Why Vintage Japanese Dolls Make Affordable and Cool Japanese Souvenirs

Why Vintage Japanese Dolls Make Affordable and Cool Japanese Souvenirs

When you are travelling in Japan, you see lots of antique Japanese dolls for sale.  These dolls are a relatively affordable souvenir even if they are Japanese porcelain dolls. Sure they aren’t as cheap as a Chinese-made fridge magnet but they are way also way cooler and have a cultural significance.  The most elegantly beautiful vintage Japanese dolls we found were the Hina dolls from the Hinamatsuri festival celebrated on March 3rd every year. Alternatively, the folk art chic of Japanese wooden dolls may better fit your modern aesthetic.

The Hina Dolls

The Hina dolls are associated with Hinamatsuri in Japan, a festival that ensures the healthy growth of a daughter.

Fun Fact! The Awashima Jinja shrine in Wakayama is filled with 1000+ vintage Japanese dolls with the most numerous being Hina dolls.
Japanese antique dolls like these Hina dolls make cool Japanese souvenirs

Japanese antique dolls like these Hina dolls make cool Japanese souvenirs

What is the Hinamatsuri Festival?

The Hinamatsuri festival is a girls’ day celebration on the 3rd of March. Hinamatsuri in Japan is celebrated for daughters until their 10th birthday.

Each family brings out their Hinamatsuri doll set which is a series of dolls placed on a red tiered carpet. Yes, the dolls have a hierarchy too. There will always be a man and a woman on the top tier of Hinamatsuri dolls which is supposed to represent the Emperor and Empress.

At the top of the Hinamatsuri doll set are representation of the Emperor and Empress, representing the hierarchy in society as well.

At the top of the Hinamatsuri doll set are representation of the Emperor and Empress, representing the hierarchy in society as well.

The Hinamatsuri festival has a macabre origin story. The legend goes that one of the mythical founders of Japan (sort of like Romulus and Remus for Rome) purified himself after visiting the Land of the Dead. This purification used to include human sacrifice. During the Heian period though, ritual purification could be done by transferring your issues to a doll and throwing it in the river or sea.

Fun Fact! The Heian period was named for its capital city which is now Kyoto. The Heian period was a flourishing time for Japanese culture. It lasted from 794-1185

The Nagashi Bina Festival which is more like the Heian period festival of transferring uncleanliness onto a doll is still celebrated in some places, including the Shimigomo Shrine in Kyoto. There is a Nagashi Bina Doll Museum in the city of Tottori.

Hinamatsuri dolls wear traditional outfits from the Heian period, widely regarded as a glorious period in Japanese cultural history.

By the late 17th century, the Nagashi Bina festival transformed into the Hinamatsuri festival which is widely celebrated  today in Japan.

The Hinamatsuri Doll Set

Usually a family gets the first two dolls (the Emperor and the Empress) of a Hinamatsuri doll set by the first birthday of their child. You don’t need to have any more Hina dolls because that is the basic set. The dolls are offered little food offerings and sake. We discovered that Shintoism in Japan seems to love sake offerings!

They Hina dolls are displayed for only a brief time because of the superstition that if you left them up too long they would be responsible for the daughter’s late marriage. Heaven forbid.

You can see how detailed and beautiful a Hina doll can be in this version.

You can see how detailed and beautiful a Hina doll can be in this version.

How many more tiers of dolls you have depends on how much  money you have. A Hinamatsuri set ranges from 5-7 tiers with 15 dolls.

Below is a 3-tier Hinamatsuri doll set which has the Emperor and Emperess and their courtiers and musicians in traditional court dress from the Heian period.

A 3 tiered Hinamatsuri doll set.

A 3 tiered Hinamatsuri doll set.

A Hina doll is expensive to buy new. For example a full 5 tier set of Japanese porelain dolls can cost a couple of thousand US dollars. Usually families pass down the Hinamatsuri doll set from generation to generation.

Why Are Second Hand Hina Dolls Affordable?

You can, however, get a Hina doll fairly cheaply in second-hand stores. Antique Japanese Hina dolls are not bought by Japanese families. Dolls are supposed to take on human characteristics by virtue of looking like humans. It’s fine to inherit your doll from your family members but you will invite bad spirits into your home if you bring a stranger’s Hina dolls into your home!

My daughter thought they were beautiful until she heard the superstition about them having spirits of their own. Then she just thought they were creepy.

HInamatsuri dolls are used in the Hinamatsuri festival celebrated annually in March.

HInamatsuri dolls are used in the Hinamatsuri festival celebrated annually in March.

So there are lots of Japanese antique dolls floating around Japan that no longer belong to a family. It’s not like you can throw them out because that would really bring the reign down the wrath of a Japanese spirit. (Remember the Japanese horror movie, The Ring? No one wants that). So, these Japanese antique dolls get flogged to foreigners who appreciate them for their beauty and don’t have the attendant superstitions associated with them.

I did buy two vintage Japanese dolls before I learned about the legend and my daughter got spooked. Unfortunately, one of the Hina dolls lost his head somewhere in transit. The Japanese spirit associated with my headless Hina doll is probably very annoyed but has yet to pay me a visit. Sort of like the legend of the Headless Horsemen of Sleepy Hollow, he’s probably still out there searching for his head (somewhere in baggage claim).

Kokeshi Dolls

Kokeshi dolls are simple wooden Japanese dolls that originally started in the Northeast of Japan.

Farmers made these Japanese wooden dolls from scraps of wood to wile away the time during the winters. Kokeshi Japanese dolls were probably a good luck symbol.

Fun fact!  Traditionally farmers made and gave Kokeshi dolls to their children to ensure a good harvest.

Then kokeshi dolls got sold as souvenirs to people visiting the onsens (hot springs) in the area in the early 1800’s during the Edo Period. Eventually they also became a toy for children. Sometimes a Kokeshi doll was given to a woman who had lost a baby through miscarriage or abortion.

Unlike the Hina dolls, the Kokeshi dolls meaning were believed to be a good luck charm. They were both a guardian of children’s souls but also able to contain the spirits of ancestors. Personally, I would have thought that was just as creepy.

There is a Kokeshi Museum in Osaki City which has about 5000 Japanese kokeshi dolls on display.

Vintage Kokeshi Dolls

The vintage kokeshi dolls you will find are super-simple. They have a hand-drawn face, no arms and legs, and a floral design on the body. There are apparently 11 different types of Kokeshi patterns which are associated with different onsens. You may find the artist’s signature on the bottom of a Kokeshi doll.

Vintage Kokeshi dolls are handmade so each are different

Vintage Kokeshi dolls are handmade so each are different

Simple as they are, Kokeshi dolls take a long time to make because the wood is left outside to age for up to 5 years. The wood used can be cherry, dogwood, chestnut or Japanese maple. They are always made of wood, hand-carved andhand-painted.

You are basically looking for a Kokeshi doll that is pleasing to the eye. You want one that is not too top heavy and has a nice pattern. We saw some that my daughter classified as having “weird” faces but really it is a personal preference.

