I spent the next 2 nights in the St Regis Osaka, at a discounted Starpicks rate which was quite reasonable for a St Regis. The location of the St Regis can be difficult to find as the taxi driver himself wasn’t very sure of the location since the entrance is by the side street of Shinsaibashi. The building where the hotel is located is at the intersection of Midosuji and Hommachi and the Hommachi subway station is just by the hotel’s entrance. Furthermore, travellers can enjoy a nice walk from the hotel to Daimaru department store which has nearly everything, and along Midosuji are all the luxury international boutiques and watch retailers.
Check-in was conducted on the 12th floor of the building as the main entrance at the intersection is a lobby for the office tower and can be used for some events as well. Adjoining the reception desk was a roof garden which is nice for an early morning walk. Booked a Deluxe Twin Room but was given a Grand Deluxe Twin on arrival and it was a very nice room situated on the corner. It was also very spacious and perhaps one of the most beautiful room I had during my stay in Japan. An alcove marks the entrance of the room, and there was 2 very large double beds that are more like queen beds. At the end of the room is a sitting area with space for a desk and office chair as well.
Shortly after checking in, the butler came over and brought us welcome drinks of warm Apple Tea with some pastries which was delicious. Calling up the butler for coffee or tea is one of the perks of staying in a St Regis and the service here in Osaka is flawless.
The ensuite bathroom is almost as large as the bedroom itself with a bathtub in the centre and a long marble countertop with double sinks. There was also a walk-in shower room and the toilet was enclosed by another glass door. Bathroom amenities were by Sothys, but it wasn’t a particularly nice scent that I liked. Two doors lead to the bathroom and the door at the other end leads to the dressing area where there is a small walk-in closet where our luggages were stored at. The dressing room had two pairs of Yukata or Japanese style bathrobes which was nice to wear inside the room, as well as 2 pairs of slippers.
Beside the dressing room is a bar counter where Platinum members get credit for minibar consumption, which I think was around 2000 Yen per night for the bar consumption. In addition, the room has a Nespresso machine which I think is a must for all luxury hotels worldwide. The capsules in the room was also replenished daily.
Breakfast was included for 2 persons and it was to be had at La Veduta, the Italian restaurant situated on the lobby level. However, it was very packed on the first morning we were there and we had to head back to our room to wait. It was a full buffet style breakfast with a choice of Japanese bento set breakfast or a selection of ala carte options. I have to say that the bento breakfast was very immaculately presented, and the dishes for the Japanese breakfast should be changed on a seasonal basis. The best part of the breakfast was the danish pastries which was some of the most amazing I have had in a hotel. In particular, I loved the chestnut danish that was available on both morning I was there. This would be one of the few hotel restaurants where I would be willing to pay for breakfast as it was just that amazing!
Both nights I spent at the St Regis, I was able to experience the nightlife in the city as well, since I was able to visit Nara for a daytrip. The hotel’s location made it easy to shop along both Midosuji and Shinsaibashi which runs parallel to each other. In addition walking along the pedestrian-only section of Shinsaibashi will lead to Dotonbori 道頓堀, where one can find another of Osaka’s major landmark – the neon sign of Glico-man which serves as the logo of the confectionery company. In addition, the area around Dotonbori is packed with izakayas, ramen stores and okonomiyaki outlets where travellers can get some of the best food in town.
As mentioned earlier, I used Osaka as a base to explore Nara, and the best way to get to Nara from the city is to take the Kintetsu Nara line from Osakauehonmachi station. The travel time on this local train takes slightly more than half an hour. Even for holders of the JR Rail Pass, this is still a better way to travel since the cost is not that expensive at around 500 Yen for a single journey ride to Nara and it stops right at the centre of town where Nara’s main tourist sights are located at.
We arrived at Kintetsu Nara station just slightly after noon after leaving our hotel at around 11:15 am. Since we had a wonderful breakfast at the hotel, we skipped lunch, though just beside Kintetsu Nara station was a nice pedestrian mall where one can get some local specialty of Nara. One of the major temples in Nara is Kofuku-ji 興福寺 which is located less than 5 minutes away from the station and famous for their 5-tiered pagoda. There is a slight uphill walk but nothing too tiring and the wonderful sunshine on the day made for a nice walk around the temple.
The famous Nara Deer Park where wild deers are free to roam also connects Kofuku-ji with Todai-ji 東大寺 which houses the Great Buddha statue. Nara is long considered one of the birthplace of a particular sect of Buddhism and the area around both temples (Kofuku-ji and Todai-ji) are thus very serene places for a walk. Along the way, travellers will encounter numerous stands selling deer snacks where one can purchase. Be wary of the deers once you purchase the deer biscuits though as you will be swamped by them! The deers are generally harmless though as many kids were having fun feeding the deers that day, though there are signs saying that these deers could attack if provoked.
In between Kofuku-ji and Todai-ji, and in the middle of Nara Park lies Nara National Museum, and this would be a suitable stop in the middle for those who want to deviate somewhat from the temples. However we chose instead to proceed towards Todai-ji to see the great buddha statue. There was an entrance fee to enter the temple grounds, and along the way to enter the temple, one can get a variety of souvenirs including very cute deer ornaments and dolls. The Buddha Figure can be found inside the main Daibutsuden 大仏殿 which is itself an imposing structure that also houses other buddhist figurines. What was interesting during my visit was this hole on one of the wooden pillars that many Japanese (adults and kids alike) tried to crawl through. There was even a queue for devotees to crawl through but not knowing the meaning, I decided to pass on what seemed like a strenuous activity.
Beside the main great buddha hall or also known as the Daibutsuden, the Nigatsu-do 二月堂 is also worth a visit as it provides a vantage point to view the scenery of Nara. The Nigatsu-do or the Second Month Hall in English is located along a small hill to the right of the Daibutsuden and it was nice to be able to see the panorama of Todai-ji at sunset. This marks the end of my visit to Nara as we walked back to Kintetsu Nara Station from Todai-ji which took a leisurely 15 minute, and along the way we were able to get some snacks, desserts and hot tea as there are plenty of tea houses that sells those dainty Japanese mochi cakes and biscuits.
A day trip to Nara from Osaka is a way to explore the culture of Japanese and birthplace of Buddhism in Japan. The walk around Nara Park is a relaxing one that allows easy access to the top attractions in the city. At the end of the day when the sun sets, it might perhaps be better to spend it in bustling Dotonbori in Osaka.