Over New Year’s Eve, my family and I decided to take a skiing vacation to Hokkaido. I’ve heard amazing things about the powder there, and also about the ski instruction for little kids there, including in English. My 5 year old son has never been skiing, so I wanted to introduce him there. It is about 4 hours of flying from Okinawa, similar in travel time to what you’d experience going to Colorado or Utah from the East Coast.
I booked us on JAL using British Airways Avios going there, and using ANA’s “Experience Japan” fares coming back, as I have an off-chance of hitting United Airways Silver status this year. I’m not gunning for silver, but if I get it that’d be pretty cool. It is 15k Avios per person, from OKA – HND – CTS, which is great considering one way fare there is at least $400 per person during ski season. The Experience Japan fares are great because they’re less than $90 per person (Check out Derp Report’s post on them).
Originally, we were going to fly right there, but I found an extra day of liberty, so we decided to spend a day in Tokyo, use one of my expiring IHG free night certs for the night, then go on to Hokkaido the next day. We decided that the Intercontinental Tokyo The Strings looked really nice, had decent reviews, and wasn’t too far from Haneda, so I booked it.
Unfortunately our flight was delayed, so we didn’t get in to Haneda until late. The hotel, fortunately, is not far from HND. Per the webpage, “This hotel is near Shinagawa Station, with direct access via the Shinkansen Bullet Train to Yokohama, Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe. The famous Tsukiji Fish Market and Ginza district are nearby; Haneda International Airport is 15 minutes away from our hotel in Tokyo by Airport Express Train, whilst Narita International Airport is 70 minutes by Airport Express train.” I’d say the train journey door-to-door is more like at least 30 minutes, with some additional confusion about how to get there from Shinagawa Station; it is not exactly straightforward to find it, as there are towering buildings all linked by a maze of elevated sidewalks and catwalks in the area.
When we finally found it, and took the elevator up to the main lobby, we were very impressed:
There is a huge atrium with a pond underneath the transparent bridge, and a bar and restaurant there too. It was amazingly quiet in there too. Check in was easy, although they barely acknowledged my IHG Platinum status (not that it’s hard to achieve). There were incredibly friendly, and spoke great English, but unfortunately informed that there were no complimentary room upgrades or complimentary breakfast available (never hurts to ask!). They insisted on taking our luggage up to the room for us, despite our pleading.
When we got to the room, however, is was decidedly underwhelming compared to the lobby:
I’m not a huge fan of big rooms, but this room was TINY. Barely enough room for the bags and the three of us. Fortunately, our son can sleep anywhere, and indeed was happily ensconced on the small couch by the window. I had to ask for extra pillows as there were only two for the whole room and no extra bedding for my son. The bed was comfy but I was not a fan of the pillows, as they were way too flat. There was a pillow selection, and the “pipe-pillow” caught my attention, so I ordered one. They’re filled with hollow plastic tubes. Sounds weird right? Oh my goodness is was so nice, especially if you’re a “hot sleeper” like me! I’m ordering one as soon as I find one that will ship to an FPO address! Check it out if you get the chance!
The bathroom was also very tiny. The amenities were nice, and thank goodness they have a Japanese-style washlet (my favorite!).
It was somewhat confusing also, because there was a bottle of red wine on the counter that looked complimentary. Thank goodness I asked, because it was kind of expensive.
The surrounding area seemed really cool; I wish our flight hadn’t been delayed so we could’ve explored more. We had to be at the airport the next morning around 11ish, so couldn’t do it then either
Overall, this was a MEH experience for us. It would’ve been fine for a solo traveller or couple, but way too small for a family with skiing luggage. I don’t think I’d go out of my way to come here again, although it was free. I want to stress again though that the hotel staff couldn’t have been nicer or more accomodating.
(They even took our picture)