Modern Kokeshi Dolls

Modern kokeshi dolls appeared in the 1950’s and are more colorful and artistic. Artists were allowed more freedom to express their creativity unlike in the vintage kokeshi dolls. Also called creative kokeshi dolls, the body is painted wearing clothes like kimonos or yukatas. Unlike the vintage kokeshi dolls, modern kokeshi dolls can be made on special machines (but are still handprinted).

you can see how modern Kokeshi dolls got their style

you can see how modern Kokeshi dolls got their style

Kimmidoll Collection

The Kimmidoll collection takes the modern kokeshi dolls even further away from the traditional types. Inspired by Kokeshi dolls, Japanese kimmidolls contemporary collectible dolls. Kimmidolls are a mass-market approach to a Japanese tradition. They aren’t as charming as a the aged look of vintage Japanese dolls in my opinion but my daughter thought they were super pretty.

A kimmidoll keychain capitalises on the traditional Kokeshi craft.

A kimmidoll keychain capitalises on the traditional Kokeshi craft.

Each Kimmidoll represents a positive characteristic e such as laughter, understanding, love or entertainment. We got our Kimmidoll keychain at Kiddyland, a Japanese toy superstore in the Ometesando neighborhood near Harajuku.

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Hinamatsuri dolls make cool Japanese souvenirs but they do have a creepy legend associated with them.

Hinamatsuri dolls make cool Japanese souvenirs but they do have a creepy legend associated with them.

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The Hotel Eclat Beijing:  A Chic Luxury Hotel With an Artsy Vibe

The Hotel Eclat Beijing: A Chic Luxury Hotel With an Artsy Vibe

Eccentric luxury sounds like a contradiction in terms and generally not something you want in a hotel. The Hotel Eclat Beijing is the exception though. It’s the brainchild of a Hong Kong tycoon who wants to bring contemporary art out of collector’s confines and put it in public spaces. Nice public spaces though. The Hotel Eclat Beijing is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels brand which has long been a favourite of ours for great luxury hotels that have style and panache. The Eclat Beijing delivers on all of those accounts and with a soupçon of irreverence.

The elegant furnishings of the hotel lobby signal early on that this hotel pays attention to design.

The elegant furnishings of the hotel lobby signal early on that this hotel pays attention to design.

First Impressions

I was a little bemused when we pulled up in front of a giant glass and steel encased mall with modern sculpture strewn across the front garden.  Was this a pit stop? We were supposed to be going to the Hotel Eclat Beijing. When the driver pulled out the bags, we realised we were at the hotel!

The giant glass and steel pyramid entrance to the Parkview Green Mall.

The giant glass and steel pyramid entrance to the Parkview Green Mall.

Once you enter the mall, the entrance to the Eclat Beijing is off to the side. There’s a reception desk and a long lobby filled with more contemporary art. A glass escalator whisks you up to your key-coded floor.

The glass elevator had a red traditional couch. We loved the juxtaposition of old and new.

Style

The Hotel Eclat Beijing is definitely meant for lovers of modern art AND luxury. There are nods to traditional Chinese imagery (such as the red lanterns above the room doors) mixed with modern elan.

Sculpture of a man breaking through a wall.

Sculpture of a man breaking through a wall. What can it mean??

For example, both of our rooms’ terraces had variations of a barfing Buddha as well as giant upholstered leather sofas that would not be out of place in an English  country house library.

What’s the story with the barfing Buddha?

What’s the story with the barfing Buddha? Maybe a bit avant-garde for us.

Ambience

The rooms are spacious, the ambience discreet and the staff attentive. In some views, I felt like I was in a gilded jewellery box.

I actually felt like I was in an episode of the Truman Show where I was living in an enclosed bubble. We were separated from the noise, pollution and OTT-ness of Beijing by the glass dome which covered the mall.

The view of Beijing from the Hotel Eclat.

The view of Beijing from the Hotel Eclat.

I’ve heard people have complained that the glass dome was filmy.. Hello??? This is Beijing. The crazy pollution of the city is just outside that dome and the glass is never going to be clear.

The mall was perfectly temperature controlled so we could sit out in our terraces and enjoy being outside without actually being outside. While inside our little dome, we did not have the itchy eyes and a rasping throat that plagued us when we were out and about in Beijing.

The Good

I never thought I’d enjoy staying at a mall but I did! It also felt totally Chinese – an homage to conspicuous consumption and an artificial reality constructed to make everything seem pleasant.

Parkview Green Mall

Parkview Green Mall in Beijing is one of the best high-end malls in Beijing. It also has modern art scattered throughout.  The stores are a blend of Chinese and Western brands. We saw Gap, Build-A-Bear, Van Cleef and Arpels and Stella McCartney which is a fairly odd combination in my opinion.

Being located in an upscale mall has its advantages in terms of foodie options. It’s got a Starbucks, and a branch of a couple of our favourite Chinese restaurants (Dadong for Crispy Duck and Din Tai Fung for dumplings. There’s a whole slew of options including pizzerias, cafes and Japanese restaurants. Something for everyone, then.

A multi-coloured Buddha is one of the modern art pieces on show.

A multi-coloured Buddha is one of the modern art pieces on show.

The Location

Hotel Eclat Beijing is located in an upscale area of Beijing near the Embassies. It is located bout 20 kilometres away from the Beijing international airport. The hotel is in between the central business district which has the tourist sightseeing places. and the trendy area of Sanlitun. There is a subway nearby should you chose to avail yourself of that mode of transportation.

Family-Friendly

We did see other children around but the hallways and common spaces were quiet. Maybe you wouldn’t want small children around all of the artwork, but my kids got a kick out of it. Besides, its clear that everything at this hotel has a price tag. I’m sure if your kid breaks something, they will be expected to pay for it.

The television had mostly Chinese channels with a few English-channels like HBO and Cinemax. The room though had an Blu Ray player with a disc full of children’s favourites.

A disc with English language movies to keep the kids happy.

A disc with English language movies to keep the kids happy.

There seems to be candy everywhere – from the lobby to the Afternoon tea. It may be a hipster thing but it made my kids very happy.

We had asked for connecting rooms so that our children could be next door. The initial rooms they gave us were not connecting. The hotel did rectify this situation as soon as they had a room free next door to the one in which we were staying.

The George Bar

You get a voucher for a free drink at the George Bar in the lobby when you check in. My husband took my son down to the bar to oversee the math homework he had been assigned from school. In return, he took my free drink voucher which  I thought was a fair trade.

The French colonial glamour of the Georg Bar.

The French colonial glamour of the Georg Bar.

Although the atmosphere was lively, the bar was not too noisy with attentive staff. I loved the vintage French decor – a nod to the glamour and decadence of French colonial rule further south in Asia.

The Great

We thought our rooms with the connecting terraces were fabulous. I could totally see myself having an apartment in New York with a similar set up. It gave us enough privacy but also gave the children assurance we were nearby. We had temperature and pollution-controlled outside space to enjoy as well.

The Rooms

We loved our rooms which had connecting terraces. The bathrooms were large with separate soaking tubs and power showers. My kids were super-impressed with the Japanese style deluxe toilets which was operated with remote controls. In fact, the lid opened and closed with a motion sensor. The beds were comfy and we slept like babies.

