I’ve written already about how much I love Ultimate Rewards points and how I use them all the time to book independent, non-chain hotels. I followed my own advice and booked The Thousand hotel in Kyoto, Japan which was my second stop on an ANA around the world itinerary. I had looked at all the usual suspects, such as Hyatt Regency Kyoto and the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto but wasn’t happy with either a location or the amount of points needed.
Breaking It Down:
How To Earn Ultimate Rewards Points
My husband has a Chase Sapphire Reserve card and we combine all our Ultimate Rewards points under his account to get the maximum value and redeem them at 1.5 cents per point. I had the card too when it first came out, but we didn’t feel like we needed two per family.
The Chase Freedom, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Chase Ink Business Cash and Chase Ink Business Unlimited don’t have an annual fee and can earn Ultimate Rewards points too (instead of cash back). However, you do need at least one “premium” card (i.e. a card with an annual fee) to be able to redeem Ultimate Rewards for travel. Without at least one premium card in a household, the Ultimate Rewards points can only be used as cash.
Location Of The Thousand Kyoto
The Thousand Kyoto is newer hotel that opened at the beginning of 2019 located right outside Kyoto Station. I would never book a hotel this close to a train station in Europe or the U.S. but the train stations in Japan are a different story. Kyoto Station is beautiful, clean and is a great transportation hub.
In addition to trains, there are lots of buses that have stops right outside of the station, including the airport buses and bus 100 that goes to all the main temples. The station has more than 20 restaurants and a multitude of shops on the basement level, perfect on those hot and muggy days.
We came on a Shinkansen train from Tokyo, walked out of the station, turned right and arrived at The Thousand. The hotel has only been opened for a few months and everything looked and felt brand new.
Check In To The Thousand
I booked the hotel with just over 85,000 Ultimate Rewards points for five nights, including breakfast. When you approach the hotel, you see a modern grey exterior. The entrance is through the stylized Torii-like gates made of pale wood.
The effect is a bit otherworldly. I love modern design, so I was immediately impressed. The lobby is huge, airy, with an enormous staircase in the middle and is done in dark grey stone.
A staff member immediately greeted us and offered to help us with our bags. There were many front desk agents working, something I noticed throughout our stay. We were celebrating our wedding anniversary, so a few days before arrival I emailed the hotel and inquired about a complimentary upgrade. The staff member that was checking us in told us we were upgraded to a bigger room and wished us a happy anniversary. Traveling through Asia, I’ve noticed that hotels do really want to make their guests happy. We also found a lovely note and a beautiful small bouquet of flowers in the room.
They informed us about a small city tax that wasn’t included in the rate, gave us the keys and another staff member took our bags upstairs. She also walked us through all the different features of the room and showed us how to operate the lights, air conditioning and the electronic shades.
Out room was modern, impeccably clean and done in grey tones with pale wood accents. The carpet was soft and plush, the beds were huge (two twin beds pushed together), the linens white and crisp. The bathroom sparkled and, of course, there was the fancy Japanese toilet. The in-room iPad controls the black out shades, room lights and air conditioner. It was very simple and straightforward to use, something that should be obvious everywhere, but isn’t, unfortunately.
The minibar area had a small fridge that we used to store the water that came free with the room. There was a cast iron Japanese teapot and an Illy coffee machine.
The most important thing about any hotel room for me is sleep quality. The Thousand Kyoto gets top marks from me! The blackout shades are really dark, they are indeed blackout. I can’t sleep if there’s light in the room so that made me very happy. The room is facing a busy road, but the sound insulation is excellent, with the shades down, you can’t hear a thing. The air conditioner was quiet and efficient.
Now the beds, or those beds! The king bed was actually two huge twin beds pushed together, each with its own fluffy and wonderful duvet. The linens were snow white, of excellent quality, and, like everything else, felt brand new. I am very picky when it comes to mattresses and pillows, and I am happy to report that these also were excellent. I’ve never had a better sleep at a hotel room than at The Thousand Kyoto.
There was a small round table and a long, low counter running the length of the room, plenty of space for all our stuff. The closet also had lots of space. We had bathrobes, slippers and two sets of Japanese pajamas.
The bathroom wasn’t huge, but extremely functional. The shower and the tub was in a separate “room” and the super modern and automated toilet was in it’s own space. The amenities were plentiful and included things I usually never see, such as hair brushes.
All the toiletries were wonderful. The shower was heavenly, there was a rain shower and a handheld shower head, and the water pressure was fantastic. Compared to the other Japanese hotels we stayed at on this trip, this hotel had the best shower.
Just like everything else at this hotel, the breakfast was amazing! Everything from eggs to tea to fruit was top quality. Each guest can choose one dish from a menu, such as Eggs Benedict or the fluffy Japanese-style pancakes. The buffet included various cheeses, fruit, yogurt and other breakfast staples. Japanese-style breakfast was served on the other side of the restaurant. We loved everything we tried, and of course the presentation, including china, was beautiful.
I am glad I had enough Ultimate Rewards points at my disposal to book this fantastic hotel. I didn’t need to worry about the hotel honoring any elite benefits — I booked what I wanted, where I wanted. If you are looking for a hotel in Kyoto, this is a great property in a great location.
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