We’re in Hokkaido for two weeks to see for ourselves how some of the best lodgings have coped with the pandemic that closed the country down for a few weeks. So far, it seems to be a string of success stories. With the exception of masks and hand sanitisers, and closed karaoke bars, life in Japan’s northernmost island seems to have pretty much returned to decent levels of normalcy.
The Kiroro Tribute Portfolio Hotel in Hokkaido, which is the high-end lodging in the massive Kiroro complex, is one such inspiring story. Kiroro is an all-year round paradise for vacationers. Guests can ski in the winter and enjoy a variety of outdoor sports in other seasons. The Sheraton Kiroro and the winter-only ski in/ ski out Yu Kiroro are also part of this complex.
RE-OPENING OF KIRORO TRIBUTE PORTFOLIO HOTEL IN HOKKAIDO
Like all hotels in Japan, The Kiroro Tribute Portfolio Hotel shuttered for two months during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It opened in the first week of July after a thorough clean-up and review of new safety procedures. When it finally opened its doors to paying guests, hotel general manager Hiroyuki Watanabe recalled that only two people checked in. The next night, another couple arrived to stay at this pretty large and impressive hotel. Occupancy was dismal for the first few days.
HOTEL SUCCESS STORY
Fast forward to July 23, which was the day we checked in. We walked into the lobby and it was a luxury hotel in full swing. I had to rub my eyes and consider for a moment whether my overactive imagination had gotten the better of me. But, it turns out my imagination and eye sight were fine. The Kiroro Tribute Portfolio hotel really was almost full and most of its guests were determined to have a good time.
There were crowds wearing masks everywhere in the mammoth lobby, and the lobby restaurant was brimming with happy diners. There was even a Filipino band taking song requests from the mostly Japanese audience, and they were singing everything from Carly Simon to Disney musicals. Waitstaff juggled orders, trying to ensure every guest was served and satisfied.
THE HAPPY PROBLEM FOR EVERY HOTEL
In a fortunate twist of fate, the tables had turned. Instead of worrying about needing more guests, it seems that what the hotel now needed was more staff. Japan may still be closed to international tourism, but domestic tourists are certainly doing their part here in Hokkaido. The latter are booking and checking in, in all the right places.
WHAT TO DO IN KIRORO
This was certainly as close to normal as I could ever imagine. And for a moment, I forgot the fact that the pandemic is actually still raging around the world. Instead I focused on the list of activities I was handed for this long weekend I was at the Kiroro Tribute Portfolio Hotel.
There was a waterfall hike at 10 AM, a crafts workshops afterwards, and everything from tennis and biking to Segway tours in the afternoon. We were also recommended not to miss the 20-minute gondola ride to the top of the mountain. Plus, the family golf course seemed like lots of fun.
Anyone with energy left after all this can head for the hot springs pools conveniently located next to the hotel. The outdoor bath uses 100% hot springs waters. It also has a sign in English that lists everything it is good for. It’s great for muscle aches, depression, arteriosclerosis, sickly children and skin ailments, among many other things.
The onsen set-up is lovely. So the temptation to just stay there and soak your cares away is very real. However we all kept track of the time. There was a beautiful fireworks display every evening of that long weekend we were there, at exactly 20:20 hrs. None of us wanted to miss a light show in the great outdoors, after being cooped up inside our homes for months.
HOW TO FORGET ABOUT THE VIRUS
Well, all this was enough to make guests forget about the coronavirus. Even for just a few days. Kiroro is among the safest places imaginable, you see. It has wide open spaces, so much fresh air and a focus on outdoor activities. And being able to temporarily forget about the coronavirus so that you can actually have a proper holiday? Well, that’s just priceless. It’s worth any room rate.
Read more about how luxury hotels in Japan are welcoming guests amidst COVID-19 in Travelife Magazine.