We had a comfortable queen bed in our room and twin beds in the children’s room.

This hotel is the first one which had a massage chair in each room. I am a huge fan of massage chairs and kept ours pretty busy sorting out the knots in my back from travelling and carrying bags.

Why don’t more hotels have massage chairs?

Why don’t more hotels have massage chairs? Travelling is the worst thing for my back

My kids absolutely loved the toy-gun activated bedside lamp.

My kids LOVED this lamp which turned on when you pointed the gun at it.

As with everything else in the room, the lamp was for sale. A price list handily appears on the television screen as does the room service menu.

The television handily lists all the things you can buy from the hotel

The television handily lists all the things you can buy from the hotel, including the bath mat. Who buys a bath mat?

The Terraces

The terraces were charming. Plenty of room to sit and relax in your own hideaway. They had couches, lights and giant tables perfectly set up for outdoor living. It reminded me of many New York City apartment terraces.

One of the terraces in our hotel room at the Hotel Eclat Beijing

One of the terraces in our hotel room at the Hotel Eclat Beijing.

If you pay more than we did, you can get one of the 20 rooms with terraces which have individual pools.

Room Service

We were feeling so pampered, we opted to have room service on our terrace at the Hotel Eclat Beijing. It’s all done through the iPad in the room, but ironically the hotel staff had to call you to confirm a few things. For exam, my daughter wanted pasta but they called to confirm the type.

The food was excellent, the service prompt and we had a lovely relaxing time hanging out as a family in the terrace.

The room service dinner menu had a good variety of food options. We were all able to have a variety of items. I was craving something spicy which I got in the form of  Laksa soup. My daughter ordered pasta which is her go-to anywhere. My husband and son got comfort food for themselves, too – steak and ribs. The burgers and steak was Wagyu beef so it was a prime cut with matching prices.

Could Be Better

I felt I was nitpicking when i tried to find things I disliked about the Eclat Beijing. It’s a bit too trendy – so there may be trends you dislike such as for example, the lack of privacy in bathrooms.  The afternoon tea and the gym were a bit lame. And, if you find good WiFi in Beijing that’s considered a bonus. Definitely don’t expect it.

Trends I Dislike

I honestly really dislike bathrooms that allow you to see into them. On the plus side, there are window dimmers so you can have privacy. No matter how much you love someone you don’t want to watch them brush and floss their teeth.

You can dim the window from the bathroom into the bedroom.

You can dim the window from the bathroom into the bedroom.

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea is served to hotel guests. We were a little surprised to find that this meant a huge assortment of candy and some cakes. Needless to say the kids were thrilled. My husband and I were feeling peckish and expecting an English-style afternoon tea though with those little finger sandwiches.

There was free candy on tap to the delight of my children.

There was free candy on tap to the delight of my children.

Gym

The gym is a small room overlooking the mall which has just enough equipment to be adequate.

The small hotel gym overlooks the mall.

The small hotel gym overlooks the mall.

Wifi

The Wifi was honestly as terrible as in the rest of Beijing. Being in a luxury hotel is no guarantee of having good WiFi. Your best bet is to find the nearest Apple store and hang out fo awhile if you want to catchup on the outside world.

Our Opinion

You can stay in Hotel Eclat Beijing and be in your own little world. Is that a good thing? It depends on your opinion of Beijing.

For the latest rates for Hotel Eclat Beijing, here are a selection of travel booking sites:

Hotels.com Expedia Booking.com

You can read other reviews of the Hotel Eclat on TripAdvisor which seem to like this boutique hotel in Beijing as much as I do. 

This site generates income via partnerships with carefully-curated travel and lifestyle brands and/or purchases made through links to them at no extra cost to you. More information may be found on our Disclosure Policy.

Where To Stay in Beijing If You Are Seeking Design-Led Hotel Luxury (Including Family-Friendly Options)

Where To Stay in Beijing If You Are Seeking Design-Led Hotel Luxury (Including Family-Friendly Options)

Beijing is an enormous sprawling city and deciding where to stay in Beijing can be a daunting task. Since the former Palace Hotel (now Peninsula Beijing) opened in 1989, numerous 5 star hotels have opened in the city. There are outposts of Western brands, Chinese own brands and Beijing boutique hotels. The Chinese have embraced luxury like the French to pate. For example, like Dubai’s Burj Al Arab, the Pangu Hotel has given itself a seven-star rating even though there’s technically nothing above 5 stars. In a world where Beijing is trying to out-nouveau riche the Middle East, what’s left for hotel luxury other than great design?

A captivating dessert - white chocolate and milk chocolate ducks set on dry ice.

A captivating dessert shows of culinary artistry – white chocolate and milk chocolate ducks set on dry ice.

We’ve stayed a total of 10 days in Beijing to date. So where IS the best place to stay in Beijing and the best neighbourhood to stay in Beijing? We had a specific set of criteria in mind when we chose our hotels.   The design and interiors geek in me likes cool design hotels. As for my family, my husband wanted convenience and the kids just wanted simple hotel luxury.

The Best Neighbourhood To Stay in Beijing

After conversations with expat friends who live in Beijing and the expertise advice of Abercrombie and Kent, who organised our trips to China, we would suggest two neighbourhoods, Wangfujing and Sanlitun, as the best place to stay in Beijing for tourists seeking contemporary style as well as hotel luxury.

Where to stay in Beijing for family-friendly Beijing boutique hotels

Where to stay in Beijing for family-friendly luxury hotels

Sprawling Beijing

To give you an idea of the city’s size, Beijing has 7 ring roads circling it. This last 7th ring road is under construction. The Beijing International Airport is on the northeast side of the 6th Ring Road approximately 20 miles from the city center.

As you can see, the airport is miles away (a distance made even longer with traffic) from central Beijing.

As you can see, the airport is miles away (a distance made even longer with traffic) from central Beijing.

Both these areas have good transport links, including subway stations. We, however, stuck to taxis. And, walking extended periods in the brutal smog and humidity wasn’t an option either.

Do you want to spend your vacation time stuck in a taxi in Beijing? Sure, you can find cool hotels like the Beijing NUO Hotel (a Beijing boutique hotel loaded with art and style near the 728 Art District). This 728 Art District area though is not very central. There is a Beijing NUO Wangfujing which has a more traditional French-Colonial feel because it’s in the former Beijing Raffles hotel. The 7 star Pangu Hotel which was mentioned above is on the fourth ring road near the Olympic stadiums – a total non-starter for us.

If you would like to stay outside of Central Beijing, I would suggest the Aman Summer Palace which is near one of the bucket list items that is on everyone’s itinerary for Beijing anyway. The amazing Aman service will also ensure that you get your sightseeing in central Beijing done smoothly as well as enjoying your hotel luxury in beautiful surroundings.

Staying in Wangfujing

We personally considered Wangfujing as the best place to stay in Beijing because we loved the area. Admittedly, the neighbourhood doesn’t have much of a nightlife scene but we were travelling with kids. There are great hotels located relatively closely to the Forbidden City which is about a 20 minute walk.

