David - Japan January 2010
  • I’m not easily impressed when it comes to business hotels. Mostly they are the same (as you know.) If the minibar is empty you’re probably in the US. If the toilet seat burns you when you sit on it you are in Japan, Taiwan, maybe Korea. If there’s a tiny bed, UK or Germany, France perhaps. Fierce heat that you can’t turn off, Scandinavia. Glass and chrome? You could be anywhere. Rude air hostesses – you’re still flying United so keep dreaming. But, the hotels all have the same basic stuff.

    A view is not usually one of those things.

    I am at the Prince Hotel in Shin Yokohama, in Japan. It’s a couple of miles from central Shin Yokohama.

    (“Shin” means “new” in Japanese, and I can only assume, without asking for fear of offending the people who bring me beer, that “old” Yokohama is buried underneath Shin Yokohama, helped there by 20 thousand tons of air-delivered high explosives and several strongly worded letters from FDR.)

    The Prince Hotel is tubular. It’s 42 stories high. I’m on the 39th floor. It’s like a stack of 42 giant donuts. Mmmmm donuts!

    Tubular is not an obvious choice for a hotel. As you step off the elevator you walk towards a glass window that looks out over the middle part (the hole in the middle.) Looking down, I’m reminded of any number of scenes in the star wars movies where a long drop and a painful death are imminent, as the falling character is watched by 20 million space aliens looking out of their bedroom windows at the thrashing form zipping downwards as they think to themselves “I didn’t know humans could fly.”

    The shape of the hotel only really hit me as I walked along the corridor to my room. The corridor curves, it’s odd. The room takes up probably 10 degrees of the curve. It’s about 12 feet from the door to the window, and my first thought was “how am I going to get my ass and my head in here at the same time?” But when I walked in I see that the room is long and skinny, and curved. It’s 12 feet deep but 30 feet long, and curved, and the KING SIZE BED! faces the window. There’s a couple of feet to walk around it – compact but not oppressive. They’ve really made a lot of use out of the room. It’s actually a suite – there’s a couch, armchair, and table next to the desk and chair. The TV is on a lazy Susan so you can turn it from the suite side to the bed side. But, so far, other than the odd shape and the spectacular efficiency, it’s not that special. But it’s definitely nice.

    And, since I mentioned it, what the hell was wrong with Susan? Why was she so lazy? Was it the parents? Some childhood trauma? Poor schooling? Perhaps an unpleasant breakup? We’ll never know.

    Anyway, back to the hotel. Did I mention the view? I have a view of Shin Yokohama, which has a very well defined set of tall buildings, nicely surrounded (in the classic Gaussian distribution) by successively less tall buildings. And from 39 floors up it’s pretty cool. I can see the harbour and a couple of bridges and the giant ferris wheel (next to the hotel I stayed at last time.) The city doesn’t appear to end, and it’s very pretty. I can also see the bullet train in the railway station. Very cool.

    I think it’s the best view I have ever had in a business hotel.

    And, to top it off, the German’s are going to be pissed because the local beer (“Yokohama Hefeweizen”) is a very good wheat beer. Mmmmm beer! Better than Blue Moon for sure, but I can’t figure out how to ask for an orange slice with it.

    I’m impressed.

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