We stayed 2 nights at Biwako Hotel, it is located 12 km from the iconic Kiyomizu-Dera temple in Kyoto. If you are traveling to Kyoto and not knowing where to stay. I highly recommend the Biwako Hotel. The hotels in Kyoto usually cost more expensive and the rooms are very small especially if it is located next to the train station. If you are driving a rental car, why not drive further away from Kyoto and stay in similar price range hotel but offer a bigger room, free onsen bath, and a better view?
I met a lady in the Biwako hotel onsen, she is also a tourist from Philippine, she and her husband stayed few nights at Biwako hotel and they do not drive. She told me there is a train station nearby called Hamaotsu station, just 7 minutes walk.
Hotel Room Review
The minute I open the door of my hotel room, I am speechless. There is a breathtaking view overlooking Lake Biwa. You could enjoy sunset and sunrise in the room. And yes, the room is super spacious, especially in Japan! Like I said, if you are self-driving with a rental car, go further away from the city, half an hour and you get a totally different experience.
Night view from the Varanda
Veranda with Lake Biwa
Rooms have a veranda that looks out over the lake, Italian furnishings, and a spacious bathroom. Relax and unwind in a laidback, luxurious space.
Many foreigners prefer to take bath inside your room so there is a complete bathroom, a bathtub, shower and toilet and equipped with all the toiletries. I like how there is a glass door to separate the bath and the toilet so it is pretty neat.
Japanese Toilet Seat Review
If you have been to Japan, you know how elaborate their toilet seats are. Just to name one of my favorite features – the seat warming function, this is super helpful, especially in colder seasons. At least I won’t feel a shock when I sit on it early in the morning. Well, there are other features too such as bidet washing which you can adjust the water level and heat of the water. Even opening and closing of the toilet seats are operated by a finger. At least you don’t have to worry about touching the toilet seats. There is a panel with buttons at the side of the toilet seat for you to control every feature.
2 types of Slippers Provided
Inside the cabinet, you found indoor slippers for the room and outside the room but within the hotel, for you to walk from your room to the Onsen/hot spring bath area.
The hairdryer and the complimentary of toiletries sets are kept in the box in the bathroom so the bathroom looks pretty tidy.
Restaurants & Bars
A range of restaurants and cafe/bar establishments are on site, offering buffet style, kaiseki cuisine, teppanyaki, sushi, French cuisine, Italian cuisine, and much more.
Decor at the front lobby
Not very often we see blue roses but few bouquets of blue roses were seen decorated at the front, welcoming the guests.
Biwako Hotel also has bridal facilities such as bridal shops, photo studios, beauty salon, and florist shop.
Onsen / Hot Spring Review
The operating hour is from 6 am to 10 am /2 pm to 12 am midnight. Morning and night are open. First, wear the yukata and slippers provided in the room, then go directly to the onsen bath area. Do not wear the yukata and slippers and walk to the main lobby because Biwako is a hotel, not ryokan Inn. (In Japanese Ryokan Inn, you are allowed to wear Yukata and roam around the whole complex but not in the hotel! Hotel & Ryokan is different.).
The dressing area are very spacious and tidy, it has all the women basic cosmetic and a baby bed. The lighting is bright and plenty of compartments to lock your belongings.
It also has a free drink server which provides hot and cold water for cooling down after your bath. It is advisable to drink some water after onsen bath because your body is very much dehydrated.
Onsen Shower Area
Before jumping into the onsen pool, you must clean your whole body thoroughly. It is an etiquette to shower here and not inside your room. I did that once when I was a student in Japan and being scolded by the local. This is to make sure everyone is clean before jumping into the onsen pool.
You look into the mirror and shower, which is pretty funny as you get to see all your body fats! There are free hair shampoo, Hair conditioner, and body soap. You can use the shower head or use the bucket to fill the water and pour into your body. I quite like filling water into the bucket and pour to my body. Pretty fun.
Lake view Indoor Public Onsen Bath
The indoor pool has a view overlooking the lake Biwa too.
This is what you should do before entering the hot onsen. Scoop the hot water with the scoop provided, pour the water several times on your feet, then to your arms, shoulders, and back. When your whole body is used to the temperature of onsen, enter the pool slowly. Don’t jump into the pool and making a big splash, that is considered rude in Japan.
Open Air Onsen
Once your body becomes hotter at the indoor onsen, take a break and come out to the open air onsen. The feeling of openness with mountains and lake ahead heals the fatigue. Spend some time to gaze at the landscape and embrace nature in your naked body. At night, you may see Lake Biwa Flower Fountain and the beautiful boats.
When exist, take shower lightly as you do not want to wash away all the good ingredients from the onsen. The good ingredients from onsen are good for body healing, tiredness and skin beauty.
My honest review from onsen experience, you certainly feel lighter, especially on both of your shoulders and refresh after the onsen bath.
You also go to the sauna naked. You can use the small face towel to cover some part of your body, not sure where you choose to cover? The top or bottom.
Vending Machine outside the Onsen Bath
It is really important to cool down after the onsen bath. If you do not like the free water provided in the dressing room, there are vending machines with different flavor drinks, tea or coffee, and cold ice-cream.
Sunrise View from the Varanda
The Michigan Cruise Ship
Michigan Cruise is the most famous cruise ship in Lake Biwa. Depending on the cruise, the average price is about ¥2,700 (USD 23.40) for adults, ¥2,200 (USD 19.90) for students and ¥1,300 (USD 11.70) for children.
Hotel Parking – Free
The hotel has free parking for its guests and it is very easy to park. Unlike some hotel near the crowded city area, they have a very limited parking lot and some even have a complicated underground car park. Nothing like that at all, just get the ticketing from the front desk to enter and exist.
Well, obviously you can spend some time walking around the Lake Biwa and enjoy the beauty of the lake & the cruise ships. We spotted a half rainbow!
Lake Biwa/Biwako or 琵琶湖
Lake Biwa is a large freshwater lake in Shiga Prefecture, near Kyoto. The Kanji writing of Biwa is 琵琶 which mean short-necked fretted lute, the origin of this type of musical instrument was from China, called “pipa”.
Nearby city – Otsu city
We drove to Otsu city which took us about 10 mins to have our dinner and get some snacks for our morning breakfast for the following day. Our stay does not include breakfast because we figure out it is too expensive to include breakfast.
Alternatively, you can also take the hotel bus to Otsu city, is free of charge. Or you can just walk around Biwako as there are some restaurants nearby. I remembered the second nights, we have our Chinese Chuka cuisine, which tasted so yummy and cheap. If you are a budget traveler, you can go out of the hotel and explore cheaper options.
Hotel Biwako is one of the best hotels that I have stayed in my Kansai Japan self-drive trip. I love how the view overlooking Lake Biwa and the cruise ships. The room is also incredibly spacious and the onsen bath is spectacular. If you don’t know where to stat in Kyoto, I strongly recommend you to stay in Biwako Hotel! It is not in the heart of Kyoto city but still very accessible by train and offers more value for money stay than city hotels. If you are self-driving a rental car, the more you need to check this place out.