All the big names are in the area of Wangfujing shopping street

We consider Wangfujing shopping street one of the best neighbourhoods to stay in Beijing

There are large malls with upscale stores and food courts in addition to Wangfujing shopping street. Wangfujing night market sells some of the strange street food you have heard about. We got our fix just by looking at the Wangfujing street food – Fried scorpions anyone? And, there’s a ginormous Apple Store in with excellent WiFi which made my kids happy.

Fun Fact!   Wangfujing shopping street is the busiest street in Beijing. Every day Wangfujing shopping street is traversed by 600,000 people (and double that number on holidays).

It’s totally a microcosm of modern China – traditional culture, luxury goods and a population obsessed with conspicuous consumption.

Staying in Sanlitun

If you are travelling with teenagers, you may consider Sanlitun to be the best place to stay in Beijing. Sanlitun is an up and coming trendy area with lots of young and artsy hipster types. Think Shoreditch in London or Brooklyn in New York. Unlike these other areas though, there are many embassies located nearby.

Din Tai Fung, a one Michelin-starred dumpling restaurant, has a location in one of Beijing’s upscale malls.

Din Tai Fung, a one Michelin-starred dumpling restaurant, has a location in one of Beijing’s upscale malls.

Sanlitun definitely attracts a well-heeled and well-dressed crowd. There’s a large Sanlitun Village entertainment complex in Sanlitun which has shops, cafes and restaurants so there’s plenty to do in the neighbourhood as well. Sanlitun Village has a great website in English if you want to browse for what’s available (and positioned prominently is Opposite House Beijing).

Fun Fact! Sanlitun Village actually was the location for China’s first Apple store.

Beijing Where To Stay Centrally

These hotels are in our preferred areas where there is plenty to do in the evenings in terms of shopping, restaurants and people-watching generally.

The Peninsula Beijing

After the Peninsula Beijing got its recent £100 million facelift, this Grande Dame is looking good again! Located in Wangfujing area, the all-suites hotel is probably the definition of hotel luxury. It’s got everything you would expect from The Peninsula including excellent service,rooms and amenities.

The moon over the Peninsula Hotel Beijing

The moon over the Peninsula Hotel Beijing

Way back when the hotel opened in 1989, it was China’s first Western luxury hotel! Much though has changed in Beijing (and China in the intervening nearly 30 years). It was time for The Peninsula Beijing to be refreshed as well!

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Gone are the dowdy interiors and the hotel is now light and airy. Post-renovation, the Peninsula Beijing no longer has check-in desks. It’s filled with contemporary art chosen by the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Beijing. And, acres of luxury materials such as jade, marble and mahogany.

Families can get connecting rooms with the second room at a discount. Kids will love the large (black!) swimming pool. Adults will love the spa and gym facilities. There are two restaurants (Cantonese Chinese and farm-to-table international cuisine) and a pastry cafe. It’s also got the distinction of having a luxury shopping arcade on site with names even my kids recognised – Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Bottega Veneta and Tiffany to name a few.

Check out what how The Peninsula ranks among TripAdvisor Beijing hotels!

For the latest rates for The Peninsula Beijing, here are a selection of travel booking sites.

Booking.com Hotels.com Expedia

Vue Hotel Houhai Beijing

Have kids in tow but do you still want to be part of the action? The Vue Hotel Hou Hai Beijing is a good option if you want to hang out with the cool kids but you have kids of your own.

 

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The Vue Hotel is young, hip and trendy and an easy place to join the action around the venues of Houhai Lake. Then you can go back to the hotel which is secluded from the main action and put the kids to bed!

The Vue Hotel Houhai Beijing is close to where we took a rickshaw tour of a traditional hutong (a neighbourhood of alleys with courtyard homes leading of the alley). Houhai is one of the lakes in Beijing which is a popular place to hang out.

The rickshaw tours of the hutongs start near Houhai Lake

The rickshaw tours of the hutongs start near Houhai Lake

The Vue Hotel Beiing is is decorated in assorted shades of grey trendiness with pops of color. It’s design credentials are impeccable having been designed by Ministry of Design, a Singapore firm and featured in Wallpaper (naturally).

There are lots of contemporary flourishes including open-plan bathrooms like the Muscat Chedi. There is a high-end restaurant, a French pastry cafe and a slick bar.

Check out what how the Vue Houhai ranks among TripAdvisor Beijing hotels!

For the latest rates for Vue Hou Hai , here are a selection of travel booking sites.

Hotels.com Expedia

Rosewood Beijing Hotel

The Rosewood Beijing hotel is a slick sophisticated hotel set in a skyscraper. The decor is non-risk taking, high end contemporary with a calm muted palette. Think Kelly Hoppen. What’s extraordinary though is the gallery’s worth of contemporary artwork on display.

There’s a hotel spa, gym and yoga studio to add to the hotel luxury. Unfortunately,  the large emerald green pool is adults only but there is a smaller kids’ pool. There are interconnecting rooms available which would be suitable for families.

The Rosewood Beijing hotel offers several dining options (Northern Chinese, Szechuan Hot Pot and French) and a trendy bar scene. If you pay extra for the members lounge, you get free breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cocktails which is remarkably good value (for adults).

Check out what how the Rosewood Beijing ranks among TripAdvisor Beijing hotels!

For the latest rates for Rosewood Beijing, here are a selection of travel booking sites.

Booking.com Hotels.com Expedia

Opposite House

A slick, minimal and hipster-friendly boutique hotel, Opposite House Beijing is located smack dab in nightlife-central, Sanlitun. There’s nothing so bourgeois as a check-in desk for example at this Beijing boutique hotel.

Opposite House Beijing is light, airy and spacious which is hotel luxury in itself. I felt this accomplishment particularly keenly in Beijing where the city’s concrete smoggy drabness seems to weigh down on you.

There are two restaurants (Chinese and Spanish/Italian fusion cuisines), a cafe and a bar on site. There’s also a small stainless steel pool and a gym also at this Beijing boutique hotel.

In terms of family friendly, one kid can stay for free in your room at Opposite House Beijing. On the other hand, this hotel is better for teens who will appreciate the hipster quality of its hotel luxury so do you really want a teenager bunking down with you?

Check out what how Opposite House Beijing ranks among TripAdvisor Beijing hotels!

For the latest rates for Opposite House Beijing, here are a selection of travel booking sites.

Booking.com Hotels.com Expedia

 

Hotel Eclat Beijing

Hotel Eclat Beijing is located in the Parkview Green mall in fantastic location between the central business district and the nightlife area of Sanlitun. The Parkview Green is one of Beijing’s best malls. For a suburban American kid like me, a luxury hotel in a great mall is a dream come true!

Where to stay in Beijing if you are seeking luxury and good design hotels.

Where to stay in Beijing if you are seeking luxury and good design hotels.

Staying at this Beijing boutique hotel is like staying in an art gallery and also being in something like the Truman Show. You are covered by the glass dome that covers the Parkview Green – so it’s all temperature controlled and the Beijing smog is kept outside.

We didn’t have a pool but we did have interconnecting terraces in our rooms. These large terraces reminded me of Manhattan apartment living. It’s like being outside without actually the terrible heat, humidity and smog of being outside. It’s very artificial – but we loved it! I consider not having to deal with Beijing smog hotel luxury in itself.

