REVIEW: Best Western Naha Inn
When I made the decision to spend time in Okinawa, I didn’t realize how interesting of a decision selecting a hotel would end up being. Despite Japan’s reputation for having one of the world’s most comprehensive public transportation systems, Naha and its surrounding area doesn’t exactly fit into that mold. With a single monorail line and a network of public buses covering the rest of the island, Okinawa might be one of the few locations in Japan where it makes sense to rent a car.
Those who know anything about me know that I have a few quirks that make my life difficult, two of which made my immediate concerns of touring Okinawa and selecting a hotel complicated:
1. I don’t rent cars in foreign countries. Ever. Every time I’ve taken a trip that required me to rent a car I’ve made sure my partner was along for the ride and handled all that mess. No thank you, ma’am.
2. I have a severe aversion to public buses. I just don’t like them. Every time I get on a public bus something weird happens or someone weird happens to be on it. Again, no thank you, ma’am. I’ll make due without.
So what’s a guy to do when most of the hotel options that looked liked a good bet required me to either take a public bus or rent a car to make sightseeing accessible? I went with my old standby – Best Western. The chain had an affiliate offering a great price for the dates I was going to be in town. The location of the property also looked ideal for my unique (read: crazy) mindset. I booked it, crossed myself, and prayed for the best.
The Best Western Naha Inn is located adjacent to the Asato stop on Naha’s sole monorail, the Yui Line. Naha Airport just happens to be the terminus of one end of the Yui Line, so I was able to hop on a car with plenty of room for myself and my luggage. The Asato stop is nine stops down the line from the airport, right in the heart of downtown Naha.
The hotel is easy to spot from the station, making navigation a breeze. Located at the base of the hotel is a convenience store (CoCo) for all your light snacking needs. One night I wearily made my way back to the hotel and decided I didn’t want to bother with going back out after my shower to find a decent meal and simply stocked up on some of the pre-packaged food offered at CoCo.
Needless to say the location of the hotel next to the monorail line made navigating to many of the locations I visited while on-site in Naha quite easy. The downtown core and shopping district was just a few stops back toward the airport on the monorail line, and Shuri Castle (one of Naha’s biggest attractions) was only a few stops down the line in the opposite direction. It was definitely centrally located for sightseeing within Naha, but is hardly ideal if you plan on heading out of the city center and out into the less congested areas of Okinawa.
Despite having Western in its name, the hotel staff didn’t seem to have much experience with Westerners. I took the elevator from the bottom floor up to the hotel’s lobby and could immediately see the wide-eyed panic spread across the face of the desk agent as I sauntered up to the counter. Despite some of her English language difficulties and my subsequent willingness to switch to Japanese as needed, we managed to get everything taken care of in a rather timely manner.
She requested my passport and photocopied it as required under Japanese law for any hotel guest that does not have a legal address in Japan. Breakfast is served daily buffet-style in the lobby directly across from the front desk. My rate did not include breakfast so I did not take her up on the offer to enjoy it for a fee.
SERVICE & STAFF
I had very limited interaction with the staff on my stay. In fact, it was a bit eerie how empty the hotel seemed. I’m not sure if it was because there actually were no other guests or if I just happened to be coming and going at times when no one else was out and about. The limited interactions I had with staff were all essentially the same – very friendly, very polite, yet struggling with English.
After twisting my ankle slightly on my last day of sightseeing, I decided to spring for a taxi to the airport vs. lugging my crap up the stairs to the monorail station and through the city to the airport. Despite the Japanese word for taxi being almost exactly the same as the English version, my request was met with a lot of confusion and blinking. I eventually switched to Japanese and was able to get them to have a taxi waiting for me downstairs in 3 minutes.
In typical Japanese hotel room fashion, this room was tiny, clean, and efficient. One of the major detracting elements to this hotel room was the harsh lighting provided. There were only a few strategically placed lights in the room which made it difficult to see when laying in bed or moving to and from the bathroom. You’ll see in the following pictures the issues with the lighting in the room.
Immediately to your left when you enter the room was a modular bathroom that is common in low to mid-range Japanese hotels. Directly in front of the door was a full length mirror and a desk.
The desk was a bit crowded but that’s pretty typical for a Japanese hotel that isn’t a Park Hyatt or Westin. The television was situated on the far end of the desk. A hot plate was built into the desktop. A metal kettle for boiling water was set on the hot plate section as well as two cups and an assortment of instant coffee and tea. An interesting touch of local flavor was added here – the tea packets were for goya tea. Goya is a bitter melon that’s commonly used in dishes cooked in Okinawa and the surrounding islands. True to its name, it’s a bit bitter, but does make for a nice pick me up in the morning.
To the left of the desk was a press for pants. There was no iron in the room so I simply used the pant press to work out the wrinkles in my clothes for the duration of my stay.
The bed was nothing fancy but it got the job done. The mattress was softer than I expected. The Japanese (and many other Asian cultures) tend to prefer firm mattresses, and despite being half-Japanese I prefer a much softer sleeping location. This mattress was definitely softer than your standard Japanese hotel’s offering but not nearly as soft as you’d find in many American chains. The headboard had a built-in radio and alarm clock system, which is also quite typical for Japanese hotels.
One thing that shocked me about this hotel was the toilet – there was NO FANCY BIDET/WASHLET. What fresh hell is this!? To be clear, there are a few things I expect when I get off a plane and bask in the glory that is the Land of the Rising Sun:
1. Bowing. Massive amounts of bowing.
2. Excessive amounts of politeness.
3. A magical toilet apparatus that will power wash my unmentionables.
Upon discovering this hotel did not offer said magical apparatus, it was all I could do to keep myself from gathering my things and setting the building on fire. Eventually I calmed down enough to realize that I’d be able to manage without it. But still.
The rest of the bathroom was equally unremarkable.
The toiletries were provided in large dispensers. The name brand wasn’t one I was familiar with but worked just fine for my hygiene needs during the several days I stayed. The tub was rather deep so on a few colder nights I was able to fill it up with hot water and enjoy a Japanese-style hot bath.
The Best Western Naha Inn is unlikely to win any awards for quality of accommodation or over the top service. But when it comes to hotels that offer you clean, safe accommodation that’s conveniently located, it’s a pretty good offering for the island of Okinawa.
The real beauty of the island, and the higher quality hotels, are located further out from the city center along the less populated shores. But for the few days I was in town and the agenda I set for myself, BW Naha Inn served its purpose and provided me with good value for the amount that I spent.
Located directly adjacent to the Asato station on the city’s only rail line, making access easy for those who have not rented a car.
Central location makes it ideal for accessing the various sites located around the metropolitan Naha area.
Staff struggled with using English in a business setting. I often had to use Japanese to communicate with staff. Not an issue for me but definitely could be an issue for non-Japanese guest.