By Bonson Lam
Everyone wants to stay at Nanba (sometimes spelt as Namba). Close to Department Store heaven, and gateway to the Dotonbori entertainment district, this is the place to shop to your heart's content, or party till dawn.
As you are more likely to be out than inside your room during the day, Nanba has a number of budget hotels that will suit you. If you want to know what you are in for, the Toyoko inn could be a good choice.
Toyoko Inn is one of the biggest business hotel chains in Japan, and now with hotels in China and South Korea as well. Super clean rooms, pleasant homely beige and striped wallpaper, comfortable but firm beds, a bath/shower, complementary yukata pyjamas, your own phone, a bar fridge, a writing desk, individually controlled reverse cycle air conditioning, complementary Japanese tea, and some nice touches, like a hot water kettle with a humidifier function, and a TV showing Japanese channels with movies on demand.
In the reception area there are a few complementary Internet laptops/PCs, Wi Fi, English and Japanese Newspapers, and a simple but hearty breakfast included in all tariffs each morning, consisting of miso soup, onegiri (Japanese rice balls (actually triangular shape) with seaweed or umeboshi (pickled plum), and sometimes croissants/ bread rolls, mini sausages or scrambled egg and Japanese style salads, like pasta salad with Japanese mayonnaise, or potato salad, plus Japanese or English tea and American Coffee. Of course if you prefer to drink something else, or sleep in past nine thirty and miss the breakfast, there are always the vending machines.
Being more like a home base, they also have luggage storage and coin operated washing machines and clothes dryers. Great idea when you are travelling for a long time and you run out of clothes (or socks!) Of course if you have time, you can do your laundry in your own bathroom and pull out the retractable clothes line to dry overnight. If you prefer fresh air, the windows open too.
The great thing about the Nanba Hotel is that it is quite central, just five minutes walk from the subway or JR or Kintetsu line. It is probably a bit further than some other business hotels, but it is an easy level walk from the Nankai Nanba (Kansai Airport line) station, even if you are rolling a 23 kg luggage case.
Take exit 5 from Nanba station and walk south west for about two blocks. It is across the road from the Seven Eleven - you can’t miss the massive neon blue sign.
If you are on a lower level floor, you can easily walk down the fire stairs, so you can duck in and out without waiting for the lifts. These lifts can get crowded during breakfast or check out time, so those extra minutes help you pack in more sightseeing.
As most guests are Japanese, the staff themselves won’t speak too much English. However both the internet booking and check in process is really simple. The booking site is in several languages, and you can even change or cancel your booking up to a day ahead. You should print out the map just in case. They also provide slightly cheaper rates for single rooms, and discounts on Sundays. Sometimes they offer “Cinderella” plans where you get a discount for turning up with no reservation after midnight. I wouldn’t chance it though, as this hotel is usually full by midnight. With the check in, they hand you a bilingual form to fill in, and if you are a member of their loyalty program, you get a free night after 8 or 10 nights (depending which membership you take up, which is free or just for a nominal amount). You only have to stay at their hotels once a year or every two years (for overseas members) to maintain your currency. The other plus with members is that you can check in from 3pm instead of 4pm. I haven’t heard of anyone who managed to get a late checkout (after 10am) from them, however, if you have luggage they can store it for you free.
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