The pools at this hotel are individual  to the particular rooms. The decor is cool and quirky. Although not an open-plan bathroom, the bathroom did have dimmable glass if you wanted the world to see you bathe (or not). My kids LOVED the lamp that you can turn on and off with a gun.

There’s no spa and the little gym is a bit lame. Obviously you can choose from Parkview Green’s mall restaurants or the hotel restaurants (Spanish or British cuisines). There’s a bar at which hotel guests get a free drink.

Check out what how Hotel Eclat Beijing ranks among TripAdvisor Beijing hotels!

For the latest rates for Hotel Eclat Beijing, here are a selection of travel booking sites.

Booking.com Hotels.com Expedia

Beijing Where To Stay Further Afield

Aman Summer Palace

If you don’t mind being away from the tourist spots in Beijing, the Aman Summer Palace is a great option. A plus side? The air is a lot cleaner when you are 1 hour+ from Beijing. You are near the Summer Palace (a UNESCO world heritage site) and pretty much nothing else.

The hotel is set up as a traditional Chinese complex (courtyards, walkways, and gardens). It’s got a gorgeous pool and spa all of which are in an underground complex oozing hotel luxury.

The Aman Summer Palace has several restaurants (steaks, Japanese and Cantonese) as well as assorted cultural craft activities on offer to make up for the fact that there’s very little to do in terms of entertainment nearby.

Tip – Even if you do not stay at the Aman Summer Palace, you should consider stopping by for tea in the library room after a visit to the Summer Palace before your long trek in traffic back to Beijing. Speaking of treks, the Summer Palace is famous for having a very long corridor of approximately 1/2 a mile. Afternoon tea will be a welcome break after experiencing this walkway and dodging hordes of domestic Chinese tourists.

The tinkling sound of Chinese music is prevalent. One of my kids’ complaints about China was this tinkly version of Chinese Muzak that you hear everywhere. I told them to get over it! The Chinese are probably as used to hearing the tinkly music and tuning it out as we are to Muzak.

Another big bonus is that you get direct access to the Summer Palace before the tourist hordes arrive. Like the rest of China’s attractions, the Summer Palace gets very crowded and so it’s nice to have this one UNESCO world heritage site almost to yourself in China.

Children under 12 can stay free with parents but only in suites and older children pay a reduced rate. There are two types of suites that have double en-suite bedrooms that sleep up to four people.

Check out what how the Aman Summer Palace ranks among TripAdvisor Beijing hotels!

For the latest rates for Aman Summer Palace, you can look it up on Expedia.

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25 Things You Should Know BEFORE Visiting China For The First Time (Especially with Kids)

25 Things You Should Know BEFORE Visiting China For The First Time (Especially with Kids)

We thought travelling to China with kids for two weeks would be a great family experience because it was one country that none of us had ever visited. In fact, we loved our China family tours so much last year, we were supposed to do it again this year. Our plans went slightly astray because Abercrombie & Kent told us that there were no foreign visas issued for Tibet in April because that is a Tibetan holy month. In fact, April is so holy that Tibetan monks ritually self-immolate in religious protest of the Chinese government. Of course, the Chinese government doesn’t want foreigners seeing any suicidal monks so it’s a no-go area.

A Two Week Highlights of China Itinerary for a Luxury China Tour

The view from the terrace of our room at the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat.

In lieu of Tibet, we toured around China for a week and then went to Japan at the pleading of the children. It’s actually a very short flight from Shanghai to Osaka airport.

My kids absolutely love Japan but they think China is merely OK. I think if we had prepared our children better for what to expect when travelling to China with kids, they would have appreciated the country more. Live and learn (from our mistakes).

Lessons From The Night Train to Shanghai

When we asked them why they wanted to skip out on seeing more of China to go to Japan, they opened up and told us how China was just so very different no matter how great the family friendly trip to China was.

This conversation did not happen easily.  We were stuck on a night train from Beijing to Shanghai which was a fairly hellish experience. First of all, they didn’t put us together.

Note – You can only buy the overnight train tickets 2 at a time. They are allocated by computer so you can’t guarantee you will sit next to each other if you are more than two people.  

Our Abercrombie & Kent guide had to beg some other passengers to move so that we could share one cabin together. Secondly, our suitcases were way too large for the space allocated (a problem we also found on Japanese trains).

So there we are in this tiny compartment with 4 suitcases, 4 carry ons and 4 people all jammed in uncomfortably for 8 or so hours. We had plenty of time for conversation. My son even came up with a song:

On the night train to Shanghai

I hit my head and cried

My sister said, shut up and die

Why Daddy why?

Could we not have gone to Dubai?

In the morning we had just nodded off into an exhausted sleep when we woke up to find a stranger in our cabin. Some man (one of the kind passengers who had moved to accommodate us the night before) was rooting through our suitcases. He had forgotten his shoes on the floor but it hadn’t occurred to him to knock on the door first.

25 Things You Should Know BEFORE Visiting China with kids #China #travel #traveltips #travelChina #Chinaguide #Chinatraveladvice #familytravel #bucketlist #travelgoals #familyvacation #visitChina #asiatravel #Chinatravel #Beijing #Shanghai

25 Things You Should Know BEFORE Visiting China For The First Time (Especially with Kids)

My husband and I have travelled extensively through developing countries whereas our children have less experience with non-Westernised countries. Some of these tips they told us for people visiting China for the first time were surprising. For example, I have no idea why squatty potties are a big deal.

25 tips for first time and family visitors to China

25 tips for first time and family visitors to China

What To Know About Travelling to China

We have learned so much from our family holidays to China that we asked our kids what people should know about travelling to china with kids. This list of 25 things to be aware of for a family friendly trip to China was compiled by our children for those people visiting China for the first time.

An Island in a Throng of People

Unless you speak Chinese, it’s a strange feeling to be surrounded by hordes of people with whom you are unable to communicate.

  • Everything is in Chinese so unlike other countries, you can’t even read basic information. There’s no sounding out words and/or guesswork in what the Chinese characters could mean. It’s completely and utterly different.
Lost in translation? But beer and coffee are always a good idea but not necessarily together.

Lost in translation? But beer and coffee are always winners but not necessarily together.

  • In the vast majority of the country, most people don’t speak English, or French, or Spanish or anything remotely related to a language you may have learned at school. The younger Chinese have learned English at school but they do not have enough practice speaking it.

Prepare for Paparazzi style attention

When you are travelling to China with kids, prepare for some major curiosity from the Chinese about you and your family. The Chinese love children and they are naturally curious. Needless to say they are curious about foreign children.

  • You get lots of attention from the Chinese such as them wanting to talk to you and/or wanting photos of you.
We have no idea who these people are but they wanted a photo with our kids.

We have no idea who these people are but they wanted a photo with our kids.

Not only were we travelling to China with kids, we caused much excitement because we had boy/girl twins. Any number of people told us how lucky we were to have one of each gender. The one child policy has been relaxed but many people feel they can’t afford to have more than one child.

  • China is a crowded country and personal space doesn’t seem to exist as a cultural concept either.

