Our visit to Kanazawa provided us with our first Holiday Inn experience, and first impressions were extremely positive. The ANA Holiday Inn Kanazawa Sky appeared to be breaking stereotypes from the moment we arrived in the 16th floor lobby. It was a beautiful sunny day and we had views on three sides of the building – with Kanazawa Castle almost within reach. The hotel was fully renovated in 2014, so all furnishings were sleek, modern and tasteful.
The lobby appeared both intimate and expansive with its full-length windows drawing in both the city and the distant mountains. The warm toned tiled entry with contemporary lounges led to the reception, delineated by shelving filled with objet d’art. We approached the desk and a smiling staff member with very good English made us feel immediately welcome. We were too early for check in, thanks to our efficient Japanese express train, which had delivered us from Takayama exactly on time, literally to the minute. But the friendly woman at reception took our luggage and we amused ourselves in the food hall of the department store beneath the hotel until check in time.
While we had booked a double deluxe room for our three night stay, we were graced with an upgrade to a Traditional Japanese Suite. After our recent stay in a ryokan in Takayama, we were both savvy to the cultural expectations of using such a space and appreciative of this hotel’s 21st century design influences on the tradition.
Upon entering our suite, there was the customary area for shoe removal (including bench and shoehorn) on pale grey stone tiled floor. In slippered feet we took the one step up to the wooden floor vestibule where three doors led to the toilet, bathroom and bedroom. The bedroom was delineated from the living area by traditional tatami mat flooring, gentle but firm underfoot. The bedding itself was also the traditional two king singles placed next to each other, but on raised wooden bases, not directly on the floor. The lounge was situated near the windows on wooden flooring, the area accented with bamboo print rug, a motif echoed in the public areas of the hotel. The television was placed in the perfect position on the stone feature wall where it could be watched comfortably from either the bed or lounge.
There was a discreet balance of tradition and modernity in the décor and qualities of the suite. The toilet had all the features expected in a Japanese hotel, including the automatic flush, while the ‘shower room’ space was fitted with a modern bathtub to cater for the preferences of different guests. The television was of an ample size and the internet was reliable and fast. Even the minibar, with plenty of hotel provided refreshment options, was not so full as to prevent us storing our own store bought snacks and drinks.
There were other, even larger and more impressive suites for those with the means to stay in them. We were shown one of these, which had 62sqm of corner suite luxury with the same palate and accents as our own 33sqm accommodation. Additional space allowed for details such as double sinks in the bathroom and more seating options in the lounge area, such as a leather retro easy chair with footstool.
For those wanting a more economical holiday in Kanazawa, the double deluxe rooms are very compact, typical of most standard Japanese hotel rooms, with the twin deluxe offering a little more space. But for an extended stay we would recommend splashing out on a suite – it was revitalising to return to the expansive space after a full day of sight seeing and spread out in full relaxation mode. There were six suites the size of ours on each of the two suite floors, with one additional larger, corner suite per floor.
During our stay we had the opportunity to sample two of the dining options: buffet breakfast and dinner in the Hoh-Oh Szechuan Restaurant. There was a solid range of choices at the breakfast spread in KENROKU, catering to both Japanese and Western tastes, including numerous sashimi and other fish options, egg station, breads, pastries, juices, soups, rice and salad station. My favourite was the hot mixed bean and sesame hotpot. KENROKU also offered all day dining with selections of local seafood and vegetables. The Chinese restaurant was the formal dining option at the hotel, and as such had linen tablecloths and with red accented Chinese décor. It was difficult to beat the location – 17th floor of the Holiday Inn building with views on three sides of Kanazawa. And when we had paid the bill, impeccable Japanese service and respect were once again apparent as the female maitre d saw us to the elevator and bowed deep and low as we entered the lift.
Staying in one of the hotel’s luxurious traditional Japanese suites was one of the highlights of our trip to Japan, both in comfort and cultural experience. Combined with the central location of the hotel (making most of the attractions within walking distance), this ensured that our first visit to Kanazawa was special and memorable.
Accommodation: ANA Holiday Inn Kanazawa Sky