Kyoto is the tourist hotspot of Japan and hotel prices tend to go through the roof in the most popular seasons. We visited Kyoto during the cherry blossom season and prices for Marriott and Hilton hotels were ranging around the €800’s/night when we started looking for a hotel in November. There were other, cheaper, hotels available but most often cheaper hotels offer smaller rooms and as we were staying 3 nights we preferred a room where we had enough space to stow away our suitcases and hang some clothes. This meant we had to look for alternatives and this is how we discovered the Marriott Lake Biwa hotel near Kyoto.
Read also: The perfect 2 days Kyoto itinerary.
Marriott Lake Biwa Kyoto
The Marriott Lake Biwa hotel is next to Lake Biwa in Kyoto, a popular summer destination. The train will take you in about 20 minutes from Kyoto station to Katata station from where you can take the free shuttle to the hotel.
The price was just one aspect we took into consideration when we decided to stay in the Marriott Lake Biwa hotel. Another aspect was the location. Even though we loved the vibrant megacities of Japan it was good to escape the crowds at night and retreat to the quiet oasis on the lake. The rooms offer a wide view over the lake and the complete surroundings exude tranquility. A sharp contrast with the screaming billboards and the huge crowds found in the cities.
Even though we loved the vibrant megacities of Japan it was good to escape the crowds at night and retreat to the quiet oasis on the lake.
The hotel welcomes you in a bright and spacious lobby. You have the choice between traditional rooms and Japanese-style rooms. We still prefer a real mattress but according to the hotel their Japanese style rooms are also very popular.
Read also: Things to do in Kyoto at night.
Several rooms in the hotel have a private onsen. It is wonderful to relax your muscles in the evening after a day out in Kyoto, and to be able to do this from the privacy of your own room with a view of Lake Biwa is truly superb.
The hotel restaurant is on the top floor. You can enjoy a very extensive breakfast buffet with a view of the lake. The buffet offers both local as well as ‘American-style’ options. We will probably never become a huge fan of the miso soups in the morning but it was nice to be able to taste some of the many other Japanese items. Eggs and pancakes can also be ordered from the waiters and they will bring them to your table on a beautifully presented plate.
If we had had enough time we would have liked to spend more time in this lush green region.
We needed the full 3 days to explore Kyoto and that was regrettable because Lake Biwa looked really nice and has some fun attraction. If we had had enough time we would have liked to spend more time in this lush green region. It was still a bit cold for water activities but it’s also a nice region for hiking or cycling.
Read also: Things to do in Gion at night.
With a circumference of more than 200 kilometers, a complete tour of the lake is something I would leave to trained cyclists. But you can also make beautiful smaller trips of just a few hours where you discover the local countryside. You can rent a bike or you can book organized guided bike tours, possibly even combined with a visit to a farm or a cooking class.
Those who fancy a bike ride can even rent their bicycles directly in the hotel but also other sports enthusiasts will love all the sports facilities in the hotel. For starters, there’s a large indoor swimming pool but the hotel also has tennis courts, a sports hall, a golf driving range and much more.
After exercising you can relax in the extensive onsen. It was our first time staying in a hotel with such extensive sports facilities.
Something else that intrigued us from the moment we found the hotel on the Marriott website was the planetarium.
Something else that intrigued us from the moment we found the hotel on the Marriott website was the planetarium. How often have you slept in a hotel with a planetarium? For us, it was the first time and probably it will not happen anytime soon again. Therefore we came back slightly earlier on the second day so we could enjoy 2 movies in the planetarium.
1 was in English, a second in Japanese, but even in Japanese, it remains an impressive experience to see the world flash past the entire dome above you. If you inquire at the reception, they can tell you which performances are in English.
It is a slight disadvantage that this hotel is located outside the city. The hotel shuttle to the train station runs once every hour and its hours are well-aligned with the train schedule but still, a hotel near the city center would be a better choice if this is your first visit to Kyoto. On the other hand, this hotel offers you the opportunity to visit not only Kyoto but also to spend some time in the quiet relaxed rural environment of Lake Biwa.
Lake Biwa Activities
Here are some more fun activities in this region:
Experience Visiting a Local Farmer and Mochi Rice Cake Making
This excursion takes you to Ogi a small village nestled alongside the coast of Lake Biwa. You will traverse the photogenic rice fields until you arrive at the farm where, together with your guide and the very hospitable owners, you will make ‘Mochi Rice Cake’. An activity that guarantees fun for the whole family.
Guided bicycle tour of Lake Biwa
This tour takes you along the banks of Lake Biwa towards the photogenic rice fields of Tanada of Hata. Along the way you will visit the Shirahige Shrine with the Torii gate that seems to float on the water. This shrine may not be as well known as the Miyajima shrine but is just as beautiful. This tour includes a simple but amazing multiple-course lunch that you will prepare together with the farmer’s wife.
Guided bicycle tour of Lake Biwa from Kyoto
This tour is for those who would not be staying near Lake Biwa but still want to experience its lush scenery and magical beauty. You will meet your guide in Kyoto. From here you will together take the train to Lake Biwa for a 4-hour bicycle tour. As you pedal on your e-bikes alongside the banks of the lake you will come across many farms and rice plantations. Your knowledgeable guide will tell you interesting stories about life on the countryside and the daily activities of the farmers.
Eastern Shores of Lake Biwa with Hikone Castle
You will visit Hikone Castle on this tour. This castle is one of the few remaining original castles and 1 of the 4 Japanese castles to be a National Treasure. The castle is particularly picturesque during the cherry blossom season but the backdrop of the lake makes it very photogenic all year long. From Hikone the tour continues along the waterfront and the countryside to Omihachiman. Along the way your guide will tell you more about the rich, but during the Edo period also bloody past, of this region.
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