Review: Okayama Kooraku Hotel, Japan
Japanese hotels are famous for having small and expensive rooms in comparison to other countries, this is especially true during cherry blossom season when the cost of lodging increases exponentially; I once found a place had increased its price by 200%!
Space is such a premium in Japan that you generally need to pay through the nose for floor space and amenities. This was why I was pleasantly surprised by Kooraku (sometimes called Koraku) hotel in Okayama during my 2 night stay there, it was by far the best modern hotel I’d stayed at in my 2019 Japan trip and the quality of stay was way beyond its modest price tag.
I paid 68.50 GBP / 10,770.11 JPY per night at Kooraku hotel for a non-smoking room on the fifth floor. The hotel was located in a 5 minute walk from JR Okayama station one street behind the main street and 15 minutes away from Okayama Koraku-en Garden; perceived as the main attraction of Okayama for many. It was also a minute away from the popular restaurant Akitsukasa Nomura which specialised in the local specialty: demi-katsudon.
I chose the hotel based on a number of factors: the large number of positive reviews online, the price of the rooms, the availability of free cancellation and its location. The location was especially important as we were planning to head early to Naoshima Art island (read my Naoshima Island Review) for our second day in Okayama and wanted to be close to the station. Kooraku ticked all these boxes and more.
When we first entered Kooraku hotel the reception area immediately made an impression; it had a large sitting area, modern dark furnishings and was decorated with plenty of local artwork and Bizen pottery. Bizen pottery is a specialty of Okayama and is characterised by a muted glazing and dark colours appearing burnt into the surface. Apparently you could throw a well crafted bit of Bizen pottery and it wouldn’t break, but unfortunately class cabinets prevented me from trying this out. The hotel was also connected to a mini supermarket next door which shockingly wasn’t 7-11, Family Mart nor Lawson; so apparently miracles do exist. The hotel also had its own restaurant but we didn’t have a chance to try it during our short stay.
There were two lifts requiring your card key to operate of which we had two of; you know a hotel means serious business when you aren’t forced to share passes. This wasn’t the case for the majority of the hotels we had been to and I was pleased no-one would end up standing outside the room at 12am like a rejected puppy here.
As a side note it was a bonus that the decorations were consistent on the other floors and wasn’t just limited to a flashy reception area.
Our room was the largest one we’d slept in during the trip barring the ryokans which were inherently more expensive, we had space to put both suitcases on the floor and to walk around without tripping over them. This may not sound that impressive, but in Japan every inch of floor space counts; there’s a reason why so many Japanese establishments are stacked on top of each other.
However floor space alone didn’t make Kooraku so attractive to me despite making things much more comfortable.
What made all the difference? One word: laundry.
Is it odd that I’m not the biggest fan of doing laundry back in the UK, but go crazy about the laundry facilities in hotels abroad?
It wasn’t just that Kooraku had its own laundry room with dryers and washing machines since plenty of hotels have something similar, it was the:
- Free detergent
- Free wash baskets rental
- Free hangers rental
- Free full sized drying racks rental
- Free hanging racks rental
This combined with the adequate floor space in our room meant that we were able to easily accommodate a whole week’s worth of laundry for two people without sacrificing any space. It was laundry heaven.
In fact if you felt that you needed even more space for hanging clothes there was a clothesline in the bathroom that you could pull out and click into place above the bathtub.
The only way they could improve it was to give us a separate laundry room to hang clothes; which was unlikely, or to make the washing machines and dryers free; which is unsustainable.
Never underestimate the usefulness of good laundry facilities, there’s just something about getting clothes clean cheaply and conveniently that is very satisfying; not least from the fact that you didn’t have to drag your dirty laundry about in your travels.
My boyfriend didn’t really get it and therefore should be ashamed of himself.
There were also so many random optional extras that the hotel offered especially items for children; I ended up trying out their complimentary glasses cleaning service using UV lighting as well as their foot massage machines. The foot machine they bring to your room and we had to pour in the water ourselves. It wasn’t fully automated with manual rollers and a single spinning piece on top which had replaceable heads like an electric toothbrush. The experience wasn’t mind-blowing, but relaxing enough and much appreciated at the end of a long day.
Regarding the level of customer care the staff were very courteous and spoke passable English, however I found all the Japanese hotel staff I’d encountered to be pleasant and polite on this trip so unfortunately this hadn’t stood out
The only downside, or upside if you are a hipster, is that Kooraku isn’t a hotel chain and only exists in Okayama. Nevertheless I strongly recommend this hotel if you ever need to stay the night in Okayama.