Finding a cheap place to stay in a major city is never easy, especially if you want somewhere with a central, convenient location. Osaka is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan and as such there are plenty of hotels to choose from. If you want somewhere cheap and convenient and don’t care about having a tiny room, I recommend the GR Hotel Esaka.
GR (Green Rich) is a well-known hotel chain in Japan that has about 25 branches all over the country, with both chain and franchise group hotels. Despite being a large chain, the hotels vary from branch to branch and while the prices are all fairly uniform, sometimes you get much more for your money! There are several branches in Kumamoto including the Suidocho Branch (with a dark, dingy reception area but fairly big rooms and a buffet breakfast for 800 yen) and the Suizenji Branch (with a luxury style reception very different to the one at Suidocho!) There are pros and cons to each individual branch – let’s take a look at what’s on offer at the GR Hotel Esaka Branch in Osaka.
The hotel opened in 2014 after a major remodelling which saw the top floor being converted into gender separated bathing facilities including a large public bath and sauna in both the men’s and women’s sections. While onsens and public bathing facilities are commonplace in ryokans and traditional Japanese inns, as well as in luxury hotels, they are a rarity in your standard B&B type abode and the first one I’ve heard of in a GR Hotel. Free to guests, the bathing room includes one large bath, showering cubicles and a small sauna – just a standard bathing facility with nothing special. Despite the lack of luxury, during my visit the onsen was really busy and there was even a queue to use the showers afterwards.
The reception area at the GR Hotel Esaka is clearly brand spanking new and looks rather luxurious. There is a large dining room where you can purchase breakfast for the not inconsiderable sum of 1,000 yen (or alternatively, grab your grub at the convenience store that is right next to the hotel entrance.)
Other facilities include free Wi-Fi, computer loan (1,000 yen per night), a laundry room, paid parking available, health spa facilities and free tea and coffee available at the front desk.
Well, you get what you pay for. If you’re looking for somewhere reasonably cheap then you’ve found the place, but don’t expect a flashy room. On arrival to our semi-double room, I was baffled to find that the small stool chair was wedged under the desk… which was basically under the bed and impossible to use. Then I noticed the pulley system on the wall and worked out that if you flicked the switch, you could lower or raise your bed up to the ceiling, creating the space to make use of the table and chair. Ingenious, but still not compensating for the fact that the room is completely tiny.
Standard semi-double rooms with a toilet and shower range from 2,800 yen to 8,200 per person per night (smoking or non-smoking, plus breakfast options available.) Standard semi-double rooms with a toilet and bath range from 3,100 yen to 8,800 yen per person per night (smoking or non-smoking, plus breakfast options available.)
Standard double rooms with a toilet and bath range from 4,200 yen to 10,000 yen per person per night (smoking or non-smoking, plus breakfast options available.) And finally, standard twin rooms with a toilet and bath range from 3,050 yen to 8,000 yen per person per night (smoking or non-smoking, plus breakfast options available.)
GR Hotels are all slightly different, and in terms of bedrooms the GR Hotel Esaka is by no means the cream of the crop, but the added bonus of a free onsen upstairs is certainly a plus point. The location is not fantastic – a little out of the way from central Osaka, the hotel is about 10 minutes or less on foot (depending on your baggage) from the Esaka Station, which you can get to on the Midosuji line (take exit no.5 for the quickest route.) Cheap hotels always score highly with me if they happen to have a brand-name convenience store nearby, so having one right next door certainly gives some plus points!
Its customer rating on the Rakuten website of 3.37 out of 5 is, in my opinion, spot on. But if you’re looking for cheap accommodation in Osaka, you’d be hard pushed to find something cheaper anywhere nearer to the centre of the city. GR Hotels aren’t the Ritz by any means, but you know what you’re getting and if you’re just looking for somewhere simple to crash for the night, what does it matter that your desk is hidden under the bed?