For example, on an internal flight, my daughter was doing a puzzle on her iPad. The Chinese lady next to her decided to help her. She didn’t speak any English but she reached over the tray table and started doing the puzzle with my daughter. The stranger was smart and seemed perfectly nice but my daughter was a bit bewildered.

  • The Chinese vendors seem to consider the word No as an opening gambit regardless of whether you really mean it. Maybe that is the way haggling works, but the pushy attitude confused our kids who just didn’t know what to make of it.

Different Manners

Visiting China for the first time is eye opening in terms of cultural differences of people’s behaviour.

  • My eco-friendly children were a bit shocked when they saw people casually littering. The river in Shanghai was full of litter. My kids were also aghast that older Chinese people (especially men) would cough and spit everywhere. As far as they are concerned, random spitting is littering.
  • Of course you have heard of the famous Beijing pollution, but it’s also everywhere else, just in slightly less ghastly quantities.  It’s not just air pollution, there’s also noise pollution. Except for the countryside in Guilin, Chinese cities are noisy!
Just another hazy morning in Beijing.

Just another hazy morning in Beijing. You really have to see the smog to appreciate it.

Beijing really was an eye-opener in terms of pollution. Locals wear masks to filter the air but even then, we experienced teary eyes and a burning throat.

  • People don’t really seem to think that fakes and copies of big names are a big deal. We see it as an infringement of intellectual property rights but the Chinese just shrug their shoulders.

You can find fakes everywhere – even wide out in the open in malls. Most of the women you see are carrying fake designer handbags. It’s a bit disconcerting to realise that fakes are the norm and not the exception!

If you think these are real Hermes Kelly bags, I’ve got a bridge I want to sell you.

If you think these are real Hermes Kelly bags, I’ve got a bridge I want to sell you.

Your guide or hotel will know where the good quality merchandise is sold. For example, we were taken to a high end pearl shop because we wanted to get little pearl stud earrings for our daughter. We didn’t even dare venture into buying anything like antiques. The fakes are really just that good in China.

Tip – If you want to buy fake stuff, your guide probably knows where to go for the better quality stuff. They can even bring designer items to your hotel.

Food and Drink

  • You need to be able to use chopsticks to eat easily.
Tip – If your children aren’t handy with chopsticks, get kiddy chopsticks which are attached at the top and easier to use. Alternatively carry a spoon and fork set with you like the ones you see in school lunchboxes.
  • Don’t look at some of the food photos if you are squeamish. My wannabe vegetarian daughter had conniptions when she saw some of the meat being advertised.
Fried scorpions on a stick are a street snack

Fried scorpions on a stick puts that Southern American axiom that anything fried is good to the test.

  • You can’t read most menus. Get used to pointing at something and hope you get what you want
  • My kids greeted Family Mart and Lawson (convenience store chains from Japan that are also in China) like a long lost friend. Although some of the items were the same in both countries, many were not. Convenience stores are not as good as Japan generally but pretty good. You can get dumplings, sushi etc.
  • You should always get bottled water with the seal on the cap. We paid extra for well-known brands because the last thing you want on a China family tour is one or more people having tummy issues. No… not the squatty potties again.
  • The Chinese drink tea like there’s no tomorrow. You don’t get offered water at a restaurant, you get tea.
A beautiful teapot and cup of Chinese tea

A beautiful teapot and cup of Chinese tea

Where the Sun Don’t Shine

  • You should bring your own tissue pack for public toilets.
  • Squatty potties are everywhere. We found our kids had difficult adjusting to squatty to become accustomed to using squatty potties .My daughter seemed to have an irrational fear of falling in them. And, yes, for the squeamish they do smell a fair bit.
Tip – Check out the disabled toilets which are more likely to have Western style toilets.
  • Don’t expect there to be toilets in restaurants, even in a Starbucks. They will just refer you to the nearest public toilet.

Connecting to the World

  • For free WiFi in a restaurant you need to put in a Chinese mobile numbers so it’s not actually that helpful.
  • The WiFi is painfully slow even in a major city in a five star hotel.

As luck would have it, my son was reading the book Radio Boy by Christian O’Connell  in the back seat of our car while we were stuck in Beijing traffic. He started giggling over the following passage. Our Chinese guide wanted to see what was so funny but then she got defensive over China having Wifi.

An excerpt from the book Radio Boy which our Chinese guide did not think was amusing.

Our guide was insulted when she heard my son laughing and wanted to see what he was reading.

  • It’s really beneficial to have a VPN to access the outside world. You can get one before you visit China.
  • There’s no Instagram, YouTube, FaceBook etc. It takes forever to access the internet anyway, so just get used to a social media detox.

Transportation

  • There are lots of regional airplanes in China. You should expect delays because the airports are super busy.
  • The food on regional airplanes and trains may be too different for kids.
Tip – It’s a good idea to stock up on familiar snacks at a convenience store before boarding the plane or train.
  • Trains have hot water for the making of tea, not a water fountain. And the water isn’t marked as hot so be careful. Our son almost scalded himself sticking his mouth under one of those taps.
  • Crossing the road is an adventure as a pedestrian because you have cars, motorbikes and bicycles to contend with.
A Shanghai street with pedestrians, bikes, motorbikes and cars all sharing the same space. #China #travel #traveltips #travelChina #Chinaguide #Chinatraveladvice #familytravel #bucketlist #travelgoals #familyvacation #visitChina #asiatravel #Chinatravel #Beijing #Shanghai

A Shanghai street with pedestrians, bikes, motorbikes and cars all sharing the same space.

When you travel the world, you will come across so many different ways of living. That’s the whole point of travelling right? If you wanted to experience the same thing again and again, you should just stay at home. On the other hand, as a seasoned traveller you may easily overlook things. We are grateful to our kids for providing us with a fresh pair of eyes and perspective.

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Where To Stay in Osaka Japan: A Room With A View at the Marriott Miyako Hotel For Modern Luxury

Where To Stay in Osaka Japan: A Room With A View at the Marriott Miyako Hotel For Modern Luxury

When I was in Japan on tour in 2010, I felt like I was 30 years into the future. I love technology and they are so advanced with their phones, computers, everything.

– Soulja Boy

When we were searching for where to stay in Osaka Japan, we were not short on options. We were searching for cool and modern Japan  as well as Osaka accommodation for families with a bit of style and luxury. There would be plenty of traditional places to stay elsewhere on our 2 week trip in Japan. Thanks to being the second biggest city in Japan, you will have your pick of places to stay in Osaka, including many  5 star hotels from the major hotel brands. We specifically wanted an Osaka hotel near a JR station because we were using our stay in Osaka as a base to explore other places in Japan. Our choice of the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel also made my architecture-obsessed son happy because it is located in the tallest building in Japan. So would we say the Marrott Miyako is a recommended hotels in Osaka including for families? Read on and find out.

First Impressions of the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel

My first impression of the Marriott Miyako Hotel was that it reminded me of the skyscraper hotel in the 2003 Lost in Translation movie with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johanssen. It’s striking, glossy and glamourous. The impeccably groomed receptionists are lined behind glossy long white lacquered tables. The lights of Osaka glimmer in the double-height windows. You definitely feel the sense of being small in a big city.

