Regan Schoultz is an NZME news service reporter based in Auckland.

Room Check: Hanabishi Hotel, Japan

Regan Schoultz stays at Hanabishi Hotel in Beppu, Japan.
Hanabishi Hotel in Beppu, Japan. Photo / Hanabishi Hotel
Hanabishi Hotel in Beppu, Japan. Photo / Hanabishi Hotel

Location: In the heart of Beppu next to the waterfront. It was close to the train station and had a mountain view out of nearly every window.

Check-in experience: When we arrived our tour guide did most of the work checking us all in. However, a hotel staff member then talked us through the entire lay-out of the building for about half an hour, which was overkill.

Room: Authentically Japanese. Walking into my room, shoes off, I was completely stunned to see a fairly empty room devoid of a bed mats laid on the floor in place of a carpet. A low table and two floor chairs sat in the centre of the room. At the end of the room behind two rice-paper doors was an alcove with another two chairs, small table and small fridge. And, of course, a view - a stunning, up-close view of the small town surrounded by mountains. Curious as to exactly where I would be sleeping, I began snooping, opening every cupboard and drawer and pushing every button I could find. Although I didn't find the hidden sleeping area I was hoping for, I did find a kimono, wooden clog slip-on shoes and a blue overcoat.

I also happened upon folded bedding. I later found out that the Japanese clothes were to wear to dinner and the folded bedding would be set up on the floor by hotel staff. And, thank goodness, the tour organiser had asked hotel staff to double up the mattresses, because if you are not used to a really hard mattress, it's not that comfortable.

Bathroom: The bathroom was quite basic compared to some of the other Japanese bathrooms I had seen. The water in the shower was fresh thermal water drawn from an underground spring. The toilet had a heated seat - it takes a while to get used to the idea that someone hasn't just been sitting on the loo beforehand and that is why it is warm - along with a bidet for the front and one for the back. Another button had a musical note on it and when pushed it made a flushing sound, although the toilet wasn't actually flushing - which was weird.

Dining hall: The food was set up buffet style with a wide array of Japanese foods on offer. There was make-your-own sushi, fresh fish, dumplings, seaweed and, of course, miso soup among the offerings. Everyone there was dressed in kimonos and clogs, which was a lot of fun.

Other facilities: On the top floor of the eighth floor is a spa/bath for women. You are required to go in naked, which meant most of my tour group backed out. But, being a journalist and having to write about my experiences, I decided to give it a go and get my kit off. The entrance to the bath was a locker room followed by two hot spa baths out on the terrace. Thanks to the cold weather there was no faffing around and it was straight in the bath. It was surprisingly popular with groups of Japanese girls coming to bathe - making it an interesting experience, to say the least. Once you have finished bathing, a separate outdoor area houses showers. They are open showers and low so you have to sit on a small seat while you shower.

Price: Around $200 a night.

Would I return: Any day, any time. The only slight problem was that none of the hotel staff seemed to be able to speak English, which became an issue when I was trying to order room service for a midnight snack.

- NZ Herald

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