We spent three nights here in mid-January as two adults with two small children, and although wouldn’t necessarily recommend against staying here, probably wouldn’t stay again ourselves. Initially we partly decided on staying at Hoshino Nikko based on the complementary bus service that left from Tokyo in Winter, and a combination of positive reviews left by others.
We arrived early for the bus service, and were the first checked in by the lovely Hoshino lady who did not speak any English – hilarity ensued when the electronic translation device broke, but all was managed by calling through to the hotel. The bus service was significantly delayed by 20 minutes waiting for other guests to arrive, unfortunately.
The biggest issue with our stay came on arriving at the hotel. The driveway was icy meaning the bus could not safely approach the front of the hotel, so smaller shuttles were arranged. The luggage went up first, followed by a series of trips for the guests.
Despite having arrived on time and first at the bus terminal in Tokyo, and travelling with a baby and a 3 year old we were the last to be shuttled up to the hotel. That meant we were standing in heavy winds and snow on the lakefront with some very uncomfortable children, including one that needed to use the bathroom urgently. On departing the shuttle bus we were made to make our own way to the lobby with 5 suitcases, 2 backpacks, and carrying two kids. We were then told to take our own bags up to our room, only to see the Japanese guests having their bags carried up and being escorted to their rooms – including two travelling with two small backpacks being carried for them by hotel staff.
In essence we were forced to carry our children and lug all our gear around (and having come from skiing in Hokkaido was a good amount of gear) by ourselves without a luggage trolley. We also received no welcome to Kai Nikko. This has to be some of the worst service I’ve ever received for a hotel stay anywhere in the world, despite the premium price we were paying for a room.
We stayed in a WL6 room “Japanese-style Suite with Lake View”. The room itself was certainly spacious, although our room must have had the worst view of all the top floor rooms being set well back in the hotel on a corner. We could see the lake, but only from the side, and the view was dominated by a view of a room set further forward to our side; we had great views of the staff car park though! While the rooms are tasteful and well-appointed, they are reasonably worn-down. A previous review describing the stains around a bathroom basin I thought was petty until I saw the result myself. Our room also smelt somewhat damp, and the fridge had a very interesting odour. The exterior of the hotel is also similarly run-down with broken metal barriers around the balconies at places. Access from the hotel to the lake was only available down the ice-covered driveway the bus had refused to take, and we had a good tumble with a carried child on one such journey.
Kai Nikko is also only questionably child friendly. Provision of both child-sized sumae and yakuta is wonderful, and our 3 year old loved these. Children are also welcome to use the onsen. Nevertheless, while they stay free of charge, this does not hold up if they use any extra bedding which they are charged signicantly for. Furthermore, the food provided for kids at both breakfast and dinner is very lacking – it consists only of rice and a bowl of miso soup at both meals; no fruit or protein in sight. Food for adults on the other hand is of very high quality. The daily Japanese-style breakfast and evening kaiseki meals are generous in terms of content, quality, and daily variety.
There are five separate onsen pools at Kai Nikko. There are both indoor and outdoor male and female onsens, and a fifth outdoor bath that alternates between men and women over the day. This is the bath presented on their website photos, but unlike these it has no view as blinds are drawn all around, so it is nowhere near as impressive as the photos make it look. Similarly the outdoor male and female baths have no view, and even the sky is barely visible from either as they are located under building overhangs. That being said it is hard to beat the sensation of having a warm outdoor onsen in a Japanese winter.
Location wise it should be noted that Kai Nikko is not located near the World Heritage temple area – in fact it’s a fairly lengthy bus ride of more than 30 minutes away. Hoshino runs no buses from the hotel to the area either, but they do provide an intermittent shuttle service to the bus station at Chuzenji Onsen bus terminal which is otherwise about a 10-15 minute walk. By foot this walk is is probably fine most of the year, but walking through winter snow and headwinds makes it a fairly refreshing experience to put it mildly. Kai Nikko is actually located on Lake Chuzenji away from the town of Nikko. The lake is in itself an interesting place. Only a relatively short length of its 25 km circumference is developed, and a lot of this is in a major state of disrepair. Broken down pleasure boats shaped like helicopters and swans line this spot – most of which will never be lake-worthy again and are just broken down junk. Many of the buildings in the area are similarly uninhabitable and unlikely to be restorable. Regardless, there are some amazing sites located in walking distance of the Kai Nikko, including the very impressive Kegon Falls, the lake itself, Chuzenji temple, and most impressively the area around the old British and Italian embassy villas.
Overall Kai Nikko and Lake Chuzenjii are a nice spot to visit. If your goal is to explore the Nikko temples I would suggest staying in Nikko proper and making a day trip to the lake area. For us the biggest issue was the exceptionally poor service we received on arrival which really marred the rest of our stay. With no orientation we had to work out how the hotel worked aided only by some fairly sparse explanations on the folio in the room. At the price I would expect a more formal greeting and introduction to the hotel, and at least an offer of assistance with getting to our room if we are clearly struggling with a lot of luggage and two small children. The service the rest of the time was pleasant enough without being exceptionally, and even when the staff did not speak much English we certainly got by with a combination of our broken Japanese. It is a nice enough venue with some good features, but for us represented relatively poor value for money.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Response from Hoshino_Resorts, お客様担当マネージャー at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko
Responded 29 Jan 2020
Dear Propofool Thank you very much for taking your time to review our property in detail. We are glad to hear that you were able to enjoy sightseeing near our property. Also, we are happy to hear that you enjoyed the meals and the yukata provided in the room. However, it is unfortunate that we were not able to assist you and your family upon your arrival as well as provide excellent service consistently. We hope to provide better service so that we can welcome you back again. Sincerely, Guest Relations Manager
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC