APARTMENT HOTEL MIMARU

Reaching out to the innermost region of Kyoto

The team behind APARTMENT HOTEL MIMARU have made room for you to live like a local in the two most attractive cities of Japan: Tokyo and Kyoto.

Arriving in a Japanese city can be overwhelming. When you emerge from the airport experience and find yourself at the beating heart of a neon metropolis, it’s only natural to feel small. Everything around you has a place and a purpose, and as you shunt and shuffle your way to your accommodation, you feel like a tourist.

Despite being much smaller than Tokyo or nearby Osaka, Kyoto City is still subject to Japan’s unique economy of space. Every inch of space in the city is occupied by something, be it a hole-in-the-wall store, colourful artwork, or a vending machine. Accommodation too adheres to the style – typically compact and functional rather than spacious and leisurely.

APARTMENT HOTEL MIMARU
Image: Michael Wayne

So imagine my surprise when, saddled with my needlessly bulky luggage, I lurch into my room at the newly-opened MIMARU KYOTO KARASUMA OIKE NORTH to find a generous, comfortable space that could easily sleep five. Two bunks built into the walls hover above a double bed, and a lounge area complete with a banquet-style table sits adjacent. The space would be ideal for a family or group of friends travelling together.

APARTMENT HOTEL MIMARU

I check out the bathroom, certain that some spatial sacrifices have been made to make such a roomy living area possible.

A bath and a shower sit side by side in perfect, capacious harmony, allowing for the Japanese-style three-step bathing method of soaking in the tub, showering to clean off the day’s dirt, and then soaking once more. How is this possible?

“There are just too many hotels in Kyoto now,” says Yuki, a member of staff at APARTMENT HOTEL MIMARU.

“Although an apartment-style hotel/accommodation is not common in Japan yet, we’d like to provide our value that people could stay and spend their time as if they feel like living in Japan even during their trip. That’s why we are here.”

“We knew we needed a point of difference.”

Just a 15-minute walk from Kyoto City centre, KARASUMA OIKE NORTH is among the latest of MIMARU’s range of modern Japanese apartment hotel buildings. The first MIMARU opened in Tokyo in February 2018; that city is now home to six MIMARU hotels, with three more to open by spring 2020.

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Kyoto will have six MIMARU sites by winter 2019, a move Yuki hopes will shake up the local hotel scene.

“Space is at a premium in Japan,” she says. “That’s why we designed our rooms to be this spacious.”

Each MIMARU APARTMENT HOTEL room features the shower/bath combo, a kitchen complete with double sink, and even a smartphone that can be taken with you when adventuring.

“The smartphone features Wi-Fi and an AI concierge called BEBOT,” Yuki says. “If you get lost outside, there’s a button that calls direct to the front desk.”

The driving idea behind MIMARU, she explains, is to make guests feel as though they’re living like locals.

“You’re not coming home to a boxy room, you’re just coming home,” she says. “You can cook, you can relax, and you can hang out.”

You can also explore like a local. MIMARU’s friendly front desk team has an intimate knowledge of the top tourist spots and special locations only locals would know. I’m given a map with detailed directions on where to go and how to get there, as well as personal recommendations from the staff. I can even buy the all-day bus and train pass required to get around town from the front desk.

Kyoto is known for its ancient temples, and the MIMARU staff have pointed me toward three that aren’t as prone to intense crowds. That doesn’t mean they’re any harder to get to – in fact, it’s just a five-minute walk down to the Karasuma-Oike subway station to get on my way to the rural town of Ohara.

My first stop is Rengeji Temple, a peaceful place of contemplation and solitude. When I arrive, I’m surprised to find the entrance is on a suburban street, nestled among houses. Once I enter, I’m enveloped by a tranquil Edo garden. In autumn, the Rengeji Temple’s trees put on a colourful show, but it’s just as beautiful at any other time of year.

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Further along the route is the Nyan Nyan Ji. Half-temple, half-cafe, and entirely quirky, Nyan Nyan (or Meow Meow) is a shrine to all things feline. Cat statues, cat artwork, cat costumes, and even some actual moggies are on hand to greet the curious who enter. Light meals and tea are available, and if you’re lucky, the resident cats may deign to let you pat them.

At the end of the line – and just an hour from MIMARU – is the impressive Sanzenin Temple, well known to visitors of Ohara. The road to the temple is peppered with shops and food stalls, but once you enter the grounds of Sanzenin, the only sound you’ll hear is the gentle running of water in the garden. It’s the busiest of the three temples I visit, but the added tourists don’t take away from Sanzenin’s serenity.

APARTMENT HOTEL MIMARU
Image: Michael Wayne

“They’re some of my favourite places to visit, and a lot of people don’t know about them,” says Orsi from the MIMARU team.

“It’s great to be able to visit somewhere so quiet only an hour out of Kyoto.”

After a long day exploring the temples, I emerge from the subway among a crowd. This time, I have a purpose: going home to cook dinner. MIMARU is just five minutes away. When in Rome…

Find out more: mimaruhotels.com

Exclusive offer: APARTMENT HOTEL MIMARU is offering Vacations & Travel readers a special discount on bookings. Use the promo code vacation@mimaru to redeem the offer. Click here to book.

*This code will be valid until 30th September 2020

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