The reception area of the Osaka Marriott Miyako

The reception area of the Osaka Marriott Miyako

The service though added warmth to this glossy white space. Everything was organised and our room keys given to us in a jiffy. A smiling receptionist took us to our room on the 51st floor. My son was delighted – he adores skyscrapers and we had never stayed on a floor this high before. At check-in you get some freebies for staying in the tallest building in Japan, such as a discount coupon to use at the department store in the building and free passes to the observatory in the tower.

The view from the Marriott Miyako Hotel at sunset

The view from our room at the Marriott Miyako Hotel at sunset.

Family Accommodation in an Osaka 5 Star Hotel

We had a double bedded room (with queen beds) which was a good size in terms of Osaka accommodation for families.  The fancy toilet was a separate room from the  bathroom sink, bathtub and shower area.  Good thing because my kids were completely fascinated with the toilet controls and spent inordinate amounts of time in there.

Our fabulous bathroom at the Osaka Marriott Miyako hotel.

Our fabulous bathroom at the Osaka Marriott Miyako hotel.

I loved the bathroom because it is in a style usually found in high-end Japanese design. The bathtub is in a separate glass enclosure with the walk-in shower. You have all the benefits of a large walk-in shower without the water splashing everywhere.

There is a seating area, a workspace area and the usual amenities of bathrobes, a safe and mini fridge. What was extra and really nice were the Japanese pyjamas. Not only were they super comfortable but it meant that we could save our own pyjamas for later in the trip.

Style at this Osaka 5 Star Hotel

The Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel is glossy and modern. The lobby on the 38th floor is a cavernous open-plan space with double height ceilings and windows. The area is slightly subdivided with a separate gift shop and restaurant area. The middle of the floor though are bar areas. A musician plays in the evenings which is nice if you want to chill out with a drink.

One of the bar areas in the lobby

One of the bar areas in the lobby

The rooms are comfortable and cozy in feel though. It’s got a minimal of clutter which I appreciate. We bring our own clutter to hotel rooms!

There were definitely elements of Japanese traditional style at this hotel. For example, I loved this piece of pottery which incorporates the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi (the idea that imperfect is perfect). My daughter wasn’t buying it though. She thought maybe the potter had broken it and was trying to cover it up. Such cynicism.

Wabi Sabi (Imperfectly perfect) pottery at the Osaka Marriott Miyako

Wabi Sabi (Imperfectly perfect) pottery at the Osaka Marriott Miyako

Ambience of the Tallest Building in Japan

The ambience of the tallest building in Japan is definitely straight out of Lost in Translation. Giant windows overlook Osaka as it sprawls into the horizon. Fifty floors up, the people and trains below don’t seem quite real. Little toys scampering around.

Tub chairs in the lounge which overlook the Osaka city skyline

Tub chairs in the lounge which overlook the Osaka city skyline

By the way, how can this hotel be located in the tallest building in Japan? With a skyscraper geek in our family, he was only happy to educate us.

Well, technically the Tokyo SkyTree is taller but it is deemed the tallest structure in Japan. Most of the Tokyo SkyTree is unoccupied and serves as a broadcasting tower for the Tokyo metropolitan area. It’s as famous a Japanese sightseeing destination as the much smaller Eiffel Tower knock-off, the Tokyo Tower.

That leaves the Abeno Harukas building in which the Marriott Miyako Osaka is housed as the tallest building in Japan. It has 6o floors which are separated by function:

  •  the 2nd to the 14th floor is the main branch of the Kintetsu Department Store and the largest department store in Japan;
  • the 15th to the 37t floor is office space
  • the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel occupies the 38th to the 55th floor
  • the top floors have an observation deck and restaurants
No matter how slick, of course the Abeno Harukas building had a kawaii mascot

No matter how slick, of course the Abeno Harukas building had a kawaii mascot because … Japan.

By the way, we used our free tickets to the observatory in the Abeno Harukas building but can truthfully say the view from our room was just as good!

The view from our Osaka Marriott Miyako Osaka at night

The view from our Osaka Marriott Miyako Osaka at night

The Good Bits of the Marriott Hotel in Tennoji

What were we looking for when we were choosing where to stay in Osaka? A Convenient Osaka accommodation for families in a 5 star hotel with a bit of style.

There are plenty of cozy seating spaces in the open plan lounge area

There are plenty of cozy seating spaces in the open plan lounge area

Convenient Location

In terms of convenience, we really wanted an Osaka hotel near a JR station. I love Osaka for its food and fun but we knew we would be using Osaka as a base for a few days to explore other places in the region. This Osaka 5 star hotel is wonderfully located above a major transportation hub. At the end of a long day, we could drag our weary bodies straight upstairs to bed from the train station downstairs.

Amenities on Your Doorstep

Having the Kintetsu department store downstairs meant that we had quite a few options for breakfast and snacks. They have a GREAT food hall which we loved. Did I mention that my children are completely addicted to Japanese candy and sweets?

The giant train station complex meant there was lots of good shopping options, for both food and other supplies we needed..

There  is a separate convenience store which is pretty upscale for the people who work in the offices  from which we got dinner once. Of course you will need to take multiple elevators to get to it from the Marriott Miyako hotel.

The Marriott Branding

The Osaka Marriott Miyako is part of the Marriott brand and so part of the Starwood Group. You know how much I love the Starwood Group for both great hotels, excellent service and a fabulous rewards program.

We didn’t partake but this hotel does do afternoon tea.

We didn’t partake but this hotel does do afternoon tea. I did wonder what New York Breakfast tasted like – caffeine, bagels and lox?

The Great Bits of the Marriott Miyako Hotel in Osaka

What would I consider some of the extra add-ons that go above and beyond in terms of staying in an Osaka 5 star hotel?

Exceptional Service in a Medical Crises

We were very grateful to the Marriott Osaka Miyako Hotel manager for finding us an English-speaking doctor in the middle of the night. One night our son felt ill  because his ear hurt. Although he has had ear infections before, they have never occurred while we were away from home.

The concierge desk of the Osaka Marriott Miyako hotel.

The concierge desk of the Osaka Marriott Miyako hotel. I really had the impulse to peel that ‘paper’ off the wall every time I saw it.

My husband and I were in a bit of a panic about finding an A&E in country where we didn’t speak the language. My husband’s first reaction was to suggest that my son was just being dramatic and he could just power through the pain. I was not happy with that decision as the whimpering got progressively worse..

The manager at the hotel sorted everything out for us in an hour after our phone call to him.  He put  my husband and son in a hotel taxi to a hospital together with a note to the hospital explaining the circumstances in Japanese. My son was seen by an English-speaking doctor who prescribed antibiotics for a definite ear infection. My son felt better the next day  and I felt immense superiority in being right.

Excellent Location

I was looking for a good Osaka hotel near a JR station. The Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel is actually located above the massive JR Tennoji station as well as Osaka Obenabashi station for the private Kintetsu railroad.

This simplified map shows where Tennoji is in relation to the Osaka loop line (photo credit: JR Rail)

This simplified map shows where Tennoji is in relation to the Osaka loop line
(photo credit: JR Rail)

Tennoji JR station is one of the main stations in Osaka and is served by several JR and Osaka subway lines.

