of art, art books and novels (available in both English and Japanese) to peruse while you relax.
The view from the lounge is of the shinkansen/bullet train track, painting a quaint picture as you unwind into a comfy seat.
Breakfast at Lapis, the hotel’s coffee house was a buffet style affair, serving a small but satisfying selection of Western and Japanese dishes.
The usual suspects of salad, bacon, eggs and toast were available, as was nimono (a simmered Japanese dish), rice, curry, natto and fruit.
The salad vegetables and the eggs both had information cards in front of them, indicating that they were Tochigi local produced, sourced from farmers that the hotel had a relationship with. It’s a lovely touch, giving guests a small connection with the people of this prefecture.
The only mild complaint was the time it took for some of the food to be refilled – we headed up 2 or 3 times to see if they had restocked some of the hot food.
Generally speaking, business hotels aren’t something to write home about, but when done well they do deserve recognition. JR-East Hotel Mets Utsunomiya does everything it says it would on the box plus a few extra special amenities that took me by pleasant surprise.
Factoring in the price, it’s certainly over-delivering on value!