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Chisun Inn Tsuchiura Ami

Decent comfort at a decent price

Chisun Inns are a nationwide chain of budget hotels, designed to provide reasonable comfort at good value. They're generally aimed at business travelers or people driving across country, but can also often be found in cities or near interesting out-of-the-way sights.

Chisun Inn Tsuchiura-Ami is typical of the chain. The location is on a bypass near Tsuchiura and Tsukuba, easy to get to if you're driving but not so convenient otherwise, as it's half an hour's walk from the nearest station (longer if, like me, you stop off on the way at the big used goods store Book Off Bazaar). It's in a mostly residential area, and there are a number of stores and places to eat nearby; just across the road is the cheap'n'cheerful Ami Shopping Center, while a few minutes down the road there's a supermarket which is open until late if you're in need of supplies beyond the soft drinks, beer and instant noodles you can get from the hotel's vending machines.

My room was pretty boxy, but comfortable enough, with sufficient space to hang my clothes and put my bags down. The color scheme of warm earthtones and small touches like the little picture on the wall above the bed made the room feel cosier and less sterile than other business hotels I've stayed at. The bathroom was also compact, with a good powerful shower, and is also equipped with a line to hang your clothes to dry if you do your laundry in the hotel's washing machines.

For an extra five hundred yen you can have the buffet breakfast, providing a mix of Japanese and western food. There's rice, fish, salad and miso soup, but also eggs, sausages, cereal and toast, along with coffee, tea and juice; if you're not in a hurry it's a nice way to start the day.

Nearby attractions include the Ami Premium Outlet, a shopping center with a wide range of brands at bargain prices, and Japan's tallest statue, the 120-meter Ushiku Daibutsu. From Tsuchiura it's also possible to take a boat ride on Lake Kasumigaura, or to go birdwatching in the wetlands around the lake.

Booking is easy on the English website, and if you book far enough in advance there are real bargains to be had, with prices as low as ¥3600 a night. It's not a luxurious place to stay, but for budget-conscious travelers or backpackers looking for a break from dorms, it's a good choice at a good price.

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