  • With your JR pass you can go directly from Kansai  International Airport to Tennoji JR station in half hour  on the Haruka Express or 45 minutes by the Kansai Airport Rapid Service.
  • We used the Kintetsu train from Obenabashi directly to Mount Yoshino.
  • You can go directly from Obenabashi to Mount Koya, a UNESCO world heritage site and one of Japan’s holiest places.
  • You can take the JR Yamatoji  line from Tennoji Station directly to Nara in less than an hour depending on what type of train you take.

On the JR Osaka loop line, you can use your JR pass to get around large parts of Osaka without paying extra for the Osaka subway. For example, on the loop line you can get to Osaka station and then change for a train to Himeji.

You really are spoiled for choices for transport links around and out of Osaka.

What Left Us Underwhelmed

In such a tall building, the elevator banks are a bit confusing to negotiate. It took us a while to figure them out, such as the floor we needed to get off to go directly to the JR station. The elevators themselves are speedy but different sets of elevators serve different floors.

We ordered room service once. For a simple meal of Onigiri (Japanese rice rolls) and Miso Soup, it took close to 45 minutes to deliver.Maybe they had issues navigating all those elevators too!  It’s the sort of thing you can get in a Japanese convenience store much cheaper and much faster.

On that issue of laundry, the costs are sky high. We thought very briefly about sending some items for cleaning but balked when the cost of laundry for a pair of socks came out to about $10. Instead, we just went out and bought 3 pairs of new socks for $10.

Plenty of champagne to pop as you would expect of an Osaka 5 star hotel.

Plenty of champagne to pop as you would expect of an Osaka 5 star hotel.

Our Opinion of the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel

I can definitely say the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel is our recommended hotel in Osaka, and not just because the manager got us out of a tight spot. We loved the location, the convenience and the uber-cool feel of it. Our other hotels in Japan were more traditional in feel which is what you would want in the historic areas of Kyoto and Kanazawa. In the brash neon glam of Osaka, the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel perfectly captures the modern city glamour of Japan.

Check out the great TripAdvisor reviews that the Osaka Marriott Miyako hotel received from other guests.

Compare hotel rates for this hotel on your booking engine of choice:

Hotels.com Expedia Booking

 

Sparkling chandeliers inside and sparkling city lights outside

Sparkling chandeliers inside and sparkling city lights outside

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Why You Should Make Time To Take A Tokyo To Nikko Day Trip

Why You Should Make Time To Take A Tokyo To Nikko Day Trip

Tokyo is an exhausting city which is why it’s always good to leave it for short breaks. In addition to our day trip to Hakone, we went to Nikko, a UNESCO World Heritage town set in the mountains north of Japan which is home to one of Japan’s most famous shrines. Although going from Tokyo to Nikko by train takes a mere 2 hours, it feels a world away. It was great to get some fresh mountain air and walk around without dodging people and cars. We highly recommend that you take a Nikko day trip to recharge your batteries and to explore an area that is very important to Japanese people.

Tokyo To Nikko By Train

Getting from Tokyo to Nikko by train is very easy. There are 20+ shinkansen (bullet trains) that go from Tokyo station to Utsunomiya station. Then you take a local Nikko line from Utsonomiya to Nikko station which takes about 40 minutes. The waiting time between the Shinkansen and the local Nikko line can be anywhere between 10 minutes to half an hour. Overall, the trip can take up to 2 hours.

Another one of the kawaii cardboard cut-outs that are all over Japan.

We went from Tokyo to Nikko using our JR Pass. It was all straight-forward and the entire trip was covered by the JR Pass. When you exit from the Shinkansen, follow the signs (in English) marked for Nikko. In addition, there are little monkeys on the floor showing you the way to the local Nikko train.

Nikko train signs lead you to the local train

The Nikko station itself is tiny. It does have a good tourist office but the lines can be long. Just go to the train ticket office and get a Heritage bus ticket. You can either get round-trip or one-way. Alternatively, you can walk 40 minutes up to the shrine. We split the difference and took the bus uphill and meandered downhill at our own pace..

Why You Should Make Time To Take A Tokyo To Nikko Day Trip

Why make time to visit Nikko from Tokyo and how to get there

One Day in Nikko Sightseeing

Nikko Sightseeing must include the Nikko Heritage sites. No two ways about it, they are the stars of the show. In addition to Nikko’s heritage sites though, there is nature to explore in the form of Lake Chuzenji and waterfalls. We are city people at heart though and we opted to explore the charming town of Nikko.

What to Do in Nikko: Heritage Sites and Nature

If you don’t achieve temple/shrine fatigue by the end of visiting Nikko’s heritage sites, you are a superstar.

Rinnoji-Temple

Rinnoji-temple is undergoing renovation which has been ongoing for a couple of years. It is dedicated to the Buddhist monk who introduced Buddhism to Nikko in the 8th century.

It was believed that a dragon on the ceiling of a Nikko temple protects the building from fire.

Why the monkeys everywhere? Because Nikko is where that famous saying “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” comes from. It’s a word play on the Japanese word for monkey and is supposed to help children learn Buddhist principles.

The 3 monkeys plaque at the Nikko Shrine

Toshugu Shrine

The Toshugu shrine is in honour of Ieyasu Tokugawa, who unified the country under shogun leadership ending years of battling warlords. His grandson built this shrine and clearly he wanted everyone to know his grandpa was THE MAN.

The purification area before you enter the Nikko Toshugu Shrine

The Nikko Toshugu shrines are unlike anything we had ever seen in Japan. Because it is. Usually shinto shrines have plain aesthetics but the Toshugu shrine is more like Chinese temples. More is simply not enough.

The warehouses that store the costumes for the annual Nikko festival

The rooftops at the Nikko Toshugu Shrine complex nestled in the trees.

The 5 tier pagoda at the Nikko Toshugu shrine

Nikko National Park

Nikko National Park is considered one of Japan’s most scenic areas – mountains, waterfalls and lakes. It’s free to enter the park and the temples and shrines are technically within Nikko National Park.

The Shinkyo Bridge in Nikko National Park

Things to Do in Nikko Town

We had great food in Nikko at a Japanese restaurant that looked a bit tattered. The walls were covered with post-it notes from all around the world so we knew we had stumbled onto a winner. Hippari-Daku is casual, great for kids and serves yakitori and beer.

A nikko street lantern with dragons

The town is charming with lots of little souvenir shops, eateries and vintage shops. We found some great unusual souvenirs which were cheaper than anything we could find in Tokyo or Kyoto.

An antique samurai helmet in a store in Nikko – yours for 800,000 Yen (about $8,000).

It’s great for browsing with friendly locals. My daughter pronounced the crepe she had from Marion’s creperie one of the best crepe she’s ever had and she is a bit of a crepe connoisseur.

Giant tori gate at Nikko National Park

Why You Should Make Time To Take A Tokyo To Nikko Day Trip

Why You Should Make Time To Take A Tokyo To Nikko Day Trip

Why make time to visit Nikko from Tokyo and how to get there

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