Kyoto, with its more than 2000 temples and shrines, its stunning natural beauty and centuries
old kaiseki ryori is a top destination for travellers visiting Japan.
Because more tourists come each year, more and more accommodations have gone up from
cheerful hostels for backpackers to high end luxury ryokans that charge top prices for unique experiences.
Somewhere in the middle are hotels for ordinary travellers like us -- one of the newer ones
is Sakura Terrace Hotel in the area of Kyoto Station. I stayed here first in April, enjoyed it so much that I decided to book again for our holiday this December.
Whether you arrive via shinkansen from Tokyo, or via the Haruka Express from Kansai Airport,
you will invariably land at Kyoto Station. To get to Sakura Terrace, head for the Hachijo exit
which is the station side away from Kyoto Tower. Cross to Avanti Mall and turn into the street, walking away from the station.
It's roughly a kilometre walk to the hotel, just walk straight down the wide road. You will pass small restaurants, the ubiquitous convenience stores and Daiwa Roynet Hotel. Sakura Terrace will be on the right side of the road.
You won't miss the hotel, it's right at a major intersection.
The hotel is right on top the Kujo subway station which makes it convenient for getting around the city. There are also bus stops across the street where you can take buses to different parts of Kyoto.
The standard rooms are spare, simple and measure 18 square meters. There is
more than enough space for our big suitcases. Beyond the sliding glass door is a terrace
which is a nice feature in some of the rooms of the hotel.
The terrace comes with patio furniture -- two chairs and a small table. While 5C is a bit too cold to stay outdoors for long, we enjoy stepping out and looking at the view.
Kyoto does not have skyscrapers like Tokyo so the view from our terrace shows the mountains surrounding the city -- clear and unobstructed, specially on a bright winter morning.
Japanese hotel bathrooms never cease to amaze me -- they are models of space saving efficiency.
Sakura Terrace's bathroom amenities include complete toiletry kits and premium Shiseido bath and
True to its name, the hotel has an attractive terrace area on the ground floor where you can sit and enjoy your drink. Instead of giving guests one welcome drink when they check in, Sakura Terrace offers one free drink per guest each night that you stay in the hotel.
I like to think of it as "okaerinasai" (welcome back!) drink. You can choose from fresh juices, mocktails, cocktails, wine, sake, shochu, and hooray for me ... beer is on the house too.
The free drinks are available from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.
There are heaters scattered around the outdoor terrace, to keep guests who are brave enough to stay outside, nice and toasty warm.
One of the two things I like best about Sakura Terrace are the public baths -- one for ladies and
one for men. If like me, you are a fan of the Japanese onsen, you'll really see this as a big plus.
Not all hotels have public baths on their premises. I'm sorry I can't show you the inside but the "pool" is big enough to comfortably fit 6 to 8 guests. The temperature is perfect too, not scalding
but really hot to take out all the knots and kinks.
Here's a tip -- during busy season when the hotel is full, go either very early in the morning or very late at night and you can have the bath almost all to yourself.
The baths are open from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and again from 7 p.m to 1:00 a.m.
And here is my very favourite feature of Sakura Terrace -- the delicious and varied Japanese and western buffet breakfast. This is served every morning, from 6:30 to 10 at the area near the entrance to the hotel.
Indoor seating can be quite limited particularly when the hotel is full. If you don't want to wait,
you can take your breakfast tray and eat outside. Heaters and blankets are provided during the
There are freshly squeezed juices - orange, grapefruit and even tomato.
I like to start my day with the plain yoghurt dressed up with the mixed berry compote.
There is a dizzying array of breads -- croissants, soft rolls, danish pastries, Japanese breads.
The walnut rolls are specially good.
You can watch the kitchen staff assemble these sandwiches right before your eyes -- you can even make a request -- no onions on my ham on white bread please!
There are tasty little pork sausages, thick slices of bacon with asparagus and that Japanese favourite --
little round hamburg steaks in brown gravy.
Instead of having plain white rice, Sakura Terrace serves up these yummy rice rolls, topped with plum or with various kinds of furikake. Tasty and tastefully inventive at the same time.
There are different kinds of Japanese side dishes ...
And you can also create your own healthy breakfast salad.
You can choose from three different blends at the coffee machine -- mild, regular or dark.
Coffee and tea are available for free throughout the day.
It's almost too difficult to get up from my cozy chair after that indulgent breakfast. These soft furry cushions are a stylish, snug touch.
To help their guests maximise their visit to Kyoto, the hotel has leaflets that give
directions to 23 of the city's top destinations. Each leaflet tells you how to get to each place
via bus, train or subway and how to connect to nearby destinations.
It's a service that I appreciate and find much more helpful and easier than trying to read a city map.
Sakura Terrace truly delights its guests in many thoughtful and tasteful ways.