The merit of staying at a hotel by a train station is not just convenience – at least for train buffs. They choose hotels to watch and photograph trains in bliss the way others do for ocean views. Several hotels saw a market there, and their “train view” campaigns have become a hit, especially in the city center where multiple railways crisscross.
Ask Associate Professor Hiroyuki Furukawa of Kanazawa University Hospital. On his business trip to Tokyo in August, he stayed at Hotel Mets Akabane right by JR Akabane station in northern Tokyo. Their train-view package guarantees a room on the rail side on the 4th floor and above. After photographing the approach of express trains Cassiopeia, Hokuriku and Noto on the platform, he shot more from the hotel room and proudly posted those pictures on his blog dedicated to trains nationwide and abroad.
The Train View Plan of its affiliate Hotel Mets Tabata near JR Tabata station boasts the dynamic view of three different shinkansen lines altogether from the 6th through 13th floors or freight trains and the shinkansen switchyard from the second floor. The checkout time on this plan is extended from the regular 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. to adjust to the train schedules.
Although novelty goods including a model JR train (Yamanote/Chuo/Keihin Tohoku line) and a scotch tape with station names printed are only available until the year-end, this campaign is slated to continue.
According to Front Office Manager Koji Kuroda, reservations for Train View Plan totaled nearly 250 during the April-September period. They have many reservations for the holiday season since the beginning of November. “The majority of these customers are mothers in their 20-30s and their boys. But we do have repeat customers among adults,” Kuroda says.
When Hotel Mets Tabata launched a predecessor of this campaign -- probably as the first one in the industry in 2006, the neighborhood had been developing a rail park around the Tabata station and the Shinkansen switchyard since 2002. Yet, a 2003 TV show, which featured Tokyo hotels with train views, played a critical part to attract fans that include women and those in their 40-50s, according to Kuroda.
Meanwhile, Odakyu Hotel Century Southern Tower by Shinjuku station introduced “Just like the N-Gauge Model – Train-View Stay Plan” in June this year, coined after Japan’s standard scale of model trains. Among the 375 rooms provided on the 22nd to 35th floors, 26 double rooms at the corner offer spectacles of colorful JR trains circulating Shinjuku station and other superior-twin/double rooms overview several JR and Odakyu lines.
Aside from the views, their campaign until March 31 next year offers gifts including a paperweight made of an Odakyu railing or train stickers for children, Odakyu Romance Car items and the timetable.
According to the hotel’s sales promotion director, Junji Negishi, 350 rooms were reserved between June 25 and the end of October, and 150 reservations have already been made through to the end of next March of this plan. “Parents say that they appreciate the children staying quiet and staring outside all day,” he says. “But as 60% of our customers opt for the paperweight over the train stickers, we are guessing that adult fans outnumber children.”
Negishi explains that the hotel’s affiliate and his former workplace Odakyu Hotel Century Sagami-Ono had been unfolding the campaign for about a year and a half before Shinjuku. Yet the suburban hotel didn’t garner much attention. When Negishi moved to Shinjuku Southern Tower in April, he teamed up with a front planner who is a train aficionado himself and had been waiting for the opportunity to launch the same campaign in Shinjuku. And the rest is their history of success.
“Train ‘otaku’ have been always around. But I think they have surfaced to the mainstream for the last couple of years. The Railway Museum that was built in Saitama in 2007 certainly helped,” Negishi says.
Other hotels with recommended train views include Chisun Hotel Hamamatsucho, Shibuya Tokyu Inn, Dai-ichi Inn Ikebukuro, Remm Akihabara, Keio Presso Inn Otemachi, Ryogoku River Hotel, Hotel Metropolitan Marunouchi by Tokyo station, Hotel Bellclassic Tokyo by Otsuka station and Keikyu Ex Inn by Omori Kaigan station. Whether they have special campaigns or not, reservations for rooms with breathtaking train views are always welcomed.
These railway-affiliated hotels are successfully appealing to the reportedly 4 billion yen market of 20,000 rail fans in Japan. While the market gimmick mostly concentrates in Tokyo, some suburban hotels are also in full swing to promote their newly found attractions.© Japan Today