Hardly anyone stays in Nara while traveling, but this hotel shows how they’re missing out.

So here’s a surprising statistic. According to Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism, among all of Japan’s 47 prefectures, Nara regularly ranks last or second to last in number of annual hotel guests.

That’s in spite of Nara boasting some breathtaking travel attractions, like the herds of deer that roam Nara Park or the Shimo no Negimichi shrine trail. Perhaps part of the problem is that Nara, which used to be the capital of Japan, is located so close to another, more famous former capital: Kyoto. Since Kyoto and Nara are only about 30 minutes apart by train, even when tourists do visit Nara, many of them do so while staying in a Kyoto hotel.

However, with the continuing Kyoto travel boom, it’s getting increasingly difficult to find hotel vacancies in Kyoto, and prices are going up too. So now is a good time to reconsider Nara as an option when deciding where to stay during your Japan travels, and if you’re looking for someplace with hot spring baths and a location right by the site of the former imperial palace, Nara City’s Kamenoi Hotel Nara is just the place.

We visited the hotel on a JR Central press tour, and we literally couldn’t have been any closer to the Heijo Palace grounds without being inside them or in the middle of the road.

▼ That’s the hotel’s parking lot in the foreground, and the Heijo Palace grounds across the street.

From the window of our room, we could see the palace’s reconstructed Daigokuden audience hall, which is lit up at night…

…and also the Daigokumon Gate.

The hotel is located about a 15-minute walk from Yamato Saidaiji Station, in the opposite direction from Nara Station as Nara Park. This gives it some extra tranquility, but for those who really want to relax, one of the hotel’s most popular room types is a mixed Japanese/Western-style room with its own private hot spring bath with a view.

And yes, that’s genuine natural hot spring water flowing into the tub.

The mixed Western and Japanese-style interior shakes out to a Japanese-style sitting/dining area with tatami reed floor mats…

…and a Western-style bedroom with beds and mattresses, as opposed to futon sleeping mats.

▼ The bedroom opens into the bath area, so you can dive into the covers and fall asleep as soon as you’ve dried yourself off from your relaxing soak.

As you might expect, this room type isn’t cheap, generally costing 20,000 to 30,000 yen (US$133 to US$200) per night per person for a package that also includes breakfast and dinner. For such luxurious accommodations, though, you could easily pay more in other cities, and the hotel’s food is gorgeous.

You don’t need to splurge on an in-room hot spring bath to get the onsen experience, though. Even the hotel’s simpler rooms are clean and tastefully appointed…

…and the hotel has large communal onsen bath areas for men and women too.

The baths even have open-air sections, and the staff tells us that early risers (the baths open at 5:45 a.m. except on Tuesdays and Thursdays) are often rewarded with clear blue skies overhead at that time of day, though night owls aren’t out of luck, as you can bathe until midnight.

Breakfast is buffet-style, with a variety of elegantly delicious items to mix and match as you like…

…and there’s an observation deck that’s open to guests 24 hours a day which provides a great vantage point for snapping photos.

Location-wise, it’s 29 minutes by train from Yamato Saidaiji Station to Kyoto Station, and since Kyoto is to the north, it should be an even shorter ride if you’re headed somewhere in the southern parts of Kyoto, and it’s also 45 minutes by train to the west to Osaka Station. Of course, there’s also a Nara Bike Share depot a 10-minute walk from the hotel that rents bicycles for the entire day for just 1,529 yen, should you want to spend more time exploring this underappreciated part of Japan.

Hotel information
Kamenoi Hotel Nara / 亀の井ホテル奈良
Address: Nara-ken, Nara-shi, Nijocho 3-9-1

Related: Nara Bike Share
Photos © SoraNews24
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