It's exciting to walk through a hotel entrance and find yourself instantly facing the ocean. Just as you pass through the automatic doors into the elegant hotel lobby, a captivating view of Karatsu Bay awaits you.
I was stunned and distracted to the point when I realised I hadn't yet checked-in. It was exactly at that moment when a friendly member of staff came to welcome me and to help with anything I needed.
Karatsu Seaside Hotel is right on Higashinohama Beach and surrounded by one of the three most beautiful pine groves in Japan, the Nijinomatsubara Pine Grove (虹の松原), formed by over one million black pine trees, covering an area of almost 5,000 square metres. Being on the beach, the hotel is situated just outside the center of Karatsu, which is about a 20-30 minute walk into town, or a bus ride directly from the hotel.
Karatsu itself is a beautiful city located in Saga Prefecture on the island of Kyushu with historical importance as the ancient trading port between Japan, China and Korea. It's a town with a castle and famous for its Karatsu Kunchi Festival, consisting of 14 Hikiyama (floats made of many layers of papier mâché) carried around the city. It has also some great Korean-influenced pottery called Karatsu-yaki.
The hotel offers Japanese as well as Western-style rooms. I stayed in a Western-style standard twin room with views of the beach and the bay. I also could see Karatsu Castle from the room. It was a very large and comfortable room with a living room area, a workstation with a nice desk and a spacious bathroom.
I had breakfast each morning in the restaurant on the ground floor, with great views of Karatsu Bay, and it felt like having breakfast outside on the beach—not bad at all! The buffet-style breakfast offered a great variety of food with a lot of choice for both Asian and European tastes. After breakfast, I could enjoy a peaceful walk on the endless sandy beach.
There are two other restaurants in the hotel: a Japanese-style restaurant and a French restaurant. I really love Japanese food, so one night I decided to try the Japanese restaurant Matsukaze for dinner. The food was delicious and the waiter was very helpful, giving me explanations of each dish. It was a very enjoyable and educational evening meal. Once again, the restaurant also had amazing views of the beach and the bay. I think no matter where you are within the hotel, it always offers you spectacular views.
Among the usual facilities, you can find a beach-side pool (open in summer only), a scenic-view spa with both indoor and outdoor baths, a sauna, a beauty salon, a souvenir shop and an extensive gallery of Karatsu-yaki tea ware and pottery. A wide selection of traditional and contemporary pieces of local pottery can be purchased in the gift shop too.
All in all, it was a wonderful stay and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to experience the best of Japanese hospitality at the impressive Karatsu Bay.