Photo credit: cropped from Trip Advisor management photo
A classy resort perched on a hilltop in the city of Okinawa, complete with bar on the tenth floor, pool, massage service, day care, concierge, two restaurants, facials… A hotel so nice, I stayed there twice.
Reservations: You can make reservations online through TripAdvisor or the Grand Mer website. The English is occasionally a touch awkward, but it’s still very easy to understand.
Access: Reasonable, provided that you have a car. Although the island has one train and several bus lines, it’s still easier to drive where you want to go (even if that’s a little terrifying for those of us accustomed to driving on the right). This is because the island’s topography is quite steep, particularly in the interior—think downtown San Francisco in terms of hills. Unless you’re used to walking many miles or plan to stay only near major attractions, you should just bite the bullet and rent a car if you visit the island. Tokyo Dai-Ichi is about a 40-minute drive from the airport. Although located on the top of a hill, it can actually be a little hard to find if you’re relying only on signs. That said, if you have a GPS it’s no problem at all.
Neighborhood: Residential, but the hotel’s only a 15-minute drive from Nakagusuku Castle and the Nakamura House, and 20 minutes from Sunset Beach. (It’s also 20 minutes to Kadena AFB and 30 minutes to Futenma MCAS, if that makes a difference to you.)
Checking in: Easy. A bellboy will meet you at the door and offer to help you with luggage. (Since this is Japan, please don’t tip!) If you drove in, a shuttle service will escort you to the overflow parking if needed, then give you a ride back. It’s not even a quarter mile, but again: steep hills! Once you’re in the building, checking in is just as smooth as any hotel in the States. Although the staff will certainly accept Japanese, they have good English as well.
Staff: Helpful, if a bit distant. There’s definitely a level of professionalism there that prevents them from getting too friendly with you, but they’ll arrange anything you need. I had to use a little English for one request, but the staff didn’t flinch and just moved right over to the other language for me.
Security: Good. All floors are accessible through an elevator in the lobby, which is well-lit and staffed 24/7. Each room is unlocked with a physical key, and the door automatically locks behind you when you leave or enter; there’s also a chain lock for when you’re inside the room. The halls are wide and well-lit, and the windows and balconies are far off the ground and lock securely.
Size: Big, even for the small rooms. During my first stay we were in a Japanese-style room with a massive 12-mat tatami area for the bedroom as well as an anteroom that contained the toilet, bathroom, tea area, and entryway. During my second stay we got the “Superior Room” which contained two twin-sized beds, two sofa beds, and a coffee table in the main room, with an entry area that contained the toilet, bathroom, and tea area. Each room had a large balcony and space enough to sleep four people.
Comfort: Good. Although my bed in the Superior Room was a little on the hard side, I never had trouble sleeping on it. The sofa couch was a sofa couch, though; not much to be done about that. In the Japanese room, my futon was a dream, nice and thick with heavy blankets and a buckwheat-filled pillow. All rooms also have air conditioning. The real selling point for room comfort, though, is the tub. With the length of an American tub and the depth of a Japanese tub, it’s like a Jacuzzi without the jets. The temperature selector is marked in Celsius so you can pick the precise temp you want, and it also has an automatic fill option so you can ignore it without worrying it’ll overflow. Not that that’s a problem: being a Japanese-style bathroom, it’s floor-to-ceiling tile with a sealing door and drains in the floor because they expect every surface to get wet.
Amenities: Almost everything you can think of: tea and coffee, washers and dryers on every floor, massage and facial technicians on-site, pool, free parking, a shuttle service if you have to use the overflow parking, shuttle service to and from the airport, and a concierge service to help you book tours and activities. Although the services the concierge offers tends to be a little on the expensive side, it more than pays for itself if you want someone else to do the legwork or the Japanese speaking. And there are some experiences that are legitimately a good deal, like the aquarium pass that saves you almost 500 yen (~$5 USD) on tickets. You can also pay to have breakfast wrapped into your stay for about 1000 yen (~$10 USD) per person per day. The breakfast options are very extensive, including both hot and cold Western, Japanese, and Okinawan options. Everything is good and it’s all-you-can-eat, so the 1000 yen price tag doesn’t seem so crazy.
Price: This was one of the more expensive places we stayed. The first time (late November) was 50,440 yen (~$425 USD) for three nights, three people, and breakfast all around ($141 per night). The second time (late April) was 67,830 yen (~$570 USD) for seven nights and three people ($81 per night). Compared with the $200 or more per night you’d pay at a similar place in the States, it’s a fantastic deal. That said, both times we stayed during the off-season; prices go up a lot around New Year, Golden Week (the first week of May) and mid-August. If you want to plan your trip around hotel prices, the room page on the hotel’s website gives a table of prices in yen based on date ranges.
TL;DR: Like I said, I loved this place so much on my first stay that when I needed accommodations in Okinawa again, I didn’t hesitate to book at Tokyo Dai-Ichi; it had spoiled me so much I didn’t want to risk having a less-than-stellar experience elsewhere. Considering the relatively low price, it wasn’t a hard choice, either.