We arrive into Kyoto station on the Shinkansen train from Tokyo and head outside to in search of the hotel’s free shuttle bus which turns out not to be clearly marked. It’s located where all the other buses stop on a small traffic island across from the Harvey’s grocery store in the station. The bus leaves the station on the hour and the half hour. Though we did not discover this until our last day, there is a satellite concierge office inside the station which can guide you to the bus stop and store luggage if you need it. The drive to the hotel takes almost ½ an hour in traffic, but the ride can also take as little as 15 minutes. In the opposite direction, from the hotel to the station, the bus makes a stop in Kyoto’s Gion neighborhood, but only to let people off, and does not allow guests back on to go back to the hotel (I never quite understood this).
The Westin Miyako is a Starwood property and I had booked a standard room, using cash plus SPG points ($60 plus 4000 points per night) for 3 nights. I have SPG Gold status and at check-in we ask about getting access to the Club Lounge and are told it is only given to Platinum level guests. When we ask about the cost of an upgrade to a club level room which would give us access to the lounge, we’re told we can have that for an additional 1500 points a night. The upgrade gives access to the lounge for breakfast, coffee throughout the day, and evening cocktails. The lounge has free wifi and in addition, we could use our breakfast vouchers for the buffet breakfast in the main part of the hotel which is substantially better than the lounge’s continental offerings.
We accept the upgrade, and head up to our room on the 5th floor. The room is nice and has a view over the valley and hills, but has a very small bathroom. We felt that for the added expense of 1500 points a night, perhaps the room should have been better than standard. It can’t hurt to ask, right? I’d read that Club Level rooms were on the top floors so I didn’t understand why we were on the lowest guest floor. Still, it did seem to have some of the upgraded amenities of the club level rooms (robes, pajamas, etc.) which are not included in the standard rooms. We debate for a while about what to do and decide to go ask if this is indeed a “Club Level” room.
The young woman who had checked us in was still at the front desk, and when we ask about the room, she admits it is not a Club room. But there is also a bit of a language break down (we speak no Japanese and her English is not very strong). What we learn is this; official “club” rooms are on floors 9 and 10 but only have views of the interior courtyard and mountains andshe knew we wanted a room with a view over the city. In addition, Club rooms aren’t really any larger than the standard room. She thought the view was more important to us so that’s why she had given us the room on the 5th floor.
She then starts offering us other rooms, including one on a corner on a higher floor with a view and another which is a Junior Suite. When I ask about the Junior Suite, she picks up the phone, speaks to a supervisor and then says she could offer it to us, on the 8thfloor with a view of the city. All this for the same 1500 point upgrade. It does make one wonder why it wasn’t offered from the beginning. We say ok, sight unseen, and are taken back to our old room by a trainee with a luggage cart who moves us to the new room.
The new room is huge, with 1960’s furniture and a king-sized bed. It’s connected to a very large suite (via internal door) on one side andanother room on the other. On one side of the entrance hallway was a dressing room with closet and vanity. On the other side is the bathroom with a separate glassed in room for the toilet, another marble walled room with two sinks, anda third room with more marble and glass which had a walk in shower and tub. The amenities were upgraded large size Bulgari toiletries.
Besides the king sized bed, the bedroom has a writing desk, two low slung vintage chairs with a small table and a stunning view over the valley, city and small temple next door. A wide sideboard has a large flat screen tv, coffee maker, minibar and safe. The only drawback to the room is a lack of available outlet plugs near the desk and bed for charging our electronic gizmos. We love this room, including the 60’s vintage decor, and it just goes to show if you are polite and pleasant, it can never hurt to ask about other options at check-in.
The club lounge is located on the 10th floor and has an amazing view over the entire city. It’s fairly small, with 12-15 tables, and not much on offer in terms of the complimentary drinks and snacks of other Starwood Lounges we’ve visited. During the evening cocktail hour, they provide each guest with a small plate of 4 canapés. That’s it for food, except for some mixed nuts, crackers andone plate with a wedge of cheese on it. There’s a small selection of beer and wine, a coffee machine, and a few different liquors for make-your-own cocktails. We are forever spoiled by the generous offerings of the Club Lounges at the Sheraton Saigon and Panama City.
Breakfast in the buffet on 2nd floor has ten times the continental offerings of the Club lounge. The buffet breakfast is normally 3600 yen and therefore made the “cost” of our room upgrade worth it for breakfast vouchers alone.
The Japanese breakfast options outshine the western offerings and I find myself eating cold poached tofu with ginger and soy sauce every morning, along with some picked vegetables. There are three kinds of rice (red rice being very popular and local here in Kyoto), miso soup and congee. In addition to the Japanese choices, there’s yogurt and fruit and all the traditional starches; French toast, hash browns and pastries and it’s easy to try small bits of everything. It’s a little psychotic eclectic but it works for me. The bacon seems very undercooked for American tastes as are the scrambled eggs, though eggs cooked to order and omelettes are available. There are also salad and cold cut offerings and I notice many of the Japanese guests having the salads along with the Japanese choices.
In the end, we enjoyed our stay in this hotel. I realize the vintage (some might say “not updated” ) decor of the room might not be for everyone, but we liked it, and since the bathroom had been updated, we thought it was quite nice. The location is a bit far from the center, but the subway stop next door is convenient as well as is the free shuttle bus.
The hotel is right across the street from the “Philisopher’s Path, ” a winding path along a canal lined with cherry trees and several temples and has its own nature trail behind it which supposedly has good bird watching opportunities. Unfortunately, due to time and weather, we were only able to see one of the temples in the neighborhood, but probably could have spent an entire day wandering just the nature trail and the Philosopher’s Path. Finally, there are several small, inexpensive restaurants in the area and the front desk has a map with all their locations.