For my most recent trip to Japan, I decided to trade the swelling crowds in Kyoto for a serene weekend at her eastern neighbour, Shiga.
Compared to tourist-ridden Kyoto, Shiga Prefecture is a much quieter place that remains relatively undiscovered compared to her far more famous neighbours. Most visitors, mainly domestic with a scattering of tour groups from China and Hong Kong, head for a lake-side hotel or ryokan to enjoy commanding views of Lake Shiga. However, to experience a real slice of life, I highly recommend a couple of nights at Hotel Koo Otsuhyakucho in Otsu.
A relative newcomer to Shiga’s line-up of holiday accommodations, Hotel Koo Otsuhyakucho brands itself more than just a nightly pitstop. Located in the middle of a residential neighbourhood with a mix of traditional two-storey buildings and modern apartments, this award-winning establishment aims to breathe life into local businesses by attracting visitors from far and wide.
It’s not hard to see why it snagged the 2018 Good Design Award for Regional and Community Building, either. While Hotel Koo has retained the traditional exterior of the machiya (Japanese traditional house) it inherited, the interior boasts a blend of contemporary decor with traditional elements.
The reception building, Ohmiya, hosts Hotel Koo’s reception, lounge, and dining area, while other rooms and suites can be found across the hotel’s seven buildings elsewhere in the old arcade. Blink and you’ll miss one of its guesthouses nestled amongst other stores!
Hotel Koo offers more than a roof over your head in Shiga. Aside from a gorgeous interior which exudes Muji vibes, guests can find respite in one of the hotel’s two lounges, which is fitted generously with complimentary snacks and drinks – tea in the daytime, and alcoholic choices in the evening. Peruse a magazine, pick up a calling card from one the many local businesses, or simply ask the staff for a lunch or dinner recommendation.
At approximately S$250 a night, I thought my Standard Twin Road View Room in Chaya Building was a real steal. Located next door from the Ohchiya Building and fitted with its own guest lounge, Chaya Building affords privacy and convenience for guests. There’s even a shoe locker assigned to each room at the ground level, so you need not worry about sullying your room.
Like the communal areas, Hotel Koo’s guest rooms are tastefully fitted with contemporary furnishings with traditional trimmings. My room felt like a miniature apartment, with sliding doors to insulate me from the rest of the area if I felt like it. I dare say I’m taking some decorating tips for my future home from my stay! Guests can even dial the front desk using the room’s mini iPad, and access their rooms via a customised passcode that changes with every check-in.
Meals wise, Hotel Koo serves breakfast for an add on of ¥2, 500, but you can also depend on the staff for some winning recommendations on local restaurants and diners to check out around the neighbourhood.
At breakfast, guests can sample the best that Shiga has to offer, from the chazuke with preserved fish and chawanmushi, to the bento box of local appetisers, including yuba and konyaku.
I thoroughly enjoyed my short stay at Hotel Koo Otsuhyakucho and cannot recommend it enough if you’re visiting Shiga. There is something incredibly charming about this place that blends traditional and contemporary aesthetics so harmoniously. Plus points for the incredible staff too, who go out of their way to make your stay a perfect one and take genuine interest in helping you find the best dining spots in Otsu!
Address: 1 Chome-2-6 Central, Otsu, Shiga 520-0043
Nearest Train Station: Kamisakaemachi Station
Contact: +81 77 516 7475