Orient Express

blog_stay_HotelKabukHotel Kabuki brings Japanese splendor to the Bay

I recently pulled off a visit to Japan—minus the 13-hour flight, minus the jetlag and minus the wallet-busting cost. Well, sort of. Feeling the urge to have an exotic vacation but lacking the means and time to really reach Tokyo, I sought out a hotel in the Bay Area that might be able to satiate my travel bug.

A getaway to the Orient at the 218-room Hotel Kabuki, part of the Joie de Vivre chain of boutique hotels, turned out to be a worthy alternative to jet-setting during these economic times, and it’s a quick jaunt from Santa Cruz.

Great deals can be found online at joieoflife.com; standard rooms range from $99 during weekdays to $119 during weekends, and a Deluxe View King Room at $99 is a steal if you catch the right price at the right time. If you reserve your stay online, you even get a complimentary pass to the nearby (and well-known) Kabuki Springs and Spa communal baths (a $20 value). A special offer until June 15, you can now get a third night free when you book a minimum three-night stay (enter “JOIE” promo code).

Nestled in the heart of San Francisco’s Japantown, Hotel Kabuki sits on Post Street around the corner from the hip Fillmore district. It’s a neighborhood known for great food, great music, and—to my pleasant surprise—great parking. While the hotel offers its own small lot easily accessible for guests with valet parking ($35), I was able to find free overnight parking just down the street. There’s also an underground shopping center parking structure on the block ($16). This, if you’ve ever been to SF, is a major plus, and my weekend cross-continental getaway without having to leave home was off to a nice start.

Upon entrance to the main lobby, the O Izakaya Lounge is a contemporary Japanese-style sports bar with decent Japanese plates and sake drinks (in addition to the usual bar offerings). It turned out to be a good starting point and meeting spot before venturing out on the town. With Union Square only a quick bus ride (or $7 taxi) away, Hotel Kabuki is far enough from the bustling city center to feel quiet and safe, yet close enough to keep you in reach of all the tempting excitement.

Despite the fact that I was initially given an envelope for my room key that was missing the actual key, the only glitch in my stay, all my encounters with hotel staff throughout my time were pleasurable. After passing a quaint outdoor Japanese garden on the hunt for my room, I was pleased to find my corner spot on the second floor and its spacious, two-room layout. An expansive living room area with workspace (office desk and chair), sprawling couch, coffee table, flat-screen television and chaise lounge proved a comfortable spot, separated from the bedroom by sliding Japanese Shoji screens. Free wireless Internet access came in handy on occasions when work had to be done or city investigating had to be made. A small balcony didn’t come in very useful, however—it faced the street and wasn’t roomy enough to lure me outside.

In the sleeping room with a full closet, a king bed with side tables and even an iHome set-up (clock radio with iPod docking) sat opposite a second, smaller flat-screen television mounted overhead in the corner. Completing the feng shui feel of the simple yet elegant arrangements, both rooms were accentuated by vibrant oriental fabrics and imagery (red and gold curtains splayed across the large living room window, while the bedding and kimono-style bath robes also reflected Japanese flavors).

The bathroom was a tight space, with toilet, sink and shower divided into separate compact areas, but each was easily accessible. The much-hyped “Japanese tub” turned out to be a standard bathtub with no frills (aside from a nice packet of herbal bath salts), but that disappointment was made up for by the private 2-person sauna sitting behind a door next to the shower. Yes, a private sauna.

Though the walls were relatively thin and I could hear my neighbors now and then, the feeling of secluded pampering still pervaded. Rather than excessively decorated, Hotel Kabuki dealt out Japanese culture in clean lines and an uncluttered area—a perfect accommodation for those seeking breathing space in an environment that welcomes both work and play.

Fine living without feeling too formal, Hotel Kabuki served up a nice change of pace and an easy chance to kick off my shoes, sit back, relax and smell the, well, cherry blossoms. Because sometimes you just want to say sayonara!—even if only for a night or two.

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