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Kyoto, with its rich history and vibrant culture, is gradually becoming a victim of its success. Crowds hinder any sort of appreciation of the unique destinations the city has to offer and sometimes pose problems for the residents as well. Guests can sometimes feel the need to get out of the crowded capital.
Choosing to stay in the neighboring Shiga Prefecture provides quick access to the ancient capital, only about ten minutes by train, while also allowing visitors the ability to discover the tranquil surroundings of Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan. This region offers tourists many sites that deserve to be listed on a travel itinerary to Japan: Omihachiman, Hikone or the island of Chikubu are just a few examples.
Lake Biwa Otsu Prince Hotel close to Kyoto
The hotel I stayed at during my trip to Shiga is in Otsu. This city is conveniently located just 10 minutes by train from Kyoto and is mainly known for the Lake Biwa fireworks festival, one of the biggest firework displays in Japan – 10,000 fireworks are fired over the lake. The event attracts approximately 300,000 spectators in early August. The rest of the year, Otsu is a quiet city, a real network joining Kyoto and some other regions in Kansai, on the shores of Lake Biwa.
Not to be missed, the Prince Hotel overlooks the lake from its 37th floors. The building’s shape is easily recognizable and all 520 rooms and 7 restaurants have large windows overlooking Lake Biwa.
Lake Biwa Otsu Prince Hotel offers a very convenient luggage storage service from Kyoto Station; you can leave your luggage at the station, then spend the day without worrying about your luggage, all of your luggage is delivered to the hotel. All information is on the Prince Hotel website.
A second important service is the shuttle bus between Otsu Station and the hotel (see timetables here). When leaving the station, just take the main road; the stop is on the left sidewalk, about 2 minutes away. If you prefer to walk, it will take you about 30 minutes to get to the lake. Then go down the main street from the station and turn right to go along the shore.
Upon check-in, Prince Nyo, the mascot of Lake Biwa Otsu Prince Hotel, welcomes guests. If you like games or puzzles, or have some time waiting in the lobby, know that Nyo-chan, his nick name, is hiding somewhere on the carpet of the lobby!
Lake Biwa Otsu Prince Hotel is a luxury hotel, providing all of these convenient services for their guests free of charge. Their efforts are made for foreign tourists as well, English speaking staffs are present at the reception desk.
Rooms with Stunning Views of Lake Biwa
The rooms are its main feature. They are large (from 30 to 60 m²), comfortable and well equipped, with breathtaking views of Lake Biwa.
Some rooms are decorated with ramie textile, an Asian cousin of the traditionally woven nettle in Aisho, on the east shore of Lake Biwa. The patterns are reminiscent of the rainbows that appear very regularly over the lake. These rainbows are so common and famous that they have their own weather forcast online.
Afternoon Tea at the Lobby Lounge
In the lobby, a recently renovated lounge area has just opened. Visitors can enjoy an afternoon tea or a variety of bread, cakes, and pastries, in a relaxed and chic atmosphere, typical of luxury hotels. The pastries are excellent.
Dinner at Shimizu Japanese Restaurant
I had the chance to dine in the very chic Shimizu restaurant, which offers gourmet Japanese kaiseki cuisine. The waitress brought me 8 successive dishes, each one usually composed of several elements. This type of meal, extremely refined, allows us to taste a variety of flavors.
The ingredients are mostly local and seasonal, such as matsutake mushrooms or Omi beef, to which the famous Kobe beef has nothing to envy. It is difficult to list all the dishes and ingredients that make up this meal, but I think the pictures can tell you!
But if this type of meal is not for you, Lake Biwa Otsu Prince Hotel has several other restaurants, including one dedicated to Chinese and one to French cuisine.
Unlimited Breakfast Overlooking Lake Biwa
After picking up the New York Times (and its supplement the Japan Times) hanging on the door handle of your room, head to Dining Biona on the 37th floor, where breakfast is served.
Here again, of course, the view of the lake is magnificent. Enjoy a traditional Japanese breakfast made with grilled fish, rice, and miso soup, I know that for some it is a little difficult to eat Japanese food early in the morning. No worries here, the choices are endless, both on the Japanese side (fish and soups) and Western. There were sweet and salty dishes, and even camembert!
More information and reservations on Lake Biwa Otsu Prince Hotel official website.
More information about tours, activities and accommodation in Otsu on the website of the Biwako-Otsu Tourist Office.
For more tourist information to plan a trip around Lake Biwa, you can also visit the Shiga Tourism website.
How to Get There ?
Otsu is only 10 minutes from Kyoto by train by JR lines. About 2 hours 40 min. from Tokyo by shinkansen with a transfer at Kyoto Station.[cft format=0]
Original article by Clémentine Cintré
Translated by Aika Ikeda