Hotel Sunroute Hikone is a large and smart hotel located two minutes’ walk from Hikone Station. While staying at the hotel, I spoke to Tainaka Tōru, owner of the hotel and one of the Directors of the Ōmi Tourism Board.
The hotel was built in 1984 at the height of Japan’s economic bubble when credit was plentiful. The marble walls of the lobby and the double lifts reflect the extravagance of those times.
“Sunroute is a national chain. What’s the concept behind the brand?”
“Sunroute serves both businesspeople and travellers in a friendly, family atmosphere. Many hotels are introducing automatic check-in machines, but we’ll never do that. We value the human touch, and we train our staff to make hospitality their priority. We want our guests to feel at home here.”
“What sort of impact has corona made?”
“Unfortunately we’ve had to put a certain amount of distancing in place for the protection of both our guests and staff, but we’re making every effort not to let it affect the warmth of our service.”
“How’s the earthquake proofing of the building?” “The hotel was built after the new high-rise regulations were introduced, so it meets the latest standards.”
Sunroute Hikone is unusual in having its own bar, Salon Bar Thistle, which is further unique in offering cigars.
Another feature that distinguishes Sunroute Hikone from other local hotels is its ‘character rooms’. The first of these was a Hikonyan room, a twin room that features Hikone’s popular character on bedspreads, cushions and cuddly toys.
“Are there any other hotels in Hikone with Hikonyan rooms?”
“Yes there are. Hikone City has published a specification for Hikonyan rooms, but we’ve taken it a little bit further. For example, our room key features Hikonyan, and we’ve assembled a variety of unique Hikonyan goods. Differentiation is important.”
Then, reflecting interest in Ōmi’s medieval history, the hotel’s staff designed an Ishida Mitsunari room, celebrating the local warlord with bedspreads and other items displaying his ‘one for all, all for one’ motto. Sawayama, once the site of Mitsunari’s huge castle, can be seen from many of the hotel’s rooms.
Tainaka-san has recently embarked on a program of cycling around circular routes ranging from 150 km to more than 200 km, including the route around Lake Biwa. Cyclists who can prove that they’ve completed the routes at digital checkpoints receive certificates. He also used to do some windsurfing on Lake Biwa back in the days when the boards were huge. “They’d get blown out into the middle of the lake and you’d have to swim back. Boards are more manageable and fun these days”.
On a rack in the lobby, there are postcards with beautiful red stamps and swirling black calligraphy. Originally, the cards were sold to people who visited the many ancient castle sites of Ōmi, and history fans enjoyed collecting them. Then they were expanded to include battle sites and historic personages from the Warring States period. They’re so popular that the hotel sometimes sells three hundred cards in a day. For overseas visitors, they make attractive and unusual souvenirs. “You can visit about three castle sites in a day by taxi. It’s interesting to visit and compare several of these historic places.”
As one of the directors of the Ōmi Tourism Board, Tainaka-san is responsible for Ōmi’s overall PR efforts. Part of this involves increasing the accommodation capacity of the area to welcome the visitors who are discovering the appeal of Ōmi.
place 9-14 Asahimachi, Hikone, Shiga Prefecture, Shiga prefecture
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