Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Marriott in an Onsen Town

CYY gave me the funny look when I told her we have booked the room at Marriott during our onsen trip to Shirahama in Wakayama Prefecture. “I thought we were going to stay in a ryokan, no?” – well as it turned out most decent properties in this resort town were medium-sized hotels I thought we may as well check out the Nanki-Shirahama Marriott, which is one of the newest in the area, opened just late last year after the rebranding and renovation under the Marriott brand.

After spending the morning in Wakayama City, after lunch we headed further down into Shirahama, a popular hot spring and beach resort town some 90 minutes away by car. Shirahama is known as one of the most ancient hot springs in Japan, and with long coastal beaches and a zoo nearby, it’s nowadays a popular family-friendly travel destinations. The hotel was located up the small hill overseeing the beaches and ocean which was very convenient especially for us driving here. It’s modern rather than luxurious with good facilities on-site, including both indoor and outdoor onsen baths on the top floor, with a sweeping 270-degree view of the coast and the town. Even though the hotel appeared to be quite occupied, I only saw a handful of people at the public baths the few times I was there. On the hotel ground there's also a nice outdoor garden (completed with a chapel for wedding) and an outdoor swimming pool which would sure come handy when it gets a bit warmer.

At check-in we were offered a room upgrade to one with private onsen – part of my Marriott Rewards membership privilege – plus free breakfasts at the restaurants downstairs the next morning, which made it an even better deal for us. Our room was huge in Japanese standard (over 400 sq feet) and with gorgeous view on the high floor and with unobstructed view of the sea. Watching the sun set on the Pacific Ocean horizon was definitely memorable. There’s no executive lounge in the property, but they do provide free snacks and drinks all day at their lobby lounge exclusively for its members.

Feeling a bit lazy after a "long" drive, we stayed in for dinner at their restaurant downstairs as well - saving us another trip down to the town center at night and keeping the tradition of "Ippaku-Nishoku" while staying in an onsen hotel. While the restaurant and our dinner were not the most sophisticated we have had (d├ęcor of the restaurant resembled more like a highway rest-stop canteen rather than a fine-dining establishment, to be honest), the meal was nonetheless decent and properly-done. Our Japanese kaiseki menu started with platter of small appetizers, followed by sashimi, soup, seafood and meat courses using seasonal and local ingredients, and finished with a bowl of cha-zuke (rice with dashi broth) and desserts. The local Kumano-ryu beef served on a sizzling iron plate with vegetables was my favorite course, with the meat having excellent texture and well-balanced with fat and meaty taste.

We love their breakfasts too – the restaurant was packed in the morning with the hotel fairly full the night before but they offered a wide variety of food (Western, Chinese and Japanese) and drinks and well-organized with efficient service – that’s definitely a perk of staying in a larger hotel than a cozy ryokan.

Of course, Shirahama being a famous onsen town we spent considerable amount of time enjoying the hot-spring. Other than enjoying the several public baths inside the hotel plus one in our own room, we also visited the Saki-no-yu public open-air bath just a few minutes away by car, with the unique experience of enjoying the hot-spring bath right by the coast overseeing the Pacific Ocean. We went just before they close for the day so there were only a handful of visitors - it was very relaxing and I suppose you can't get more up close with the nature than having a dip facing the vast ocean strip naked. 

Not far away from Saki-no-yu was the scenic spot of Senjojiki, so named because of the rock formation reminiscent of “a thousand tatami mats” – on the day of visit we decided it’s a bit too windy and cold to climb down to feel the ocean waves hitting the rocky coast and for the sunset view which was said to be breathtaking, but the sight was still impressive from up top with the comfort of sitting inside our car.

When? March 23 2018
Where? Nanki-Shirahama Marriot Hotel, 2428 Shirahama-cho Nishimuro-gun, Wakayama Prefecture 649-2211 Japan
Web: www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/osana-nanki-shirahama-marriott-hotel/

(Part of the Wakayama Travel Series)

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